Ailie Chambers, account director at Webaspx, describes how their customers have used digital solutions to help them meet the challenge of the Covid-19 crisis
Covid-19 has stretched many local authorities to breaking point. It has taken dedication and in many cases ingenuity, to keep waste and recycling collection services running effectively. Our customers have faced unprecedented challenges.
Many of these challenges will hopefully diminish over time as the country begins to recover. Commercial revenue should pick up as businesses start trading again, and pressure on household collections should decrease as people return to their offices.
This crisis has also made local authorities more aware of the limitations of inefficient service design…
But this crisis has also made local authorities more aware of the limitations of inefficient service design, paper-based processes and unconnected systems. We believe this experience will drive and speed-up the digital transformation of waste collection services.
Here are some of the ways we’ve seen technology helping local authorities through the crisis.
Online calendars cut down calls
The changes to waste collections when the country locked down led to a sharp rise in enquiries from residents. One of our customers told us they were getting 600 extra calls a day about collection schedules at the beginning. This extra workload, with many staff absent from work was obviously a challenge.
For customers with their website collection calendars linked directly to their back office systems making changes to schedules and getting changes out to the public was quicker and easier, and in addition, cost less.
In-Cab helped cover drivers
With our customers having up to 40% of waste collection staff absent at the peak, many used cover drivers to keep their services running. In-Cab technology has been critical in providing new drivers with navigation to help them get through the route efficiently and collection information at the right point during the round has helped maintain performance. As one customer put it: “In-Cab is proving really helpful right now, as we are using drivers who are unfamiliar with certain rounds, but who can now cover them with assistance.”
Faster service redesign
A number of our customers also wanted to quickly redesign rounds, so that they could best deploy their resource to where it was immediately needed. Designing rounds takes time of course, but with the right software and good, existing service data we were able to help one of our customers to make some tactical changes to rounds that helped them to react to an increase in household waste and garden subscriptions.
Bogus bulky waste collections
In addition to the well documented rise in fly tipping that councils across the country have seen during lockdown, some of our customers have also reported a rise in bogus bulky collection requests from residents clearing excess household waste. By using software to track the number of bulky waste collections from each property, councils can apply charges where the volume has exceeded that allowed.
Managing fluctuating trade collections
At the same time as dealing with more household waste, councils have conversely found themselves with fewer commercial collections. One estimate was that they were losing up to 80% of their customers. The loss of that income is the obviously the last thing local authorities need right now.
Many local authorities still run their trade businesses off a spreadsheet, and managing customers this way will have undoubtedly been a challenge. Where customers have an integrated digital solution to manage their commercial waste services they are much better placed to react quickly and keep revenue flowing. They have greater visibility of customers coming off and on the service and can re-plan rounds more effectively to maintain efficiency and performance.
We have great admiration for the dedication and ingenuity local authorities have shown through the crisis. But we also believe they need to be supported by modern technology if they are to decrease risk and increase resilience.