On cloud nine

Written by: Editorial staff | Published:

Whether it’s cloud-based apps making workers in the field more efficient on the move and their employers up to date with regulations, or computerised management systems making plants safer, software is bringing waste companies into the 21st century. RWW reports

Helping companies gain a competitive advantage over their rivals, as well as holding up a mirror to provide insights into their business’s performance, are just two of the many aims of software specialists. According to Waste Logics Software, these along with saving time and money and reducing risks to a business are their main focus.

“Clients are looking at keeping up with technology and cutting down on administration,” says Sean Kinnear, customer success manager at Waste Logics Software.

“All companies are looking to streamline their systems as much as possible.”

Kinnear points to the company’s latest features in their cloud-based system.

“With an app such as ours, you have real-time data from drivers displayed on office transport dashboards and automated emails can be sent to customers with photos attached that are raised from issues recorded by the drivers’ PDAs.”

Looking into his crystal ball, Kinnear predicts that the future could bring inventions like Google glasses where waste management operatives will be able to take photos of compliance issues simply by blinking.

“It’s just a matter of time,” he says with a grin.

Mobile apps rule

Simon Bucknell, managing director of Recy Systems, which has been operating since 1985 and only specialises in waste management software, echoes the view that mobile apps are the biggest area of interest as far as the waste management sector is concerned.

“Everyone wants data on their smartphone or tablet, whether it’s management reports or information on materials grades,” explains Bucknell. “In the past, when a lorry came on to a weighbridge, people used walkie-talkies to communicate, but nowadays it’s a smartphone with an app which can grade material, take photos, spot impurities and send the information back to the weighbridge.”

Another area of interest is the in-cab solution that manages a fleet, controlling transport orders, takes images when drivers drop off materials, and enables instances of overloading to be reported as well as signatures to be captured. This information is then sent to the client’s main server for distribution to the customer.

Looking to the future, Bucknell forecasts more mobile apps. “We’re designing them all the time with the emphasis on ease of use.”

A specialist that focuses on providing software for, among other industries, the recycling sector is Gateshead-based Increase Computers. As well as priding itself on having links with Sage that go back to 1986 and being accredited as a fully licensed Sage business partner and developer, Increase Computers designed a vertical market software coined FRED, namely ‘fast remote entry of data’.

Development on this software began in 1985 with the first version being bespoke-written for only two customers. Since then FRED is reported to have progressed exponentially ever since, with the fifth generation of the programme being released in 2012 and more than 500 users reportedly employing the software on a daily basis.

The FRED system includes weighbridge links, skip & transport management, CRM functionality and a non-ferrous module.

Helping companies maintain accurate records thereby enabling them to adhere to regulations is high on the agenda for Steve Robbins, general manager and head of web development at DH Systems, a desktop software company that has traditionally made products for Windows desktop computers, but which is increasingly seeing the need for customers to move away from the desk and have the freedom to employ software out in the yard and at the roadside.

“Our customers are asking for full traceability of all waste products, including vehicles, metal, oils, fuel and other consumable items from a scrap vehicle,” Robbins tells RWW. “The government agencies and new rules require the keeping of records relating to all items recycled and proof of where they came from. For instance, the typical quantities of waste liquids from a vehicle are known, and if a site has more or less than would be expected, an audit might be carried out to find the discrepancy.”

Software as a Service

Regarding the future and where software is going to be in five years’ time, Robbins says: “We have developed a range of mobile and tablet apps that enable our customers to speed the process of recovering vehicles and processing them through the yard. In five years, we would expect that the IT solutions for the waste and vehicle industries will be delivered on tablets and used as a ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) model, where there is no need to invest in traditional hardware and IT infrastructure – you will have your system beamed over the internet to you, anywhere and at any time. This will enable your systems to integrate more fully into other systems such as the EA and DVLA and allow real-time reporting to everyone involved – customers, suppliers and management. A scenario might be that you can monitor scrap metal prices in real time and choose to operate your yard for maximum profit when the time is right.”

Accessing data

However, it’s not all about being on the move – software manufacturers are also responding to the need for better plant resource management.

Last month, Yokogawa Electric Corporation unveiled version R3.31 of its plant resource manager (PRM) software tool for the centralised management of large amounts of data from plant monitoring and control devices as well as manufacturing equipment.

PRM R3.31, an upgrade to R3.30, is claimed to include a new function that enables PRM to link with a computerised maintenance management system and a new data display function that allows field maintenance personnel to access data that is useful for locating and responding to device failures.

This latest version of PRM is said to enable the seamless management of the process of detecting and responding to device failures. This has been achieved by linking PRM to a computerised maintenance management system that is used to draw up maintenance plans and manage the progress of maintenance tasks. With this new PRM version, field maintenance personnel can access key performance indicator (KPI) reports on device availability and other indices that until now have been mainly available for use by management. The software is reported to facilitate the identification of failure causes so that countermeasures can be taken.

As anyone who has worked in the metal recycling sector knows, even though it is at its core a manufacturing operation, unlike a typical manufacturer the acquisition and inventorying of scrap metal has unique requirements that preclude the use of a typical ERP (enterprise resource planning) system, according to Mark Valdes-Dapena, business analyst at Brady, a software specialist that provides commodity solutions.

“That is why almost all recyclers rely on industry-specific software to manage their business. A recycling system has to deal with sourcing intake from a variety of types of suppliers; walk-up traffic, to construction trades, to manufacturers – a system that allows for rapidly changing and even negotiated purchase pricing at the PoS. The system has to deal with an inventory where quality is highly subjective and where production throughput is often initially estimated and reconciled later,” explains Valdes-Dapena.

In terms of where Brady sees software in five years’ time, he says: “As the Brady CRES product (commodity recycling enterprise system) evolves and expands, we see CRES penetrating the market of more speciality recyclers and scrap consumers; like stainless steel and high-temperature alloy recyclers and secondary metals smelters.

“Further, to deepen its ERP functionality, CRES is introducing more planning/scheduling capabilities. And lastly, CRES is providing web services to automatically capture production data from level-two systems,” adds the business analyst.

Integration is key

Finally, what does Valdes-Dapena think are going to be clients’ priorities in the future?

“Integration and efficiency appear to us to be a growing interest. Scrap recyclers and consumers often have specialised systems to deal with requirements for things like overhead and maintenance costs. Larger operations use ERP systems which are well suited to this, such as Microsoft AX, SAP and Oracle. Lately we have seen the need to tightly integrate the specialised scrap system to these ERP systems. Also, continuing consolidation requires that a system be upwardly scalable to accommodate M&A growth. Further, operating in the cloud provides a means of rapid expansion and deployment,” predicts the business analyst.

Fact file: ALBA Group to automate vehicle route planning with AMCS

AMCS, a supplier of integrated software and vehicle technology for the waste, recycling and resource sector, has signed an agreement with recycling and environmental services provider ALBA Group.

The agreement, with a value of €2m, will see AMCS implement its fleet planner and mobile products across ALBA Group’s fleet in Germany, replacing existing manual systems. The end-to-end solution will include operations software, mobile devices for

drivers and on-board hardware for more than 600 vehicles. It is expected to fully integrate with the ALBA Group’s SAP system.

According to AMCS, optimising its skip vehicle routes will enable ALBA Group to unlock a number of commercial and environmental benefits resulting from reductions in emissions, mileage and driving time. The ability to increase the productivity of the fleet will also help optimise its size, ensuring every vehicle is operating at full capacity. Planning time is expected to be cut by anywhere from 60-90% and reductions in the number of missed lifts are anticipated to help to improve service levels and reduce the volume of queries and complaints.

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