Discovering what’s possible: Mandalay Technologies

Local governments are increasingly leveraging digital vouchers to reduce liability, supported by data to provide tailored services to their customers.

Like every other sector, councils across the country are navigating the brave new world of COVID-19 and social distancing.

Delivering essential public health services such as water, sewerage, and waste, many of which are continually evolving to deal with a climate-conscious general public, is no easy task. For some councils, the concern is to continue to do so without delaying or reducing rates, fees and charges.

For example, the Local Government Association of Queensland has laid out a COVID-19 battleplan, highlighting its desire to partner with the Queensland Government to lead communities in recovery.

As reported by Waste Management Review in the May article Supporting business continuity, software provider Mandalay Technologies has been focused on aiding the transition.

With many businesses forced to digitise their operations overnight to meet social distancing requirements, Managing Director Simon Kalinowski sees it as an opportunity for councils to improve their core services.

“Waste is an essential service, and one in which improved service outcomes and revenue are very much intertwined,” he says.

As a result of COVID-19, Simon acknowledges that many councils will be faced with external pressures to support their community, whether it be bad debts, fluctuating commodity prices, or otherwise, which will impact their bottom line.

“The performance of their operations, including the efficiency of those services, is going to come under increasing pressure, so we need to see better performing councils,” he says.

WAVES OF CHANGE

Simon says digital relationships with customers, and their customers, across the entire supply chain are opening up a range of possibilities. It comes as the waste profile, which has seen significant changes over the decade, prepares for another wave of change.

With more people working from home, and many potentially to continue to do so in the future intermittently, more waste is finding itself in the municipal solid waste streams.

Many state governments, including Queensland, NSW and Victoria, are re-setting their long-term waste planning framework.

“Waste services have traditionally called for a set and forget approach. But now we’ve got changing expectations on what to put in each bin, multiple types of services, and changing operating conditions at facilities impacted by COVID-19,” Simon says.

He says that the traditional narrative in waste has been to focus on the average household, but this is a misguided approach, as every end user is different.

“If you think about the community and consumers, we have an expectation that we can do things in real time, and waste is gradually evolving into that dynamic,” Simon says.

Simon remains inspired by the possibilities that digitisation continues to create. Mandalay has been progressively expanding its product offering to track waste data from source to fate.

Real time issuing and redeeming of vouchers is supported by cloud-based data.

Taking existing commercial and industrial, and construction and demolition waste data, it is being integrated with municipal solid waste to create a holistic view of waste management within the regions.

“Our underlying belief is that if we can give insights to our councils of increasingly precise behaviour of their customers, then they can use that to develop new or existing services that drive long-lasting behavioural change,” Simon says.

“I was working with a regional facility that services many councils, and they have a few different profiles of customers they have to serve. They had come up with a very limiting program for that community, and so when you educate them about what’s possible, their whole world changes.”

Mandalay is seeing a surge in its existing waste voucher offering for residents and community groups, coupled with detailed waste mapping based on voucher use.

Waste vouchers have traditionally been printed on paper and mailed out to homeowners, or available on request. Often, this can cost thousands of dollars to ensure the vouchers are only used by the intended recipient and not copied or forged.

Mandalay has sought to resolve this, and a number of other issues, by digitising waste services. Simple concepts such as updating terms and conditions, getting a record of receipts read or accepted, or making program specific changes, can be communicated in real-time.

DIGITAL RELATIONSHIPS

Moreover, waste mapping is creating digital relationships with the people and properties within a community.

Since being released in 2018, its resident voucher program has supported local governments with digital vouchers – which has solved a variety of issues.

“One of the limitations of councils offering vouchers is, previously, they’ve been able to print them all out and send them to the residents when they send out the rates notice every year,” Simon says.

“But as rates notices are moving to electronic/online they couldn’t offer that service, or align that service offering.”

He says the challenge was then to offer an on-demand service, while also being able to ascertain the profile and behaviour of communities in a more targeted way.

These are the considerations Mandalay looked at when it began to digitise these services, aiming to offer councils better data and insights about their communities.

