Know your waste: Mandalay Technologies

Understanding your business operations is crucial to avoiding compliance issues. Mandalay Technologies’ Lacey Webb tells Waste Management Review how leveraging data can eliminate regulatory risk and financial liability.

Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War that it is important to know yourself and to know your enemy before every battle.

The same principle applies in commerce – knowing the ins and outs of your industry and competitors is the key to success.

In the waste industry, it is important to understand what waste is being handled, when and where, as well as the risks involved, for a business unit to limit its liabilities. This is where Mandalay Technologies provides expert guidance.

As former Head of Finance of a diverse waste and recycling group, Lacey Webb’s relationship with Mandalay commenced as a customer, and after many years of partnering with and developing an understanding of Mandalay’s systems, she joined the company in 2016. Bringing 12 years of waste industry experience to the table, Lacey’s role as Senior Consultant is to take the lead in commercial and compliance consulting at Mandalay, supporting clients in their commercial practices. She has seen first-hand the importance of accurate data to drive business outcomes.

“I cannot speak more highly of the importance of real data: to have confidence in data integrity and trust that the information being reported is complete and valid. Not understanding your own business’ knowledge gaps is one of the worst positions a company or local government authority can be in,” Lacey says.

Lacey points out that not having accurate data for your business, or lacking confidence in the quality of information and process, means it’s difficult to understand commercial realities.

“Understanding your business means understanding your bottom line and your obligations. Without proper data, you’re overlooking one of the most important considerations a business must manage – making sure you know where you have money to spend and where it has come from,” Lacey says, adding that it’s also imperative to understand where the risks of fraud or incorrect information lie.

“It is this risk of fraudulent, incorrect or incomplete information that is the hidden challenge facing our industry as it’s so often a lesser consideration.”

By managing data efficiently and having comprehensive auditing and exception methodologies in place, a business greatly reduces its risk of fraud, regulation and compliance issues.

“The waste industry in many areas is still a cash-based industry and it can be very easy for someone at any level within a cash handling business to amend a transaction to achieve a desired outcome. If nobody is looking for these amendments in the data, nobody notices,” she says.

“Human error is also a factor. People miss things. A lack of training is one of the biggest risks that I notice, and I’d hate to see ongoing lost revenue in a business unit because of a failure to train staff effectively. Unfortunately though, it is not uncommon.”

Training users, administrators and senior managers how to properly manage data is a key part of Mandalay’s model, Lacey says.

“Often key people within a council or company will be thoroughly trained in using a system. When those people leave, they train the replacements and as this cycle continues, nuances of best practice are not passed down. However, a handful of poor habits are,” she says.

Lacey says that over time, this leads to the stringency of data governance degrading and increases the risks facing a company. Because of this, it’s important for companies and local government authorities to maintain up-to-date records and perform audits on their information.

“There is a lot of effort that goes into an audit, whether it’s financial or data related. Making sure the information is correct the first time around alleviates future headaches,” she says.

Regular training and competency validation is also important.

“Technology and methodologies are changing, and we in waste are lucky that our industry is one of so much collaboration. As new techniques and technologies come into practice, we have an opportunity for continuous improvement.”

Lacey notes that chief executive or financial officers and waste industry executives are rarely the people handling the data, but they are usually the people with their neck on the line if information is incorrect. As this is the case, it’s important that they can have confidence in the quality of techniques being practiced to manage system information.

“There is a lot of responsibility placed on operators at a waste facility to ensure that data is accurate, but often the accountability ends further up the line,” she says.

“An operator can be responsible for structured data that impacts financial records, regulatory reporting and operational metrics, but may lack the tools or exception reporting methodologies to ensure the data stays structured.” She says this can lead to incorrect reporting and challenges for management.

“The quintessential example of this challenge is an organisation in NSW who was recently fined $1.6 million under the National Heavy Vehicle Chain of Responsibility provisions, due to a failure to appropriately oversee mass management of vehicles and provision of false documentation to regulators,” Lacey says.

“This resulted in not only a penalty to the company, but also a prohibition order against the director personally. And there will be more cases to come. Our job is to provide the right compliance and product support to allow our customers to manage these challenges effectively.”

In addition to managing point-of-sale transactions, Mandalay provides a system which will allow customers to predefine large volumes of information behind the scenes. Lacey says this allows clients to remove a significant amount of administrative overhead and risk – specifically in the regulatory space.

“Instead of managing data, predefined information in systems like Mandalay allows you to manage by exception, which is what efficient data management is all about,” she says.

Mandalay’s system can predefine regulatory reporting settings for specific states and standardise reporting to allow for easy submission of recurring reports, such as those lodged via the Queensland Waste Data System in Queensland or Waste and Resource Reporting Portal in New South Wales, reducing administrative effort and allowing for more effective staff utilisation.

“Without a system, or with an ungoverned system, a lot of time and effort is spent creating data instead of managing the outputs,” Lacey says.

Referencing NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and QLD Department of Environment and Science reporting, Lacey says that Mandalay allows a waste business unit to ensure that those in control of data can be comfortable that it’s correct and current.

“My role at Mandalay is to focus on risk and compliance – and this includes the regulatory space, helping our customers manage the challenges of tracking their regulatory data from the transaction and in more challenging situations, helping them with audit responses.

“Often, I will liaise with the EPA or other regulator on behalf of a client to determine the standards of classification when there is a grey area. This not only assists that business move forward, but helps in allowing Mandalay to better educate other clients and refine processes.

“We offer comprehensive training and governance specific to the space and have strong relationships with regulators and authorities across the country: with the NSW EPA, QLD Department of Environment and Science, Department of Water and Environmental Regulation in Western Australia and the list goes on.”

She says that national companies, both small and large, that operate facilities across multiple states also come across issues of regulation that they will address with the Mandalay team.

“For a national company, it’s difficult to have a centralised office that manages the regulatory requirements for every state in Australia, given that the regulations and reporting requirements in every state are different,” Lacey says.

“Each customer requires a bespoke service – to ensure that the guidance and support that we give is consistent in method across all facilities, but specific to the local regulation of each operation.”

And this is all a part of the Mandalay consulting service: supporting waste operations, regardless of their size, to manage their challenges more effectively through system implementation and best practice process.