© Nadya So | stock.adobe.com

Private hauling companies and municipal waste and recycling managers alike are faced with limitations when it comes to investing in hardware or software intended to improve operations.

The concept of return on investment (ROI) and the need to demonstrate its likelihood overhang every decision to give the green light to the purchase of trucks, bins or, more recently, spending on technologies such as telematics and route management software.

Slovakia-based Sensoneo, which has staff members serving installations in the United States, says the case for investing in such emerging technologies can be clearly demonstrated, with numerous case studies in the books that add on-the-ground experience that goes beyond the theoretical.

Tracking and reacting

Telematics can be defined differently, depending on the buyer or seller. An essay by Jane Burton on the Sensoneo Smart Waste blog describes telematics as “a combination of telecommunication software programs and informatics systems” that uses tracking devices to “capture the location, speed, idling time and fuel consumption of vehicles.”

These same devices allow businesses to connect to their fleets “through an onboard modem that enables wireless communication.” The ROI comes in the form of collected data tied to fleet management software and other methods that allow companies “to monitor and coordinate with the vehicles they manage.”

The goal is to keep trucks and drivers on track (maximizing labor efficiency) and collect only bins that are nearing their collection capacity (minimizing the number of routes and stops, providing optimal use of labor and fuel resources).

Sensoneo says beyond cost savings, such “smart” route management also leads to safer conditions for drivers, who can receive alerts when they are engaged in unsafe activities (such as speeding) and can be alerted to looming mechanical issues with their trucks.

Phil Lamb, who is based in Scottsdale, Arizona, for Sensoneo USA, shares with Waste Today the findings of one of its customers, the University of Texas at Dallas, that have pointed to savings for each Sensoneo bin monitoring device used.

Sensoneo sensors, placed inside collection bins, are designed to identify full bins and collect the data tied to a hauler’s customers to then help the hauling firm calculate optimal routes.

In Dallas, this combination of technology and planning has led to a savings to the hauler and customer of some $266 per bin per month. Considering the 28 bins with sensors in play, that will lead to some $89,500 in annual savings, Lamb and Sensoneo say.

Increasing and properly tracking recycling and landfill diversion efforts can be another ROI factor boosted by telematics, the technology’s backers say.

Shades of green

The technological capability and willingness to recycle materials has grown steadily the past two decades, accompanied, however, by the increasing need for waste and scrap generators and their haulers to verify they are indeed diverting materials away from landfills and incinerators.

Vendors say telematics and digital solutions also play a role. As Sensoneo writes on its website, “Besides the daily operational management, the take-back operators also are obliged to accurately record and report various metrics, including amounts processed and recycling rates. Working in multiple information systems and a lack of data integration is a daily challenge.”

Sensoneo markets its recycling tracking software package to participants in extended producer responsibility programs; producer responsibility organizations; deposit-return beverage container systems; take-back programs for appliances or electronics; plus industrial scrap generators “or any other entities managing take-back systems.”

As Sensoneo describes, such tracking systems can be comprehensive and could necessitate tying in numerous collection and processing points, along with the vehicles and drivers connecting them.

Once installed, Sensoneo says the system includes mobile apps that “collect data every step of the process, building transparent [materials] streams from the source all the way to processing.” The savings, as they did for the University of Texas at Dallas, involve creating the shortest possible route plans that also navigate drivers “from pickup to pickup.” Sensoneo adds, “The solution minimizes administrative tasks [and] encourages transparency and traceability.”

For the University of Texas at Dallas, Lamb says, Sensoneo was able to help it demonstrate 40.5 percent diversion rate “using actual data.”

Simple, but critical

To a casual observer, whether a waste or recycling bin is 30 percent or 80 percent full when it is serviced might not seem important. The decades-old study of “time and motion” and how it affects efficiency, however, points to the positive impacts of letting bins do their jobs to a fuller capacity before they are emptied.

In whatever manner fuel and labor costs are divided between haulers and customers when a bin is emptied, fewer trips equate to fewer dollars spent. Sensoneo notes the economic impact can go beyond that, especially in a commercial or industrial setting.

“To make collection and disposal the least disturbing, the right timing and smooth processes are required,” the company says. “Sensoneo’s solution for factories minimizes disruptions of the production and automates the management of waste collection based on the floorplan, precise predefined data about the fleet, schedules, depots and discharges,” the company adds.

In the University of Texas at Dallas example, Lamb says after Sensoneo sensors were installed in 28 bins and as data started coming in, bins began being collected at an average of 62 percent full. That still leaves room for improvement but marks an upgrade from the low average capacity rates commonly obtained when routes follow an unmonitored, strict schedule based on predetermined pickup routines.

Sensoneo is clear on its goals. The company says it designs its sensors and accompanying software to help companies succeed in reducing their “collection routes by 30 to 63 percent, which directly impacts emissions and fuel and enables customers to monitor actual waste production with 97 percent of accuracy.”

For hauling fleet owners that need to demonstrate the potential ROI of an investment in technology, the more companies like Sensoneo can prove those types of figures, the likelier additional telematics and route optimization technology will be deployed throughout the rest of this decade.

The author is senior editor with the Recycling Today Media Group and can be contacted at btaylor@gie.net.