Waste collection via social media: AMCS Group trial

ACMS Group’s Gerard Kissane explains the potential cost savings behind a new technology the company is trialling which will allow residents and commercial enterprises to schedule their collection services through social media.

The decline of billion-dollar camera giant Kodak represented a historic shift in the transition to digital photography.

In 1976, Kodak commanded 90 per cent of film sales and 85 per cent of camera sales in the US market, according to a 2005 case study for Harvard Business School by Rosabeth M. Kanter.

Professor Kanter believes Kodak was slow to respond to the rise of digital photography. In January 2012, Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The company emerged from bankruptcy in 2013 and now earns a modest revenue, reporting $1.798 billion in 2015, according to the US: Securities and Exchange Commission 2015.

The harsh lessons learnt from the decline of Kodak can be applied to the waste industry, according to Mark Abbas, CMO & Director of Business Development at AMCS.

In a 2016 presentation to the Clearer Planet Convention, Mark argued digital transformation was a challenge for many companies and even a threat to some. He advised waste companies to develop a strategy for ICT to ensure they can grow their business in an age of competition.

Mark’s advice is that digital transformation is not just about IT – it’s a business model and a strategy. Beyond the world of waste analytics is a need to understand how consumers are interacting, and provide a service where customers can collaborate, interact online and expect services available no matter the location or point in time.

Gerard Kissane, Head of ANZ Region at AMCS Group, says linking reliable services with the digital tools, platforms and apps to transform a waste business is what AMCS is about.

Internationally, companies like Rubicon Global have disrupted the waste industry. Rubicon Global’s platform works by connecting its customers with an independent network of waste transporters to bid on their business, akin to the popular share ride service Uber through a cost-competitive digital platform.

“One of the concerns in the industry at the moment, particularly from some of the major players, is the “uberisation” of waste. As a result, we’re putting a lot of focus into our intelligence optimisation software.

“We think a lot of consumers are prepared to pay a premium for an online on-demand platform, where they feel they are in full control of the process,” Gerard says.     

One of AMCS’ major projects in 2018 will be using social media as a platform to allow customers to schedule their collection services automatically without any input from a dispatcher or customer service representative. AMCS will be trialling its intelligence optimisation software in the US, and is currently deciding which platforms it will leverage for the service, including Google Home, Amazon Echo, Facebook and Twitter. It also plans to leverage the growing list of Internet of Things and fill level technology solutions.

Currently, many customers have a weekly or fortnightly collection route. Gerard says the technology would offer potential to allow customers to drop their collection company a message via social media and have their collection automatically scheduled. At the back end, the collection company could automate the way the messages are processed and dispatch the request to its vehicles off the back of this.

Gerard says the algorithm of monitoring fill levels has been successfully used internationally to allow the fuel industry to ascertain when tankers need to arrive at petrol stations for replenishment.

“It’s really taking the technology we already offer to our customers in other verticals and being able to provide a more dynamic solution to our waste collectors for their customers.

“You have a generation of consumers that have grown up in an age of instant messaging and they expect their providers will be available on those platforms to communicate with them.”

Gerard says the technology provides the ability to reduce overheads for the waste collection industry and save time for the commercial and industrial waste industry, while also offering the collection company a digital platform to engage with their customer base.

“Currently businesses scheduling a waste service have to call through to a call centre, somebody has to take your call, who will then put you onto dispatch and dispatch has to work out where they will schedule the collection.

“Through intelligence optimisation and having visibility of one’s fleet and its capacity in the background through one of the management software packages, companies will be able to schedule waste collection automatically, by having real-time visibility of vehicle and route capacity,” he says.

Intelligence optimisation would figure out where the nearest vehicle is and the most efficient vehicle to pick up the container, schedule it and provide confirmation to the customer without any manual intervention from anyone within an organisation.

However, Gerard doesn’t foresee the technology will see the end of call centres and dispatchers, as many companies would still be reliant on a regular and established collection service. He says he hopes the technology will be rolled out in 2018 in Australia and overseas.

“I imagine over time it’s quite possible you may be able to save a salary or two within an organisation.

“I don’t see it as a technology that will disrupt overnight, but rather augment and support existing collection offerings. At the same time we can’t be complacent and the waste industry needs to get ahead of potential disrupters eyeing the industry.”