Companies have recently been looking at the circular economy model to become more sustainable. With the circular economy model, companies consider how much waste they are producing and how to divert it, as well as the amount of emissions they are releasing and how to reduce it. Not only does this focus help cut down on waste, it can have economic benefits as well.
One solution offered to compactor companies is a monitoring system designed to reduce the number of pickups its haulers make, therefore reducing the emissions of its fleet and the cost of pickup for the company.
“There’s a route, and that router may come around every two or three days, and he may pick up a half-empty compactor,” Chris Burns, director of sales and marketing for Bakers Waste Equipment (BWE), Lenoir, North Carolina, says. “You’re still paying for the pickup if there isn’t a full compactor. [Companies] want to maximize payload and minimize the amount of time haulers come.”
For this reason, compactor manufacturers, such as BWE, usually offer third-party systems for monitoring compactor fullness and data analytics to customers.
Getting over the hurdle
The monitoring system BWE sells to its customers sends a notification directly to a dispatcher when the container is full, who then informs the hauler. Burns says this is different from an average monitoring system in that it eliminates the need for the customer to call the hauler themselves.
“These systems normally come with warning lights, so if there’s a high volume that day, the customer knows to call the hauler, which isn’t that easy,” he says.
The monitoring system from Northbrook, Illinois-based OnePlus uses sensor technology to detect a compactor’s fullness and wirelessly report the data through email and text notifications, the company’s website says. Customers can use OnePlus’s WasteForce platform to communicate data to the hauler. WasteForce, OnePlus says, can also measure how frequently the compactor fills up and how responsive the hauler is.
OnePlus comes with an annual subscription. Customers can monitor the compactor remotely via the OnePlus platform, and notifications are automated to the customer's hauler when service is needed.
Burns says the benefits of the system include cost savings, efficiency and user friendliness, but the challenges usually stem from haulers resisting the technology.
“The hurdle will be the haulers, because their model doesn’t like [getting notifications]—they don’t want to be on call,” he says. “They have a route with a set schedule and they don’t want people sitting around.”
Burns says haulers may have to change routing schedules to accommodate the new pickup frequencies, but having to jump a hurdle such as rerouting isn’t new for the waste industry.
“I think it’s going to have merit in the long run, but just like anything in the industry, getting it accepted industry wide is getting to be the challenge,” he says.
Because the technology is still developing, Burns says, it’s still prone to making mistakes, such as miscommunicating the amount of waste in the compactor.
“You’re depending on some electronic or digital sensor system to dictate what the capacity is, and the capacity tends to fluctuate depending on how the material enters the compactors,” he says. “You might get false alarms when the material moves a certain way. The sensors may be sensing the back pressure if the material is built up when, in reality, it isn’t full,” he says.
Dan Mauti, president and CEO of PragmaTech, says sister company and Canadian Marathon distributor Metro Compactor, Brampton, Ontario, began putting the system on its rental units. After enough data was gathered from the rental units, Metro Compactor told Marathon, “the inefficiencies we saw [in how pickups were being scheduled] were immense,” Mauti says.
He says the Pandora system doesn’t solely monitor the amount of waste in a compactor, but it also provides diagnostics.
“If we can reduce the number of times it’s picked up, then we reduce wear and tear,” Mauti says. He says that the technology allows haulers to pick up the containers only when they’re full, which also cuts down on unnecessary trips.
The Pandora system, according to Mauti, is designed to establish mutual communication with the compactor it is monitoring. “The compactor just doesn’t bring out a percentage [of how full it is],” he says. “At certain intervals, it flings information to us and at certain intervals, we ask for information.”
PragmaTech uses Pandora to monitor cycles, operational time and pounds per square inch (psi) of the unit and puts it in an algorithm designed to detect if any operations are amiss.
“The system has become more and more evolved in predictable time lapse, so we can see that a compactor is expected to get full in so many days, and if something changes, we know about that right away,” Mauti says.
Mauti says the Pandora system can reduce the number of unnecessary pickups by 30 to 35 percent. “Some locations are higher, some do a little bit better of a job, but the monitoring system monitors the constant evolution of what’s the most efficient for that environment.”
The “lowest hanging fruit” for selling companies on the benefits of this technology, as Mauti says, are the benefits of reducing the number of pickups from a cost standpoint and from an environmental standpoint, but reduction of wear and tear is a bonus.
Mauti says that customers became receptive to the OnePlus system after the company “changed the landscape” of how it was sold.
“You can’t just flip a switch and say you want to know when [a compactor] is 80 percent full,” he says. “You have to correlate what the machine is doing with what the actual physical results are.”
Much like the OnePlus system used by BWE, Mauti says getting haulers on board is a challenge for PragmaTech. “Haulers don’t particularly love it yet because it cuts into their top-line revenue, but it also helps them drive efficiencies when they want to use it,” he says.
Mauti says haulers start to get on board with monitoring systems when they “realize the technology is here and that it makes sense when used.”
Mauti cites larger haulers like Waste Management (WM), Houston, that have used this type of technology and touted the benefits that it can present to commercial customers and haulers alike. While these tools can help increase efficiencies, transitioning to new hauling schedules can take time, he says.
“[WM] understood it and understood the benefits and we did everything in our power to make sure we achieved continuity of the system,” Mauti says. “When you deploy a large amount [of these systems], it isn’t just the flip of a switch—you need to get everybody on board first.” wt
The author is the assistant editor for Waste Today and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.