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Blog March 2023

Data Reporting and Visualization in Waste and Recycling

Eight considerations to ensure that you are measuring what matters

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Gary Dietz Product Marketing Manager - North America

This article is adapted from a piece originally published in the April edition of Waste Advantage.

Waste, transport, and health and safety processes generate an enormous quantity of data from which critical decisions must be made. Your ability to interpret that data can make the difference between a thriving, safe, and effective business, and a faltering, unsafe, and unsustainable one. Here are eight essential things to think about as you select partners to help the digital maturation of your organization.

Take a fresh, open-minded look at your approach to reports and data visualization  


During the implementation of new software, organizations will often provide reports they ‘need’ simply based on the fact they have used those reports for many years. Take a fresh look at reports and ask yourself who is using the report and what decision they plan to make based on the data. For example, to keep an eye on potential service issues across your routes, why not leverage a dashboard that displays total route exceptions by route and date over a time period to evaluate poorly performing routes.  This, in comparison with traditional reports that list hundreds if not thousands of stops and hide important insight.

Data collected should be securely available for your viewing and analysis – from any application 


After all, it is your data.  Be sure you are aware of where it is located, and that data formats and access policies are well documented. Partners should provide access to the data your business generates using built-in reporting and visualization tools as well as Excel or Qlik or Looker Studio or Tableau. 

Demand reports and visualization templates specific to waste and recycling business needs 


The flexibility mentioned above is essential.  But so is access to dozens of pre-built reports and visualizations created by a partner who deeply understands your business and what data to surface.  Choose a partner that understands your business, its workflows, and who can help you clearly and simply report and visualize your data is key. 

A partner with a “big data” point of view 


It’s not just the reports and visualizations that require a partner with deep waste and recycling industry experience. Your partner should employ industry experts to help you uncover insights in your own data that you may not have seen. For example, you may struggle to understand why you need to pay driver overtime, unless you have granular route KPIs that show the main causes for delays such as congestion, blocked access, overfilled containers, etc. 

Solutions should reflect deep understandings of the complex algorithms around automation 


Solutions rely on complex algorithms around mapping, weather, route planning, and more. You should evaluate a potential partner’s depth of experience in modeling the problems based on traditional algorithmic approaches. Also, explore how the partner is using AI and the size and kinds of data models they are building.  When compared to traditional algorithms, AI can leverage huge quantities of structured and unstructured real-world data that can determine answers in areas such as automated visual analysis to detect recycling contamination or container. 

Integration into a widely deployed financial and accounting package 


Ensure that you choose a waste and recycling solution that provides reporting and visualization surrounding financial activity specific to our industry such as brokerage, credit card acceptance, pricing, and more.  You must also ensure that there is a secure connection or integration to a reputable financial and accounting system for the wider financial planning, tax, and CFO-required needs of your business. 

Do not forget safety, compliance, and ESG reporting and visualization 


Emerging sustainability and ESG (Environmental Social Governance) reporting frameworks will mean that companies will be tracking and reporting on a wider variety of metrics in the future. Ensure that your yard, driver, employee, and community safety standards are upheld by keeping abreast of incident reports, training and certification, and compliance documents.  Safety compliance data should be part of analytics.

End-to-end operational visibility – in real-time when needed 


Data should be generated and recorded as well as visualized and presented from and to locations and devices that make the most sense for the job.  For example, demand mobile-first dashboards that waste and recycling managers can monitor in the field, in real-time, to react “on the ground.” Events and incoming data should have appropriate user-experiences that are easy to see, hear, and react to. 

Conclusion

As your organization evolves, choices you make around partnership and a software solution require a deep look at how your partners approach data, analytics, and visualization. Don’t settle for the status quo by merely targeting the reproduction of your existing reports.

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