Mandalay’s voucher application can be distributed via rates notices or on-demand requests, while offering cancel, re-issue, and override options where a council decides an exception to the rules is needed.

This aims to resolve several challenges. The first is substantial overheads and the risk of managing multiple systems and data points across multiple locations.

Secondly, reducing the complexities of administering waste systems that extend across several teams, including Waste, IT, Finance, and Customer Service.

Thirdly, this increases the integrity of voucher programmes and reduces opportunities for fraud.

By delivering a faster and more personalised experience for councils, residents and the community, local governments can form stronger community ties while finding operational savings.

Like most digital products, integration is important, and Mandalay’s voucher management application natively links in with its CS Ticketing system. This enables rules set for the voucher program to be enforced at the facility gatehouse when the voucher is redeemed.

Additionally, real-time issuing and redeeming of vouchers is supported by cloud-based data.

Added to integration is the need for collaboration to avoid confusion, with the ability for use by multiple internal users across various teams, whether it be waste or customer service, to administer and manage entitlements.

User access can be managed via permissions and provide access to data while locking down functionality based on an organisation’s internal process requirements.

Multiple voucher programs can be created to suit each type of entitlement offered by councils.

Detailed waste mapping provides councils with unique data insights into their local government area and ultimately helps them service their communities better.

“You need to understand who your customer is before they come to the site and preferably what they’re there to do,” Simon says.

“Councils often think of their ratepayers as this is where their revenue base comes from, so they have an understanding and relationship with all of them. But in over 35 per cent of residents, the occupier and generator of the waste is not actually the ratepayer, it’s either the tenant or the property manager.”

Mandalay’s property database maintains a unique understanding of every property, allowing unique relationships to be built against that property.

Detailed property information is captured in the application, along with a history of voucher use, which provides an auditable system and a means of confidently challenging incidence of fraud.

Importantly, operators can understand where waste is being generated and which facility it is being presented at. The system adheres to international data security standards, including the General Data Protection Regulation – one of the world’s strongest set of data protection rules.

Simon says this allows bespoke services to be introduced at the click of a button.

“The classic one we’re seeing digitised fully is recycling drop-off facilities where operators can track the behaviour of that backfill property, link green waste drop-offs or introduce another more discreet waste related service.”

Additionally, by understanding the relationship between properties, councils can draw on information about the end user and even introduce targeted services. This spans anywhere from multi-unit dwelling pick-ups to targeted waste education campaigns.

“Councils are seeing this as a chance to actually bring essentially new revenue to their sites and we think that’s particularly exciting.”

Bundaberg Regional Council is one of several councils that will be using Mandalay’s waste vouchers, with vouchers currently sent out with rates notices.

Kerry Dalton, Coordinator Waste and Recycling Environmental Compliance at Bundaberg Regional Council, says that council is hoping to see multiple benefits to using the waste vouchers.

She says there are myriad potential benefits in moving to an electronic system, including allowing for council to electronically mail out vouchers to its E-rates customers.

Additionally, the ability to cancel and reissue vouchers if a resident has lost or not received the voucher is another benefit.

“This happens quite regularly, and we have had no way of tracking vouchers to know if they have already been redeemed,” she says.

The vouchers will offer the ability to track usage and start identifying areas with higher uptake and produce more accurate reports from the voucher module.

Kerry anticipates the end of day reconciliation process should be cleaner with the ability to scan the vouchers, with more of the benefits to be better understood by council’s next rates round in July/August.

Simon says that while many councils are understandably focused on present challenges, the future of waste behavioural insights is abound with opportunity.

“There’s a whole raft of data and insights that we’ll be able to generate in the future, as well as being able to benchmark the performance of organisations and all manner of things.”

For more information on Mandalay’s vouchers click here.

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NCTCE launches free webinar series

The National Cleantech Conference & Exhibition (NCTCE) is launching a webinar series to highlight cleantech innovation and opportunities ahead of the March 2021 event.

Commencing 28 May, program topics include: how are local government sustainability leaders preparing for the ‘next normal’? Building back better – what does COVID-19 mean for cleantech? and why is clustering more important than ever? How the European Cleantech industry is adapting to the post pandemic era.

