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Resource Recycling Magazine Article:

Curbside recycling software:
Can it make your life easier?


A sampling of planning and routing software offers something for everyone.

Continued advances in computer technologies, including the infamous Internet and its web sites, have provided many new toys and even a few helpful tools. One of the more valuable tools is the increasing number and variety of software to assist with recycling and waste collections. Although yesterday's haulers and planners may have gotten by without customer databases and cost models, many of these tools have now become a critical -- even indispensable -- means for maintaining productivity and competitiveness.

The variety of software currently available for assisting the recycling and waste industry is impressive, and includes everything from satellite tracking of containers to projecting the cost of a solid waste management system for an entire municipality. This variety means that there is something to fulfill everyone's needs, but it also presents a bewildering array of choices for the novice user. This review attempts to clear the air by describing some of the software that is currently available.

For this review, eight software programs were evaluated for their capabilities. These were chosen in part based on the availability of a demonstration program for reviewing how well they operate. The eight programs that were reviewed fall into two general groups:

routing and route management software
general planning and recycling cost analysis software


Additional software is listed and briefly described later in this article.


Routing Software

According to one vendor, recycling and solid waste collection companies often start using software to improve their efficiency in billing, and only later discover that software can also help with route management and several other functions. Route management capabilities may become more important as a collector adds customers or adds routes for separate collection of recyclables and other services.

The following routing software programs were reviewed:

The Refuse Industry Computer Software (RICS), by Norwesco, combines the capabilities of two programs: the Routing and Billing System and the Waste Accounting System. The review focuses primarily on the abilities of the first program, which handles routing, billing and customer service.


RouteSmart, by RouteSmart Technologies, is a computerized map-based route optimization system and is the only one of the group that is a route design software program. RouteSmart is available as three different programs with slightly different abilities. All three employ a Geographic Information System, customer database, and geographic street database to design, display, print and store route information.

The first of the three programs, RouteSmart Analyst, is a basic program for those with general needs. The second product is Point-to-Point Routing, which is useful for routing a series of individual stops. The third product is the Neighborhood Sanitation Module, which is useful for creating routes over a large area involving stops at almost every location. RouteSmart also offers a route design service through their Service Bureau. RouteSmart's demo can be downloaded from its Web site (http://www.routesmart.com/distinct).


Trash Flow, by a company of the same name, provides an integrated package of bookkeeping and route management. A companion product, Preventive Maintenance Software, addresses vehicle maintenance schedules, inventories parts, tracks histories, and can also generate work orders and has other capabilities through optional add-on modules.


WAM, by AOL Technologies, offers a number of advanced features, including compressed data storage, highly customized reports, support for a wide range of printers, access of the same customer data by multiple users through a network, word processing abilities (for form letters, etc.), and has strong security measures. AOL Technologies also offers a simple. lower cost version of its software -- WAMjr -- for those interested in billing and routing functions only. More information can be gotten from the company's Web site (http://www.reuse.com) or via e-mail (wam@refuse.com).


Of these four, three are what might be termed "billing and route management" software; only RouteSmart actually designs routes. A comparison of these software programs is shown in Table 1.



Table 1 Comparison of Routing Program Capabilities and Requirements

RICS
RouteSmartä
Trash Flow
WAM
Program Requirements:
Price $5,000 + $3,000 + $2,295 + $6,995 +
Minimum CPU 386 486 286 286
Hard disk space 4 MB 50 MB 10 MB < 5 MB
Operating system(s) Windows,
DOS, other Windows
or Unix Windows
or DOS Windows
or DOS
Technical support;
Toll-free 800 number 331-3553 977-7284 852-5199 282-8229
Hours 7-5 PT 24 hr/7 days 24 hr/7 days 24 hr/7 days
Cost 90 days free 1 year free Free 6 months free
Other support Pending Web site, BBS No Website, e-mail
Basic Parameters:
Ease of use;
Training Yes Yes Via phone Via phone
Online support Yes Yes Soon Yes
International language
support No Yes No Yes
Flexibility
Modular options Yes Yes Yes Yes
Program Capabilities:
Routing;
Route design No Yes No No
Maps No Yes No Yes
Directions (1) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Dispatching Yes Yes Yes Yes
Flexible route lists Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fleet maintenance No No With add-on program Yes
Container tracking Yes No Yes Yes
Financial;
Profitability analysis Yes No Yes Yes
General Ledger No No Yes No
Billing Yes No Yes Yes
Accounts payable No No Yes No
Payroll reports No No Yes No
Scale interface Companion program Yes No With add-on program
Mailing labels, other word processing Yes No Yes Yes
Integrates with other systems GIS and spreadsheets Billing and database programs Accounting, spreadsheets, others
Other
Service Bureau can do routing design Material tracking Customizable reports

RICS = Refuse Industry Computer Software.
CPU = Central processing unit. MB = Megabytes. PT = Pacific time zone.
1) Only RouteSmart actually generates directions; the other three store and display directions
and instructions that have been manually entered.
Source: Green Solutions, 1996.

