A new solution that enables a digital transformation of RoRo and skip operations can help the waste industry to increase sales, operate more efficiently and improve service to customers.

Sensor City and LSP customer PIN IoT recently had their innovative solution featured in the ‘New Products’ section of Skip Hire Magazine. Here, Paul Byrne, CEO of PIN IoT, talks about how the PIN IoT solution is set to improve the performance of the waste industry.

Tell us about PIN IoT

PIN is a technology start-up established three years ago by a team of experts in wireless asset tracking. We had previously worked across a number of sectors to track things that move around – roll cages for retailers, stillages for the automotive industry amongst other things.

We were asked by one of the national waste operators to help them trace and recover stolen RoRo’s, which is where it all started. From this we were able to identify a much more important problem and created PIN with a mission to solve it.

You can watch PIN’s simple explainer video below:

What exactly is this problem?

Obviously the waste container is basic and essential. Without a container on site, waste doesn’t get collected and the operator doesn’t generate sales.

The basic problem is that the operator doesn’t know how many containers they have or exactly where they are. Our data shows that operators typically have around 30% more containers than they think, and more importantly that up to 40% of RoRo’s and skips are not where operators think they are.

At around £4,000 for a new RoRo the containers themselves are expensive. There are already more in the market than the industry needs, yet more are purchased every year because of poor visibility.

The biggest problem is that each container is a revenue stream that the operator obviously needs to be in control of. This is often not the case. Our data shows that 25% of containers aren’t collected for at least a month, often for more than a year, usually without generating any revenue at all. This is the ‘slow movers’ problem – impossible to manage when the operator can’t see it.

There is also the knock-on effect on transport operations. At a total cost of around £1.20 per vehicle mile, inevitably there is inefficiency. A vehicle travelling to a location to collect a container that isn’t actually there is commonplace, as is the need for an extra journey to collect then tip a container from a customer before delivering it to another customer that needs it. This is a hidden cost to the industry that works against the genuine commitment to reduce carbon emissions.

How does the problem arise?

We have spent a lot of time thinking about this. There are three main elements.

The first is what we call serialisation. Containers don’t have an individual identity so the operator doesn’t know which one has been sent to a customer which makes it almost impossible to follow its journey or measure how effectively it is working. This explains why operators don’t know how many they have.

The second is manual data. Most waste operators have adopted sophisticated operating systems that enable them to manage the end to end process. These systems obviously rely on the data that is inputted. Jobs are created then confirmed on the system when complete, usually by the driver using a handheld device. Over time data input errors mean that the system becomes out of sync with reality – for example an exchange is booked on the system but when the driver arrives at site the customer confirms that they don’t need a replacement container. The system isn’t always reconciled and therefore thinks that there is a container on site when there actually isn’t. These errors become very significant over time, hence the 40% error rate we have seen and the big problem with slow movers.

The third reason is Reactive Operations. Around 70% of collections are unscheduled, meaning that the operator relies upon customers calling in for a service when their container is full. As a result the daily plan constantly changes with the operator needing to continually adjust to deliver the day’s activity and sales whilst keeping customers happy. This process is difficult to control, makes data input errors more likely which in turn creates a bigger problem as the operator is unable to plan effectively without knowing how many containers are available or how many are out at customer in the first place.

The industry isn’t doing anything wrong as such. We are often impressed by how well waste operators are able to deliver service to customers despite these challenges. It is a difficult and skilled job to do this without proper visibility and it is obviously not the way you would choose to work if there was an alternative.

This sounds like a really big deal. How is it that the problem hasn’t been addressed before now?

The simple answer is that the technology hasn’t been available to solve it, but now it can.

Asset tracking isn’t a new thing. Most operators have adopted vehicle tracking which has been commercially available for over 20 years. Traditional GPS tracking doesn’t work for containers because of the power requirement – the process of generating a geolocation via a satellite is power hungry. We all know how quickly our phone battery runs down when we are using Google Maps for example. This means that a container tracking device would need batteries to be changed frequently which is expensive and impractical.

The good news is that wireless technology has evolved. It is now possible to track a container using low cost, low power devices with a 5 year battery life. This is the game changer.

How does the PIN solution work?

Each container and vehicle is fitted with a tracking device and assigned a unique digital identity. From this point forward every movement is tracked automatically between depot, customer and 3rd party locations. The data is received into our software platform which processes it into maps, dashboards and reports that provide the operator with the insight to make better decisions.

What benefits does it bring?

Typically we expect the operator to create 30% additional container capacity which can be used to drive growth and/or to avoid the need to purchase new containers for up to 10 years.

Another key benefit is leveraging slow mover data to increase sales by bringing forward collections, reshaping the service provided to customers and/or apply rental payments. This can more than pay for the solution on its own.

There is also the opportunity to improve transport efficiency by ensuring containers are always available, enabling jobs to be serviced from the nearest storage location, monitoring driver performance and identifying when jobs are taking longer than expected.

Overall the prize for the UK waste industry runs into the hundreds of £ millions.

How much does it cost?

The new technology means the solution can be provided at a fraction of the cost of traditional GPS tracking. There are various options, an initial set up cost along with a monthly subscription. It can be delivered for around 1% of the cost of a new RoRo each year and a much smaller percentage of the sales the container will generate if it is working efficiently.

How has the solution been received?

It’s already been adopted by several UK waste operators and our customers love it.

The challenge for us is to build awareness of the size of the problem and the opportunity.

Imagine there was an inbuilt inefficiency in your business, that you couldn’t quite see but that costs you time and money every day… that new technology was now able to solve at low cost..?

We think it’s a great story for the industry and we are really excited to make it a reality.

To find out more, visit: www.pin-iot.com

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