“With so much innovation and ‘pivoting’ happening in the cleantech industry as a result of these unprecedented times, we could not wait until 2021 to share these great stories with our NCTCE community,” an NCTCE statement reads.

According to NCTCE organisers, despite devastation wrought by the coronavirus, a post-COVID world offers huge opportunities for the cleantech industry.

“As the world collectively realises that we can’t return to ‘normal’, many are seeing this as a magic moment in time to re-shape economies, societies and improve the way we work and live,” the statement reads.

“New technology, sustainability and collaboration will most certainly be part of this new landscape. Best of all, it looks like our political leaders are finally listening to scientists.”

The curated program of live, interactive virtual events will tap into NCTCE’s speaker alumni, industry innovators and thought leaders.

“Some sessions will ponder the ‘big questions’ whilst others will drill down on innovations and case studies from each of the various cleantech sectors,” the statement reads.

“You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions, network (virtually), learn and be inspired – all from the comfort of your own WFH desk.”

Webinar details: 

Thursday 4th June – Building back better – what does COVID-19 mean for cleantech?

The current COVID-19 health crisis has been identified as an unprecedented opportunity to align the immediate Australian pandemic response with the imperatives of sustainability.

This includes the opportunity to develop a new industrial policy mix and stimulate innovation and investment in sustainable technologies.

What are the opportunities for the Australian Cleantech industry and, more importantly, how can they ensure the voice of industry is heard?

Facilitated by: Paul Hodgson, GM Innovation and Stakeholder Engagement NERA and NCTCE Advisory Panel Member.

Panellists: Dr Sarah Pearson, Innovation Lead and Deputy Director-General, Queensland Department of State Development, Tourism and Innovation. John O’Brien, Partner, Energy Transition & Decarbonisation, Deloitte Financial Advisory. Stephen Robertson, Director-Stakeholder Engagement and Strategy, Planet Ark Power.

To register click here.

Thursday 18th June – How are our cleantech innovators preparing for the post-COVID-19 world?

A post-pandemic world offers both immense opportunity and challenge for cleantech innovators and producers.

While it has served to shine a light on the next crisis and the role cleantech can play, crucial investment and research funding is now being channelled into more immediate and short term recovery projects, or has dried up altogether.

Hear from Australian cleantech innovators on how they are powering through the crisis and preparing for the ‘next normal’.

Facilitated by: Yasmin Grigaliunas, CEO and Co-Founder, World’s Biggest Garage Sale

Panellists: Graham Ross, Co-Founder, Blocktexx. Further panellists to be announced

To register click here.

For more information on the NCTCE webinar series click here

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Fed Govt delays glass waste export ban

COAG’s export ban on unprocessed glass has been delayed due to restrictions related to COVID-19, and will now commence 1 January 2021.

According to Environment Minister Sussan Ley, COVID-19 restrictions made it “impossible” for parliament to pass legislation in time for the original 1 July 2020 deadline.

“We will introduce new legislation later this year to implement the waste export ban, giving interested stakeholders an opportunity to review the draft legislation,” she said.

The schedule for implementing the export ban on waste plastic, paper and tyres remains unchanged.

As part of the national response to the COAG export ban, the Federal Government is asking industry and state and territory governments to work together to bring forward project proposals that deliver a national solution for mixed-paper recycling in Australia.

“Australia has a once in a generation opportunity to improve waste management and recycling through national leadership and by funding infrastructure investments and encouraging new technologies,” Ms Ley said.

Assistant Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Minister Trevor Evans said Australia exports approximately 375,000 tonnes of mixed wastepaper and cardboard each year, but the ban will see a shift to recycling these materials domestically by 2024.

“The Federal Government is particularly interested in paper-recycling facility proposals that adopt new innovations for recovered paper and generate new jobs in rural and regional Australia,” he said.

Applications to the Federal Government are due 31 July, with a decision on successful projects expected at the end of August.

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Alex Fraser responds agilely to COVID

Alex Fraser has thanked its customers for their support of its COVID-19 hygiene and social distancing measures, as the company experiences a spike in demand amid Victoria’s continued infrastructure boom.