Planning Software

This group of software includes several programs that will primarily interest planners and consultants. Because of differing designs and capabilities, this group was further subdivided into:

those performing general solid waste management planning (WastePlan and SWPlan).
those focusing on recycling results and costs (RecycleWare and EPIC's cost model).

Four planning software programs were reviewed:

SWPlan, by Recycling Insights, is a Windows program that allows the user to examine various options for handling the flow of waste from a large area or a single company. This program uses standard Windows design and icons, providing an easy interface for users familiar with Microsoft Windows. Recycling Insights also offers a second software program, RecycleTrak, for tracking and reporting recycling tonnages. For further information, check out Recycling Insight's Web site (http://www.isd.net/cpm).

WastePlan, by Tellus Institute, provides a tool for analyzing and forecasting costs and capacity requirements for solid waste management, including waste generation, collection systems, and processing and disposal systems. This program allows two different modes of operation with different levels of complexity and slightly different capabilities. The data shown in Table 2 are for the "advanced" mode.

Municipal Recycling Collection Cost Model, produced by the Environment and Plastics Institute of Canada, is a well-designed spreadsheet based in Microsoft Excel software. This spreadsheet walks one through a cost analysis for recycling programs for single family homes and apartment buildings. EPIC's cost model can be run from a disk, but the user will need to have Excel installed on his or her computer to operate it. Default values and results are reported in metric measurements.

RecycleWare, by RecycleWorlds Consulting, allows a detailed cost analysis of five recycling options (six if you count the no recycling option), including drop-off containers alone, curbside bins with a compartmentalized truck for recycling collection, curbside bins with separate commingled collections for recyclables, curbside collection using one truck (divided or with a trailer) for waste and recyclables, and post-collection separation of recyclables. RecycleWare allows tighter control of collection cost factors than the two general planning software programs. A Windows version of this software is expected to be released soon.

A comparison of these software programs is shown in Table 2.

Table 2 Comparison of Planning Program Capabilities and Requirements

General Planning Software Recycling Program Software

 
  SWPlan WastePlan EPIC's RecycleWare
Program Requirements:
Price $475 $2,000 Free $5,000
Minimum CPU 386 286 286 286
Hard disk space 2 MB 6 MB 0.12 MB 3 MB
Operating system Windows Windows
or DOS
Windows
(MS Excel)
Windows
or DOS
Technical support:
Toll-free 800 number No No No 449-1010
Hours 9-11 CT  8-5 ET 8-5 CT 8-5 CT
Cost Free 8 hours free Free 1 year free
Other support Internet

recyclinginsights.tripod.com

 

No No Soon
Basic Parameters:
Ease of use:
Overall High Medium High  Medium
Training Yes Yes No Yes
Clarity of manual Medium High High Medium
Online support Yes (extensive) Yes No Partial
Learning curve Low High Medium High
Material selection Yes (from list of 19 commodities) Yes Yes No
Reports High Medium Low Low
Program Capabilities:
Cost Projections  Yes Yes Yes Yes
Multi-year analysis Yes (1) Yes No Yes
Scenario development Yes (1) Yes Limited Yes


EPIC = Environment and Plastics Institute of Canada.
CPU = Central processing unit. MB = Megabytes. CT = Central time zone. ET = Eastern time zone.
(1) Accomplished through separate runs of the program, although software design allows separate
windows from each run of the program to be open simultaneously for easy side-by-side
comparison.
Source: Green Solutions, 1996.

Other software programs

A sampling of other routing and other software programs that are currently available includes:

WasteWORKS, by Carolina Software, tracks transactions at recycling and waste management facilities. It handles both the financial aspects (ticketing, monthly statements, account status, etc.) and management aspects (numerous reports including amounts and types of waste, average times to unload, numbers of customers, etc.). It can handle multiple sites with data transfer to a central office.

ScrapWare (previously called ScrapMaster), by Consolidated Resources, Inc. recently added satellite tracking of collection and shipment containers to an already-extensive list of capabilities. It's other capabilities include handling purchasing and sales, contracts, quotes, truck fleet management and other logistics.

This software doesn't attempt to include a financial program but instead is designed to integrate easily with a variety ledger software programs. This software is now available for Mac or IBM-compatible systems. CRI also offers ScrapWare RF, which transmits data through a wireless network to handheld computers used by staff working throughout a facility, enabling them to report or access data easily.


The Billing Clerk, by Dilloware, Inc., is a DOS-based software program designed to help haulers and others with billing functions. This software manages the billing process to create invoices and related statements, track outstanding bills, and handle the customer list. It provides flexibility in printing to a variety of forms, and even postcards, and in tracking specific information about individual customers.


Material Recovery Facility Processing Cost Model, by EPIC, is similar in design and operation to EPIC's Recycling Cost Model (see above). The MRF Cost Model provides a cost accounting method for processing costs, examines annual capital and operating costs for MRFs, reports cost per tonne for processed materials, projects the number of sorters required, addresses processing rates and storage requirements, and addresses other factors.


The CRV Manager, by Executech, is a "point-of-purchase" software originally designed to assist California businesses with tracking beverage containers and other materials. This software has recently been modified and re-released under the name "The Scrap Manager", with additional capabilities to track customer histories and contracts, and to produce reports by city or hauler. Additional capabilities are also offered through other products, such as the ability to track collection and storage containers using "The Service Tracker".


