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14 Aug 2020

Municipalities deploy new collection models with centralised planning

AMCS Intelligent Optimisation lowers environmental impact and increases customer satisfaction

Routing and business optimization

Can municipalities deploy new smart cities strategies and increase sustainability while at the same time planning the routes for the household waste collection more efficiently? “Yes by implementing innovative technologies such as intelligent optimisation”, is the firm opinion of Gerard Kissane who has more than ten years of experience in the waste and recycling industry.

“This smart system provides municipalities with the possibility to centralise their planning enabling planners to freely deploy drivers and vehicles on routes. With this, intelligent optimisation reduces the number of vehicles in the streets which lower the environmental impact. At the same time, it reduces driver churn and can highly improve customer satisfaction."

How in general do municipalities organise their household waste collection?

“Municipal household waste collections can vary greatly from region to region and country to country. Factors that determine the waste-collection system include amongst others the age of the municipality, its populations density, the main type of housing and the climatic conditions. Europe with its older cities often with narrow streets and multi-unit housing stock tends to have either door to door collections or centralised collection with containers on or under the street. On the other hand countries like the USA, Australia and New Zealand have a lot of cities with large suburbs and newer single housing units. In those areas the waste collection system is based on multi-container, multi-stream door to door collections, often handled by automated side loaders. Despite the global differences in municipal collections, all the waste collection systems have one thing in common: the organic forming of the collection routes because of the expansion of the municipality or waste streams. Another factor defining the waste collection is the necessity for the driver to ensure all containers are successfully collected, while at the same time he or she is also responsible for both planning and driving the route. Additionally, in many cases, municipalities may choose to contract the collections to an external party often in long term contracts with strict conditions. As a result, they may not have the flexibility to allow for dynamic changes to the collection strategy.” 

What at the moment are the trendsetting developments in waste collection?

"First, driven by the circular economy and a drive for sustainability, there is a major increase in the collection of separated recyclable components such as paper, glass and plastic for the use as secondary raw materials while preventing waste from being deposited into landfills. The second determining development is the availability of innovative technologies such as a robust fill level sensor platforms which after many years of rapid development has reached a stage of maturity. This Internet of Things (IoT) technology combined with powerful algorithms enables intelligent optimisation. Sensors in underground or overground containers can transmit real-time fill level data to the centralised ERP system which can then automatically generate the most efficient next-day routes for the waste collection. Because the fleet is then deployed more efficiently it helps to drive cost savings, also municipalities need fewer collection vehicles for the same routes which reduce traffic and CO2 emissions in the streets. With this, intelligent optimisation is the answer both to increase the collection of recyclables and at the same time lower the environmental impact.”

What is the added value of intelligent optimisation in household waste collection?

“The complexity of household waste collection is high due to diverse factors such as various local situations, different job and containers types and varying customer demands. Moreover, it concerns large numbers of orders which need to be planned in one go and at the same time schedule and re-plan if the execution of the orders changes. Waste collection companies can easily tackle this complexity with intelligent optimisation supporting all kinds of waste collection and all planning types into one central IT system with both static planning with master routes and IoT-driven dynamic planning. A huge advantage of the smart system is in one route combining emptying containers which must be emptied (>80% fill level) with those who can be emptied (>50% fill level). This helps to gain greater efficiencies in both the number of visits, reducing vehicle requirements and also customer satisfaction as containers are always collected on or ahead of time.

How does the centralised planning translate into benefits?

"Centralised intelligent optimisation allows companies or municipalities to treat their entire collection areas as one, and not break them down by route or zip code. This allows for efficiencies and synergies to be achieved while maintaining a complete overview of all the status of the orders and the vehicles. Both drivers and vehicles are no longer restricted to the same collection route but can be deployed freely to plan the most efficient routes. The planner at any time knows if the driver is ahead or behind schedule and due to the insights into the operation he or she can reschedule an order to another driver. This assures bins are emptied within the set time frame while at the same time guaranteeing customers the highest possible service level." 

What are the other benefits for household waste collection?

"The extent of the benefits will vary from municipality to municipality due to the differing natures of their collection areas. Organisations who’ve adopted this innovative technology have all experienced positive tangible benefits. Examples are up to a 15% reduction in the number of vehicles or drivers’ shifts needed and up to a 25% reduction in miles, driving time and CO2 emissions. The largest saving has been seen in transport planning, execution and follow-up with up to 50% less time spent on these activities. Besides these tangible benefits ultimately lower numbers of vehicles on the streets and as a result also the cost, a lesser gauged benefit of intelligent optimisation is the increase in customer satisfaction from the improved collection accuracy, which leads to happier householders."

What are in your opinion are the most important points of attention?

"Municipalities who make an allowance in their contract specification enables them the possibility to benefit from the available technology and solutions currently being proved in various parts of the market. One area that seems quite common around the world is the length of the contracts, and also the strictness of the specification. Unwieldy contract terms may make it impossible or at least difficult to introduce technology and optimisation during a contract term therefore municipalities may have to wait years before implementing such technologies and thus miss out on the benefits. That is a lost chance because implementing this innovative technology provides municipalities and/or subcontractors with the possibility to implement newer collection models and from day one of the contract initiations reap the benefits of the efficiencies of intelligent optimisation."