Construction has long been held in high regard by governments, the community and businesses as an invaluable outlet to stimulate economic growth in times of crisis. In Australia, the COVID-19 health crisis has fast become an economic one, as the Federal Government, states and territories leaped into action to reduce community transmission via stage 1, 2 and 3, restrictions.

Governments have assured communities and the road construction sector that vital infrastructure pipelines will continue. Construction was also been declared essential under stage three restrictions, with new guidelines introduced to the sector, agreed to by a number of unions and industry associations.

The NSW Government has extended construction hours so they can adhere to social distancing by spreading their work throughout the week.

Over in Victoria, the state’s premier Daniel Andrews has said construction will play a major role in Victoria’s economic recovery following COVID-19.

“It’s probably too early to tell what the impacts of this coronavirus will be on a whole range of different projects: both government projects — level crossings, road and rail, hospitals, schools — and also private sector projects,” Mr Andrews told ABC.

“When we get to the other side of this, the biggest construction boom in our state’s history will need to be even bigger. We will need to do more to protect jobs, to create new jobs, and to make sure that we bounce back from this as strong as we possibly can.”

As the pipeline charges on, the state’s biggest transport project, the Metro Tunnel Project is keeping Victorians in work, with the last two tunnel boring machines hitting the pavement.

The Frankston line also remains shut from late May as part of the biggest level crossing construction blitz – the Level Crossing Removal Upgrade (LXRA).

Alex Fraser is supplying thousands of tonnes of recycled products for construction and maintenance projects across Victoria like the LXRAs. The company is currently experiencing a spike in demand across its three Victorian sites, and has agilely responded to ensure the health and safety of its customers and its people.

Recent projects include supplying the Southern Program Alliance almost 200,000 tonnes of tonnes of recycled construction materials on the Mentone and Cheltenham Level Crossing Removal Upgrade (LXRA).

The project, expected to be completed in early 2021, is using recycled materials and is expected to save 170,000 tonnes of material from landfill, 1110 tonnes of Co2 emissions, and 185,000 tonnes of natural resources.

Works commenced in April 2019, as contractors removed level crossings at Balcombe Road in Mentone and at Cheltenham’s Charman and Park Roads. The construction of the two new stations is complemented by a 3.5 kilometre shared use path and expansive public space.

It’s not only rail projects capitalising on the benefits of recycled products; major roads projects – like the Mordialloc Freeway, Monash Freeway and Western Roads upgrade – are utilising thousands of tonnes of recycled materials, including millions of glass bottles from kerbside collections.

“We’re reprocessing priority waste streams into high quality construction materials to supply rail and road projects with a range of high-spec, sustainable products that cut costs, cartage, and carbon emissions, and reduce the strain on natural resources,” said Alex Fraser Managing Director Peter Murphy.

Mr Murphy said the Alex Fraser team was focussed on helping their customers finish their projects safely and on time.

He said customers had demonstrated an enthusiastic and proactive approach towards the changes put in place to ensure safe operations during COVID-19, including the switch to electronic payments, reducing the use of dockets and bringing their own PPE and radios to sites.

He said that Alex Fraser customers’ immediate and accepting response to the company’s introduction of COVID-19 safety measures demonstrated great community spirit and goodwill.

“We’re been very encouraged by our customers’ response to our hygiene and social distancing measures,” Mr Murphy said.

“Our employees have done a stellar job at implementing a wide range of new controls to our workplaces, very quickly. Many of these involved changes to the way we interacted with our customers, who have all been understanding and supportive.”

Image: the Alex Fraser team at Laverton’s Sustainable Supply Hub meet for a pre-dawn toolbox meeting to discuss COVID-19 safety.

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Supporting business continuity: Mandalay Technologies

With the impact of COVID-19 being felt by waste businesses across the country, Mandalay Technologies provides advice on mitigating some of the social and economic risks through improved service delivery. 

All organisations have been impacted in some way by COVID-19.

While many waste and resource recovery businesses are facing shared challenges, many of these issues are nuanced and require unique solutions.

