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Running like clockwork: routing software can help recyclers choose the best path for pickups.

Routing software can be an important tool for maximizing logistics efficiently. Following the optimal sequence of stops helps to minimize transport time or distance traveled, which in turn reduces transportation costs.

Several types of routing software are available for a variety of recycling applications. It is particularly well suited for driver schedules with multiple stops because there is usually more of a need to improve routing efficiency.

When combined with other types of software, such as dispatch, inventory management and accounting, it can improve the flow of operations. The latest in routing software focuses on transportation as an integral part of the recycling process.

PAPER CHASE. Routing software vendor EZshred LLC, Independence, Ohio, offers a product geared toward recyclers called RecycleVision. EZshred President Mike Boehringer says, "Due to time constraints, many route managers allow truck drivers to decide their own order of pickups." However, such a situation does not necessarily lead to maximum efficiency.

"Unfortunately, driving the truck is the easiest task for the driver and the most unproductive task for the company owner," says Boehringer. "The timing of lunch with driving past the driver's favorite fast food restaurant should not weigh heavily in the route sequence. RecycleVision automatically optimizes the stop order of a particular route in order to minimize the miles needed to accomplish the route ."

One recycler that has been using RecycleVision for about one year is Shred First Inc., Spartanburg, S.C. Shred First is a destruction company as well as a recycler of paper, plastic and metal, whose recycling services are one-stop pickups. Nick Wildrick, CEO, says that his company needed an information system that would provide its customers with accurate information and quick payment.

"We had to improve efficiency," says Wildrick. "For routing software, particularly important is the ability to look into the future to see where a truck will be. Previously we handled this by e-mail, sticky notes and boards. Our company needed to schedule customers in the same area together. In addition, we needed to place a lot of information on a detailed ticket, including specifics on our pickup as well as directions. We also wanted to be able to track material as it comes into our facility, which would enable us to pay our customers. This required something that was more comprehensive than just routing," says Wildrick.

For Shred First, a benefit of having route optimization software has included keeping its operations costs down. Says Wildrick, "We were able to cut our overtime in half and reduce fuel costs. Other benefits are customer satisfaction and better directions for drivers." Another benefit of the software has been its ability to make changes and notes on the paperwork. If a customer has a unique request such as the need for a container, baling wire or pallets, Shred First can easily bring up the customer's name and type in the notes.

"Many recyclers are quicker to buy or lease another truck, invest a fraction of the money in enhancing their information systems," says Boehringer. "RecycleVision can tighten up their schedules and routes so that they can perform more work with each one of their current vehicles. Currently, we are working on a GPS module that overlays the actual, real-time location of a given truck onto a map of the driver's route. From this, you can easily determine their route progress, or if they have strayed off the route."

IRON-CLAD HELD. One common characteristic of transportation routing in the scrap metal industry is that just one stop can be handled per truck load, quite the opposite of the multiple stops that are entailed with curbside collection.

Although scrap recyclers may not need specific routing software, they can benefit from more comprehensive transportation management software, say some in the industry.

"Our industry is more geared to just a couple of stops per driver, with the driver returning to home base after pickup or delivery," remarks Tim Beers, director of administrative services at Louis Padnos Iron & Metal Co., Holland, Mich. "There is not much routing that is involved with so few stops. We feel that the need for routing software in this type of industry is very limited," he says.

However, L. Padnos does face a challenge in trying to maximize its assets. Says Beers, "We have only so many available containers, trucks and driver hours, so creating an efficient route each day is imperative. Primarily, our customers' and vendors' demands drive the dispatching process," he notes. "Unexpected deliveries and/ or pickups are problems that we contend with every day, so creating efficient routes is important in being able to meet those demands."

Beers says that L. Padnos is more interested in software that allows it to use its data more efficiently and effectively throughout the tracking and accounting processes. "We want to better utilize information that originates in our Customer Service Department," he says. "Once the truck drivers receive the information from the Customer Service Department, they can add to this data and then forward the information to the accounting system. This allows us not only to better serve our vendors and customers, but also allows us real-time tracking of containers and the driving fleet."

A good system can reduce duplication of communication efforts. "It has been our desire to reduce data entry and give our vendors information that keeps them better informed of our service--as well as the need to change a driver's schedule on the fly--that has led to our interest in a new software product," says Beers. "Whether it is routing software, dispatch management software or other types of software, having an integrated system reduces the possibility of duplication of efforts and creates a very efficient system," says Beers.

