Waste Management In Action

When data is power

When data is power - Ipswich City Council

Waste collection data has transformed the way organisations view their own operations. David McAlister, Resource Recovery Manager of Ipswich City Council tells Waste Management Review how data is essential for efficiency and effectiveness.

Thanks to Mandalay Technologies’ innovative offering, organisations can now record, access, and interpret waste data which directly affects their own operations.

Since 1996, Mandalay Technologies has developed data management systems and intelligent solutions for the waste management and quarry industries within Australia.

As Ipswich City Council’s Resource Recovery Manager David McAlister says the development of waste collection data benefits his own organisation and key stakeholders in the area.

“The waste management and collection sector is very much a data driven business. You need to know statistics beyond just a glance. Context is essential to improve our own operations at Ipswich City Council,” David says.

His previous experience as both the Collections and Disposals Manager at Brisbane City Council saw him implement significant change and improvements across the waste management system there.

David says that using Mandalay’s products for one of the nation’s fastest growing areas has proven to be beneficial on the road to modernisation in his current tenure.

“The Mandalay system has been catered to our needs. It’s brand new to Ipswich so we are very much on a modernisation journey to ensure that the data meets the growth requirements,” he says.

Mandalay CEO Simon Kalinowski says that our unique products, such as those implemented for Ipswich City Council’s operations, are essential for the modern waste sector.

“Ipswich City Council have a greater emphasis on integration between the different systems that they use across the council,” Simon explains.

“Traditionally, councils work with each software component individually. Ipswich saw a need to integrate these systems to create a universal approach to their software, so that is what we designed.”

Catering for rapid growth

Ipswich City Council represents one of Queensland’s and the nation’s fastest growing areas, with a population of 246,000 and 84,000 homes predicted to more than double within the next two decades to 558,000 people.

As expected, the rapid growth within the area has also led to an exponential increase in the amount of waste generated by households and businesses.

With a greater reliance placed on the council’s waste collection services, David says the waste data management system used by his department is helping meet demand.

“For growth, the impact is quite significant. For example, in terms of your collection fleet how many vehicles do you need? How agile does your fleet need to be? How do you need to grow your workforce?” he explains.

“You want to have agility in your systems. Waste as a business is such an agile and constantly evolving business.

“At Ipswich City Council we are doing around 25,000 collections a day. It’s important to know where issues occur, how collections and disposals are going. I cannot stress how important these factors are.”

Ipswich City Council’s journey of growth and modernisation highlight the need for a waste data collection service.

Under the current service provided by Mandalay along with Council’s other data systems, David and the council’s Resource Recovery Section (part of the Environment and Sustainability Branch) can view data on influences such as transaction numbers, waiting times, disposal tonnages and recycling volumes.

Data can also be viewed on growth related aspects such as the development of the service, new homes, new bins, as well as growth requirements for the fleet.

This data is then interpreted by the branch to improve the collection services for residents and throughout the Ipswich area.

“It’s important to note these changes, what they mean for your end markets, what does it mean to your collection fleet, your disposal facilities and service offering – all of these things are essential,” David explains.

Data relating to growth areas is of particular importance to ensure the area will be sustainable. In the recently adopted Resource Recovery Strategy the requirement for significant investment in waste infrastructure was clearly highlighted using waste data.

David says the viewing of data not only prepares Ipswich City Council for current operations but provides a prediction for the future.

“The spectrum of data in the waste sector is very vast, everything from your day-to-day operations to future planning for 20 to 40 years in the future,” he says.

“At the highest level it allows us to have strategic conversations with management and politicians regarding our current service requirements as well as future needs.”

This is especially important with Ipswich City Council’s decision to insource rather than outsource its fleet of waste collection vehicles.

“We are our own waste provider. We do not outsource our waste collection service. As such, there is a direct correlation between staff and vehicle requirements,” David says.

“The data requirements are different for a business that insources rather than outsources. The data points can be the same information, but you need it for a different purpose.

“It’s another benefit of locally sourcing our network. Ipswich is very focused on supporting its own workforce.”

For Ipswich, waste data collection takes a heightened importance, with the regions own workforce and industries being relied upon for effective operation of its waste vehicle fleet.

Another key aspect for Ipswich City Council is the ability to use waste collection data to justify the improvement of its fleet when using council budget.

“It’s about providing verifiable facts to an argument. If you need a new truck, you can display key statistics such as the log hours, or the number of lifts that can be achieved,” David says.

Using data, David and other members of the Environment and Sustainability Branch can remove subjectivity when addressing the future infrastructure requirements for the Ipswich area.

“It takes away subjectivity. As the waste sector is a very statistically run business, the data allows you to argue your point with the physical truth, that evidence being accurate data,” he says.

“Technology needs to keep up with the requirement of the waste businesses, especially real time data which can be viewed publicly.”

Benefits for Ipswich City Council’s residents have also been discovered when using waste data. Processes such as the filing of complaints are increasingly efficient, with information such as vehicle logs and collection statistics helping to rectify grievances.

“For the residents, they also have a source of public data. When talking to the public around areas such as reducing waste you can provide better information regarding potential issues relating to waste management,” David says.

Opposing data with useful information

While receiving data points across a range of waste management aspects, David began to better understand the difference between useful information and useful data. The main factor being that data serves a purpose, whether it be operational or service-focused.”

Mandalay’s reporting capabilities can meet different requirements, including the scale and frequency of a waste operation, and additional reporting, which Mandalay can cater for.

David explains that when the relationship between the human interface and the use of data collection and reporting is balanced, an organisation can maximise its operation.

“As a business you are swamped with information. You have to know what purposeful information is,” he says.

“The need to interpret complex data will always be required, which is why the human interface will be essential.”

David adds that extraction of information can greatly influence stakeholders, such as council residents.

“Data is an important part of the story for decision making in areas such as growth and infrastructure, fleet infrastructure and especially down to dealing with customers,” he says.

“Information itself is paramount in decision making, but how you actually use that data is the important part.

Integrating the future

Ipswich City Council is committed to keeping customer relationships consistent, even as the reliance on waste data collection increases.

Finding the sweet point between data and physical customer interactions has always been at the forefront of David’s operations. He says maintaining the physical interactions with residents and customers is how a business can integrate tradition with technology.

“I don’t believe that the relationship between data and the human interface will increase or decrease. I simply think it will change,” he explains.

“Data is essential for an operation such as ours and it will inevitably play a larger role.

“When interacting with customers, it will always be important to operate on a personal level. After all, people are people, they are not a data point.”

Ipswich City Council also has plans to cater for the rapidly growing Ipswich area, with expectations that the area’s waste fleet will be upgraded in the coming years.

“We are currently looking at a new fleet of vehicles. It is my expectation that these vehicles will be fitted with components which can contribute to waste collection data,” David says.

Mandalay will continue to update and improve waste data services, such as Ipswich City Council’s, with the company’s sustained approach to working directly with clients.

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