COVID-19 is moving at a frenetic pace, creating a range of social and economic risks, from serious public health challenges to the disruption of just-in-time supply chains.

But in the seed of every problem, comes opportunity. With the risk of transmission via human interaction posing significant health risks, myriad businesses are examining how they can interact and connect with their customers, staff and suppliers remotely.

The digitisation of waste has long been on the radar of Mandalay Technologies and while this transition is not an overnight process, COVID-19 has forced its acceleration.

To that end, Mandalay has seen an immediate uptake in the need for operators to switch a significant proportion of their operations to digital overnight.

“Most of our customers saw this as a five to two-year horizon, but this pandemic has brought on the need to do it now, as we’re seeing human interaction pose a significant risk to staff and their customers,” explains Simon Kalinowski, Mandalay Technologies’ Director.

“If you look at the implications of digital supply chains, the amount of other benefits that that will bring to the waste and recycling industry is enormous.”

Mandalay customers have identified a number of areas where they need help. Some of the key questions are: how do operators minimise face-to-face contact at weighbridges and transfer stations while keeping operations running? Additionally, how does one handle document and tickets electronically or remotely, or even become cashless and process payments remotely?

Many of these questions were answered in Mandalay’s webinar in late March on Business Continuity During COVID-19, which addressed a range of issues faced by local governments and businesses alike.

Mandalay’s webinar started with a pulse check: at what point is your organisation at with business continuity planning towards COVID-19 for your waste operations?

The results showed 49 per cent of respondents highlighted planning is in progress, with 26 per cent noting they have a plan in place being implemented, 23 per cent close to finalising their plan and only three per cent that had not started their existing plans.

While each situation is unique, Mandalay has been working with businesses to help them identify their business continuity plan, what services are impacted and how and what can be done to reduce risk factors.

“For us it was very difficult to interpret how this would play out in Australia, but we’ve been having a lot of one-on-one conversations around our strategy and thoughts on the way we can support you, with the situation evolving infinitely day-by-day,” Simon says.

“What we’ve found as we talk to people is that we’ve been able to expand their thinking about what’s possible, practical and probable quite quickly in those conversations.”

He says that this has informed the need for businesses and councils to undergo a bespoke review.

Simon reflects that while working remotely takes a lot of getting used to, as a seasoned work-from-home veteran he’s finding self-isolation to be highly productive.

“Because we’ve invested so heavily in digital and cloud technology and pushing our clients towards cloud-based applications and centralised management, then essentially their operations and relationship with us doesn’t change at all. In fact, our ability to support our clients is actually enhanced.”

One of the points highlighted in the webinar is an anticipated change in the profile of waste generation from customers of all types over the coming months and its impact on transactions. With household consumption already increasing, additional waste once considered C&I and even C&D is expected to end up in the MSW stream.

“In metro areas there’s quite a high vigilance around the potential impacts of this and there’s clearly an impact on tonnage, so there’s a whole redistribution of waste occurring at the moment,” Simon says.

“I can’t stress enough that that impact is going to be more significant than you realise and we’re already seeing it now. We’re seeing significant reduction in participation in collection services, issues around non-payment for real circumstances or financial impact or otherwise.”

However, he adds that we need to be careful in taking a knee-jerk approach to policy, citing anecdotal discussions about replacing green waste bins with general waste.

Some of the issues Mandalay has seen are the closure or scaling back of existing facilities and the question of whether new services are required to meet the changing waste profile.

“We expect there will be new service requests and service profiles, so in your business continuity plan looking at how you can support requests that come in or decision-making with your teams is something I would encourage you to consider.”

In Queensland, the state government enacted the disaster charter due to COVID-19, which currently does not provide exemption on the waste levy.

“Just because there’s a disaster charter, doesn’t mean there’s disaster waste. An exemption may come, and that period is likely to be in two to four weeks’ time.”

“What we need to focus on is correct data for transactions coming through so operators can provide auditability on materials, their origin and the profile of that so in the event that it is, you’ve got a good history of your transactions.”

Simon says the reality is that some customers are now looking at closing facilities or considering sending their material to landfill.

As part of this, hours of operation and staff and redundancy planning is important.