Bernd Frank, CEO of RECY Systems AG in Unterschleissheim, Germany, which serves the scrap metal and paper industries, says that routing software should be integrated into the dispatch process. "We provide a guide for truckers to use the optimum route, which we integrate into a GPS-based dispatch system that is loaded into an on-board device. The system will give the route, if the trucker needs it. It will direct the trucker to the location and will signal to the dispatch office that the truck has arrived," says Frank.

One of the modules that RECY Systems offers is the GPS module, which is part of the RECY-Container software that the company rolled out at mid-year. Says Frank, "GPS is becoming more economical for scrap companies, with the average cost of the device per truck dropping from about $6,000 to $2,500, plus the GPS service provider's cost." RECY Systems installed its first GPS module in August.

CURB SERVICE. In addition to private recyclers, municipalities and haulers serving them are also interested in improving recycling routing efficiency.

The city of Denton, Texas, is currently-working on implementing routing software for its commercial recycling operations. Liza Good, customer relations manager, says that earlier this year, Denton adopted software called CompuRoute, from Paradigm Software, Lutherville, Md.

Jackie Barlow, vice president of Paradigm Software says that CompuRoute coordinates with its weighing module, CompuWeigh. "CompuRoute provides the optimized route based on the quickest or shortest route," he says. "Our software uses Microsoft MapPoint, which helps to optimize routes. For our clients, we collect data and addresses and enter them into CompuWeigh and we interface it with MapPoint for the route optimization. By combining the routing and weighing module, you can tie a weight to a route. For example, say that Route 1 brings in 20 tons and Route 2 brings in 10 tons. This software helps you determine whether to allocate another truck to Route 1 and split it into two routes."

He adds that a shortcoming of routing software in general is that it often does not take into account "safe left turns," for which truckers would have to know whether the stop light has a left turn signal. In addition, it does not consider traffic volumes.

Good says, "We had glitches with routing data and with adding inventory to the system. Our previous software was complicated for assigning customers to routes." She continues, "It was inflexible for moving customers from one position on the route to another. In addition, the routing software was one piece, ticketing another, and billing was a third piece. Paradigm combined dispatch and routing and integrated it with billing."

Good says the city of Denton wanted flexibility with data changes while attaching inventory to customers. "The cost to upgrade our existing software was prohibitive," she says. "With CompuRoute, our customer service can go into the routing piece and determine whether the route is residential bags, residential cart or commercial and make the necessary entries. Another advantage is that we now have more access in historical data. With the previous system, we had problems retrieving data because it was all on paper," she says.

Currently, only one of Denton's routes uses CompuRoute. Good says that her department is still at the stage of entering and verifying data and that they plan to complete changes by the end of the year.

Across a variety of recycling sectors, routing software offers opportunities for recyclers to improve transportation efficiency by creating the best path for pickups. When combined with other types of software, it can also improve operational flow and provide better direction for recyclers.

the right touch

The David J. Joseph Co. (DJJ), Cincinnati, has ordered several touch-screen systems offered by Systems Alternatives International (SAI), Maumee, Ohio.

The new Touch Screen Platform Scale System from SAI is designed to reduce the transaction time to serve peddler traffic at nonferrous facilities by combining several proven SAI technologies.

The first unit was installed in early June at a Trademark Metals Recycling (TMR) facility in Florida. TMR, a scrap processing company operated by DJJ, says transaction times have been greatly reduced with the system, while a higher level of internal controls is also achieved.

DJJ's initial positive experience with the system has caused it to order additional units for use in other TMR and DJJ facilities that deal in nonferrous scrap.

According to SAI, the key component of the new product is a touch-screen user interface that allows the weigh master to rapidly make selections from a touch-screen menu and accumulate totals for settlement of multiple weights and commodities.

Further speeding the processing time is the use of bar-coded key fobs that contain pertinent supplier information. Upon entering the scale area, the peddler's key fob is read by a built in optical scanner to begin the transaction with accurate vendor information. A magnetic card reader is also available to read drivers' licenses with magnetic strips or other information.

The author is a freelance contributor based in Washington, D. C. He can be contacted via email at acoia@verizon, net.
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Comment:Running like clockwork: routing software can help recyclers choose the best path for pickups.
Author:Coia, Anthony
Publication:Recycling Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2004
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