As fuel costs continue to increase, companies from all industries are looking for ways to improve their transportation efficiencies. In many cases, that means equipping fleets with M2M (machine-to-machine) technology to monitor speed and other driver habits. However, some industries are finding use for M2M in other ways beyond simple fleet management that help save fuel.
Environmental services companies, for example, find by remotely monitoring their containers, they can move away from scheduled "milk runs" that pick up partially full bins to an optimized route that only collects full containers. By eliminating unnecessary collection service trips, hauling operations are saving on fuel, labor, and truck wear and tear.
Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Trimble, www.trimble,com, says its customers in waste management and recycling have saved as much as 40% in monthly fuel costs by tracking the fill level of their collection containers—savings that drop right to the bottomline.
The company has now come out with a solution called cBin that allows recycling customers to remotely monitor containers using a combination of sensors and wireless technology. Infrared sensors automatically measure container fill levels hourly and then transmit the data to Trimble’s Web portal using the GSM cellular network. A Google maps view gives users a live, visual representation of all the bins using color-coded markers. Immediate updates are sent if fill levels exceed action levels.
By using cBin's route planning capability, managers can streamline container management and pick-up. Elmar Lenz, director of Trimble's Environmental Solutions Business Area, says this is critical to any fleet’s success. “Optimal route planning and scheduling are essential to remain competitive,” he notes. With M2M solutions like cBin, Lenz says recyclers and fleet managers can improve their forecasting process and utilize their fleets more efficiently.
And with improved efficiency, comes cost savings. By reducing the number of service trips necessary to collect the same amount of material, managers are not only saving on fuel consumption, but could possibly reduce capital costs by extending the useful life of their fleet.
Such a solution can be used in a number of collection applications, including medical waste, electronics waste (e-waste), recycling banks, green waste, and solid waste collection bins. The technology is most productive in applications where there are long distances between collections and that have frequent pick-up schedules to eliminate overfill conditions.
This is not the first time we have seen M2M transform trash collection. In an effort to save money and encourage community recycling, the city of Dayton, Ohio has equipped 20,000 recycling bins and a sample of its trash-collection vehicles with RFID tracking technology. The benefit is while its costs the city $38 per ton to haul trash to a landfill, it only costs $6 per ton to take waste material to a recycling facility.
But residents were not recycling, so the city decided that the RFID technology could help track which residents were participating in the program, so that they could start marketing to those areas more efficiently.
Overall, technology can provide a powerful impact on the trash market. Lenz believes the technology has the potential “to redefine how recycled materials are being collected.” But perhaps the potential goes beyond the recycling container. It could conceivably find its way into every commercial trash container—or even the can sitting outside on your curb—and change waste management as we know it.