CompTroller, by Green Mountain Technologies, is a software program that controls the composting process and monitors for compliance with 503c standards. This software was originally developed as part of a package for Green Mountain Technologies' containerized composting system, and has been recently adapted to monitor and control all types of aerated composting processes. Green Mountain Technologies configures the software according to the requirements of each facility.


Your Waste Prevention Computer Tool Kit, by the League of Women Voters, is a valuable resource for designing and implementing waste prevention programs. The tool kit contains worksheets, templates for letters and other documents, clip art, curricula, tips and strategies for specific businesses and departments, evaluation forms, and much more.


CompuWeigh, by Paradigm Software, Inc., is an automated weighing, invoicing and account tracking system that is based in Windows and is designed to allow flexibility and customization by the user. It has been optimized for use in Windows 95. As with some of the other software programs, it does not attempt to include a financial program, but is designed to interface with Accounting Vision and other ledger programs.


WasteSort, by RecycleWorlds Consulting, is a software program specifically designed to assist with waste composition data collection and analysis. For additional information, see the review of this software in the December 1995 issue of Resource Recycling.


flexABILITY, by ScanSys Corporation, is an integrated package of applications designed to work within the Microsoft Office environment. This software promises customizable reports output from a variety of software programs (Excel, Word, Works, etc.). The capabilities of flexABILITY are numerous, including such things as accounting, payroll, container tracking, and scheduling for solid waste, medical waste, and recyclables. It can be used for a single site or multiple locations, and on IBM-compatible systems from stand-alone PCs to multi-user networks.

Computer Ease, by Shared Logic, provides a system whose strengths are tracking inventory (including collection and storage containers) and financial data (including sales, payroll and quotes). This program is currently in use by about 250 companies nationwide. Its modular approach manages transactions, tracks containers, handles dispatching, records scale weights, and provides maintenance schedules and cost projections. It can be used on IBM-compatible systems from stand-alone PC's to multi-user networks.


Soft-Pak, by a company of the same name, provides a system that manages customer data, billing, and account status for solid and hazardous waste haulers and recyclers. Soft-Pak can be customized to a particular application and, through optional modules, can also assist with vehicle and materials management, scale interface, and accounting.


Structural Instrumentation provides two software products (Route Authority and Route Reporter) and a variety of scales (Route Man, Smart Pin, Lodec and Brutus). These components can be used alone or in other configurations, and their software is compatible with other on-board weighing systems and computers. Using an on-board weighing system (Route Man) the data transfer system (Route Authority) and their software (Route Reporter), a computerized tracking system called Route Management System can be created.


Systems Alternatives, Inc. provides a handful of products that monitor scale weights and financial data for a variety of facilities. They have a modular approach, with optional sub-systems for financial, inventory, production, contracts, brokerage, maintenance costs, and freight management. SAI's products are currently in use at over 200 locations.


RecycleTrax, by Wixel, handles some aspects of routing (such as automating pick-up slips, route sheets and invoices), but its real strength is in tracking materials. The RecycleTrax system tracks materials from the point of collection to the point of being shipped out of a facility as a finished product, processed material or waste. Additional capabilities include scheduling loads, manifesting, tracking inventory and related aspects. This software can also be used to track materials between facilities, which is accomplished through the ability for data transfers between commercial and industrial waste generators, their haulers, MRF's and disposal facilities.


Conclusions and Recommendations

It may be stating the obvious, but the best choice of software for a particular company will depend on a company's precise needs.

If a company or municipality is interested in improving their billing and route management abilities, then there are many good programs on the market. The best choice hinges on factors such as a program's ability to use existing customer data and hardware systems, the ability to use standard billing forms, and the potential advantages offered by additional or optional functions, such as fleet maintenance.

If, however, a company or municipality is seriously interested in redesigning their routing system, then RouteSmart is the only one of the four routing programs reviewed that offers this capability. Because RouteSmart software is compatible with most of the other route management programs, they could be used together to provide a full range of routing design and management capabilities.

For the planning software, either EPIC's collection cost model or RecycleWare would be a good choice for those who are examining the cost of recycling programs in great detail. For more general planning and system analysis efforts, SWPlan is highly recommended for its Windows format and subsequent ease of use for most users. WastePlan offers a few advantages, however, that some users may consider to be valuable enough to warrant the greater investment in time to learn this program.

What none of these four planning software programs can do is completely replace the careful consideration of policies and community needs that is the special province of the public policy sector, but all of the four programs reviewed are useful for addressing "what if" scenarios and providing ballpark cost estimates.

By no means does this list of programs include all of the additional software programs that are available. Moreover, new software packages and capabilities are continually being developed or added to existing programs. Smart computer user will keep an eye on these developments to determine how the new programs might serve their needs.



About the Author

Rick Hlavka is the owner of the Seattle-based consulting firm, Green Solutions, which specializes in recycling program evaluation, waste composition studies, solid waste management plans, and cost analysis. He can be reached at by e-mail at rickhlavka@aol.com


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