Waste Advantage Magazine

Enhancing your bottom line: waste and recycling collection vehicle routing optimization

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The waste industry has seen more changes than most of us can keep up with, not only within the most recent few years, but largely over the past three decades. Most company owners and solid waste industry management say the same thing, “I remember when we picked up the trash and took it all to the landfill.” A far cry from where the industry is today.

Now there are rules, ordinances, franchise agreements, municipal collection—processing, transfer—disposal contracts, collection service constraints and other regulations that dictate what collection service providers can and cannot do. For example, diversion, recycling, green waste, food and organics, C&D, medical, wet, dry, etc. It also seems the industry went from one truck type to several specialized vehicles, each unique and seemingly needed in its own way. Keeping up with the routing of all these services and collection vehicles has become an important part of efficiently managing any organization’s or company’s solid waste and recycling collection operations.

The economy has affected organizational goals for solid waste and recycling collection for all lines of business—residential, commercial and industrial— in today’s market. The motto is, “Do it cheaper, faster and with less resources and equipment now.” Maintaining service levels, contracts and franchise compliance have become more competitive often eroding profit margins.

The rapid growth spurt, preceding the recent recession, happened faster than anyone expected, and it led to adding more routes without having the time to create them efficiently. This resulted in a wide range of collection routes throughout the nation so unbalanced and inefficient that, now that the new growth has halted, it is time for both public sector agencies and private sector companies to strongly consider rerouting their customer base and begin running their routes more efficiently.

Route Optimization
Route optimization refers to choosing the best element from some set of available alternatives. Rebalancing routes for reducing hours and miles, it involves improving fleet and manpower productivity and profitability. Route optimization affects all aspects of a solid waste and/or recycling collection service provider organization. Whether private or public sector, efficient and cost-effective fleet and resource management through planning is the most important step in enhancing an organization’s bottom line. Understanding all the parameters and how they create impact an organization’s service objectives allow collection service providers to choose the right tools for the job.

To begin route optimization, reducing route hours and miles driven are accomplished by benchmarking an organization’s current operations and driver procedures, then analyzing that data to identify key areas of needed improvement and make the necessary changes. There are a variety of decisions to be made with respect to collection vehicle routing, customer service impacts, day of service changes, whether or not to purchase routing software, GPS, onboard systems, etc., and, more importantly, which professional experts to hire to assist in helping make the critical decisions and the implementation of the needed changes. One thing that is certain, those who invest in route optimization will be more profitable.

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