To protect the safety of operators, limiting the number of customers onsite at any given time is crucial. Moreover, supporting staff who deal extensively with members of the public, including gatehouse operators is equally important.

“Do I change the service experience to reduce the risk of transmission? There is a full gamut of issues very personal to each organisation in what they may think about,” Simon says.

Hygiene and the use of PPE equipment is another occupational health and safety risk that needs to be accounted for.

While many of these changes may be overwhelming for some, Simon adds that it’s important to introduce levels of change progressively, based on the level of risk posed to the community.

“For facilities that you elect to keep open to provide services, what are all your risks and dependencies on-site? Each organisation will have different views on the length of time this will remain an issue, but as a minimum it’s going to be a few months of impact, possibly longer.”

Mandalay is supporting its customers to reduce human interaction in a few key areas: product selection, payment and ticketing.

For example, operators can review their data setup to move from a manual system to a more streamlined process.

Installing intercoms or CCTV can reduce or remove the need for direct face-to-face contact, while giving operators the ability to manage and monitor customers at their facility.

In terms of payment, eliminating cash payments can remove the risk associated with staff handling cash. Removing the need for payment at the facility can be done across commercial and residential self-haul and in conjunction with account holders.

Requiring commercial customers to maintain a pre-paid account can provide full automation and reduce the need for face-to-face contact.

Installing a driver control station can also lead to automation for account holders and give them the ability to complete the transaction with no face-to-face contact.

Residential self-haul can help reduce the risk of driver transmission by having residents take waste to a facility to dispose of it. Site operators provide access to on-demand entitlements in the form of vouchers or the option to prepay an account.

During these challenging times, credit risk also remains an issue with commercial operators beginning to find it harder to make ends meet. By moving to a pre-paid model, the potential for credit risk is removed.

“There’s a real push to move to EFTPOS versus cash payments, I think this is a real reason to look at digital only and start to look at cashless facilities across the board.”

Providing tickets to customers without the need for direct human contact can also be achieved via a printer or direct to customers.

“The immediate solution is to provide an industrial printer in an all-weather enclosure installed post the bridge. We configure the ticket to print out on that ticket printer and it partially cuts the ticket.

“Rather than handing that ticket to the driver, you complete the transaction process and the partial perforation keeps the ticket in place until they can tear that off.”

Mandalay is also working on making tickets available online in the cloud.

And with business shutdowns and disruptions expected to last anywhere from three to six months or longer, Simon says it’s important to take a long-term view to digitising one’s operations.

“I’m working with one council that see their waste division as a key part of their economic and social responsibility and so projects are going to go ahead regardless because it’s a key contributor to council operations.

“They have a very evolved view about moving to a cashless and digital world. Whereas a council that doesn’t view their waste operations strategically, typically haven’t got a vision about where they’re going to go, so they will either close momentarily or put their staff and consumers at risk.”

“These types of challenging periods reward organisations that have got good teams and good plans and are set up to be able to act with agility.”

To find out more about how Mandalay can support your business, email enquire@mandalaytech.com

This article was published in the May edition of Waste Management Review. 

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NSW fast-tracks facility development process

The NSW Government will fast-track planning processes for State Significant Developments – including waste management facilities – to keep the development sector moving through the COVID-19 crisis.

Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said the construction and development sectors are vital to keeping people in jobs and supporting the state’s economic recovery.

“We are fast-tracking assessments to keep people in jobs, boost the construction pipeline and keep our economy moving,” he said.

In addition to fast-tracking assessments of State Significant Developments, Mr Stokes said the planning system acceleration program would clear the current backlog of cases in the Land & Environment Court.

“Our economic recovery will in many ways be longer and harder than the health one, and it’s essential we do everything we can now to keep our state moving forward, and allow work to continue wherever possible in line with the best medical advice,” he said.

According to Mr Stokes, the planning system will likely undergo further reform to ensure it enables economic growth once the immediate effects of COVID-19 have passed.

“This will pass and when it does, the planning system will be ready to continue driving economic productivity across the State,” he said.

Further details of additional reforms are set to be released in the coming weeks.

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