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Blog October 2020

Route Optimization drives efficiencies and boosts productivity for SUEZ Group

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Rogier de Klein Intelligent Optimization Solution Advisor

AMCS Intelligent Optimization reduces main KPI ‘time per order

Globally, SUEZ Group has more than 11,000 vehicles on the road every day, so optimizing waste collection routes are of the utmost importance. This becomes clear from the interview with Peter Bevers, Group Activity Leader – Collections, who is responsible for driving performance improvements of SUEZ’s worldwide waste collection activities. “The global waste collection activities have an annual value of one billion euros. Optimizing a few percent, can yield substantial cost-saving and depending on the collection activity, result in a 3% to 5% increase in productivity per country.”

The SUEZ division Recovery & Recycling (SUEZ R&R) is globally responsible for waste collections and recycling of amongst others - household waste, construction, and demolition waste and all other forms of recyclable waste ranging from plastics to biowaste, all with the purpose of turning them into new resources. Previously, the operational waste logistics were generally organized in a decentralized manner and not supported by route planning systems, Peter Bevers explains.

“SUEZ realized that in order to optimize the planning they needed to be supported by state-of-the-art systems and centralized planning to create synergies between previously small planning regions. Since 2012, AMCS has found an entry in Belgium, and experiences were shared with other countries in the group, slowly increasing attention to the subject in the group. This resulted in investments by SUEZ Netherlands, Germany, and France.”

The ultimate goal for 2023 is the global implementation of Route Planner and Fleet Planner

In 2017 the SUEZ Group decided on accelerated collaboration between all countries being active in waste collections, ending in a framework contract with AMCS for AMCS Intelligent Optimisation consisting of Route Planner to plan master routes and Fleet Planner for dynamic planning. For the upcoming years, the goal is to integrate the AMCS planning systems within as many countries as possible.

The ultimate goal by 2023 is a possible worldwide implementation of Route Planner and/or Fleet Planner depending on which activities in a country are most important. So far SUEZ Sweden, Poland, and Luxembourg have followed suit and Australia is expected in 1 to 2 years after having deployed the AMCS ERP platform first.

Handling routes in different areas with the same vehicle

Peter Bevers:” The experiences in Belgium and The Netherlands proved that investing, for instance, in Route Planner alone led to a significant increase in productivity of the waste collection operation between 3% and 5%. This is mainly due to reducing the most important key performance indicator ‘time per order’ by optimizing routes for the commercial waste collection with wheelie bins.”

According to Peter Bevers with intelligent optimization, SUEZ R&R also profits from another major benefit. "Before, the waste collection and processing organization in every country was decentralized with a fixed action radius. With AMCS we can operate more flexibly. Based on the current situation the system calculates the action radius and adjusts the planning accordingly. The size of the country determines if certain activities are planned nationally or regionally. Based on the daily orders the action radius changes, eliminating any overlap from the routes. As a result, orders close to each other on the edge of areas can be executed with the same vehicle.”

Optimizing master routes a precondition for controlling costs

SUEZ deploys Route Planner to plan master routes for the commercial waste routes with wheelie bins and for the household waste collections. Peter Bevers: “Route Planner provides the possibility to immediately plan new on-call emptying orders from customers and or plan new customers in existing master routes. Customers get immediate and automated feedback via our customer websites and smartphone applications.”

That is a considerable change compared with the previous situation, when fixed collection routes were created in Excel, put in a logical order, and sent to the driver's in-cab device. According to Peter Bevers, optimizing routes manually is certainly a challenge. “If a customer terminates a contract, a route becomes inefficient and with new customers, you need to know what the most efficient route is to add them to. It affects 1,000's and 1,000's of orders which are impossible to optimize manually in Excel. In order to adapt routes to the changing reality, intelligent optimization is an absolute precondition for controlling costs."  

Dynamic route planning with Fleet Planner saves 30% time per planner

The ability to plan more orders at the same time is one of the advantages SUEZ is benefitting from by optimizing the waste collection routes of roll-on/roll-off containers with Fleet Planner. “On average, the time saved per planner is 30%", Peter Bevers says. "The planning is not based on the planner's estimates but on the fixed data Fleet Planner is using. This translates into a financial benefit. For instance, the time per order decreases - which is the main critical performance indicator - by 2% to 3.6%. This goes for countries and regions where intelligent optimization has been completely rolled out and 2 to 3 years after full implementation, such as in France.”

That is a considerable change compared with the before-situation when orders were planned manually. Peter Bevers: “Some planners were able to handle 20 vehicles a day, others got stuck after planning 7 vehicles. As Fleet Planner can handle large amounts of orders and plan them within short time frames, planners have more time to check and fine-tune the planning here and there based on new information which is not yet available in any other system. Then they can focus more on communication with the drivers and handling the day-to-day problems for which previously they did not find sufficient time.”  

Simulating costs of waste collection routes for upcoming tenders

The ability to build routes even before they are executed is one of the major features SUEZ is benefitting from by using Route Planner to prepare upcoming tenders. One of the preconditions before closing a contract with a municipality is that routes are built with all available data, Peter Bevers says. “Based on this, a cost estimate can be made to draw up a precise response to a tender. In that respect, an innovative application such as intelligent optimization with a complete set of functionalities that meet all requirements is extremely important.”

Based on the data, the Route Planner simulates the waste collection routes and accordingly calculates the costs. Peter Bevers:” Since these are already optimized plans, we can use the best possible price in the tender. That is a considerable change compared with the before-situation when a driver was sent to a municipality to check the situation after which the routes were drawn on a paper city map. To respond to a tender, the Route Planner can calculate with relatively little data, for example, only tons per month. The system can also calculate different scenarios such as how much time is saved when drivers work in single shifts or double shifts."

The conscious decision in choosing AMCS

After thorough market research and an assessment of 5 routing systems in 2012, the SUEZ Group made a conscious decision to choose AMCS. “AMCS came out the best, because of a series of reasons and these reasons still apply, Peter Bevers says. “ First of all, AMCS Intelligent Optimisation is one of the only systems on the market able to handle roll-on/roll-off container optimization. Secondly, AMCS knows the global waste and recycling industry very well. Route Planner and Fleet Planner are both based on the waste market and the concepts and parameters are geared to waste logistics while other software has a more general approach.”

He also mentions that routes delivered by AMCS were of better quality than the other software packages tested during the selection process in 2012. “This was still the same in 2017. A lot of software delivers routes that drivers don't understand, for instance, two trucks in the same street. And then it simply goes: ‘If the driver doesn't get it, he doesn't do it. AMCS has invested in smart algorithms that drivers understand. They, therefore, accept the routes and drive them accordingly. And finally, AMCS invests in developments that are relevant to the waste market, for example, IoT. In-built sensors in underground containers, with real-time data exchange with Fleet Planner that can predict when containers are full.”

Based on this, the most efficient routes are automatically generated, he explains. “The driver receives routes into his in-cab device directly from Fleet Planner. With this, the planning is fully automatically controlled by IoT which results in an increase in the fill level of the containers. Since - compared to fixed waste collection routes – not every container has to be emptied, the total number of vehicles to execute orders has decreased. Additionally, an extra stop easily can be planned on a route.”

According to him, this also drives efficiencies into SUEZ's worldwide waste collection operation. “This is in addition to the other efficiencies I mentioned such as the shorter time per order, increasing productivity and time saved on planning", Peter Bevers concludes at the end of the interview. "In that respect, intelligent optimization throughout the last couple of years already has proven itself beyond any expectation."

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