Casella Waste Systems uses maintenance data to bolster its waste services.
Casella Waste Systems (Rutland, VT) was recycling long before it became a household word. In 1975, Doug Casella began collecting waste with one pickup truck. His brother John joined the company in 1977, and they opened the first recycling center in Vermont that year. The two brothers expanded the company’s waste disposal and recycling operations across the New England States using a combination of organic growth and strategic acquisitions. In 1997 the company held its initial public offering of stock.
Today, Casella owns or operates 13 landfills, 38 solid waste collection businesses, 32 waste transfer stations and 38 recycling facilities. Its fleet consists of approximately 1,800 pieces of equipment with a fairly standard mix of on-road tractors, trailers and waste collection vehicles as well as off-road equipment such as trash compactors and excavators. Just as it was the first waste company to open a recycling center in Vermont, it recently became the first waste company in the State to deploy CNG vehicles. “We have been trying some pretty innovative stuff, especially in terms of maintenance,” says Terry Reil, Maintenance Systems Manager of the Rutland, Vermont-based company. “We are always looking for what is the next, right step.”
Sustainability is always broader than what steps a company can take to reduce its environmental footprint and those of others. Sustainability is an ongoing financial concern, especially during the past few years of anemic growth in the U.S. economy.
One of the silver linings of a weak economy is that it forces businesses to become stronger and more focused. Vehicle maintenance is one example of how Casella has used its own resources and technology to sustain its business model. “We’ve left no stone unturned to become a more responsive and efficient company. Whether through more efficient scheduling and planning of repairs, improved inventory management and use, increased technician productivity or more effective PM schedules, we have a lot of things cooking and are optimistic,” Reil says. In fleet maintenance, the primary objective is uptime. To this end, all of the company’s systems and processes are geared towards maximizing uptime in the safest and most cost efficient way possible, he says.
Until several years ago, Casella lacked fleet maintenance management software to efficiently and effectively manage maintenance data. Daily transactions in the form of repair orders were taking place in each maintenance facility, but most were being recorded manually on paper forms and later keyed into the system. “If you had to find information it was very laborious,” Reil says.
Many facilities used the maintenance system that was included in the company’s operational software. This was an improvement from paper records but the system lacked the features and scalability needed to manage all aspects of a fleet maintenance department. “It was easier to extract information but it was primarily a recording tool to record repairs in terms of compliance,” says Reil.
Casella’s first attempt to convert the fleet to a single maintenance management system soon proved to be limited in its capability. Management then selected an Internet-based asset management system that was difficult to use and required extensive implementation and ultimately just didn’t fit the needs of the department
Finally, management selected TMT Fleet Maintenance from TMW Systems (Beachwood, OH). TMW is a leading provider of enterprise software to fleets, transportation and logistics companies, whose more than 2,000 diverse customers manage over 500,000 power units and maintain more than 1.2 million assets worldwide. The TMT software has been the company-wide platform ever since. “It is a more robust system but it is actually easier to use. It’s also much more comprehensive in relation to all the pieces that you’d want for a fleet maintenance software,” Reil says.
Bringing it Together
Casella immediately began to use its new platform to comply with Department of Transportation regulations for maintenance records of inspections and repairs. In short order, the system helped the company standardize its maintenance practices fleet-wide. “For us, being a mid-size waste company, it is very easily scalable to what we wanted to do,” he says.
Management, both at the corporate level and at each facility, have standardized parts purchasing and inventory controls as well as preventive maintenance (PM) schedules and services. Its repair orders were standardized to capture maintenance data in the same, consistent manner. As users became familiar with the system, especially with the reporting and database utilities, they began to accelerate the pace of cost savings and equipment uptime. Before using the software, for example, management did not have visibility over purchasing activities and the parts inventory at each facility. “Inventory is a huge expense. It is an asset sitting on the balance sheet that often is unused,” Reil says. “We are not just putting parts on shelves. We have a lot of visibility for how long they stay there—the turn rates — and who our better performing vendors are.”
Casella has implemented corporate parts buying programs by identifying vendors with the best prices and lead times. Having a well-managed inventory has also reduced equipment downtime and increased the productivity of mechanics, he says.
The Bird’s Eye View
As the Maintenance Systems Manager, Reil is responsible for fleet-wide compliance, safety and training. From Casella’s home office, he uses various reporting features in the TMT system to manage maintenance at a high level, primarily with respect to cost control and compliance with PM schedules. Inventory is one area he monitors closely to control cost. The software identifies if facilities are participating in the parts programs to maximize savings and performance.
For compliance, he uses the software’s reporting features to monitor if the fleet is completing PM services in a timely manner. One metric shows the percentage of PM repairs out of the total work. A high percentage means that maintenance work is being performed in a more proactive fashion than in reaction to breakdowns, a practice which leads to reduced repair costs and shorter downtime. Monitoring equipment utilization (in terms of miles, engine hours, or both) is another useful report. Underused equipment can be identified quickly and moved to other locations where needed.
Reil says he uses these reports and others in daily, weekly and monthly management meetings. Ultimately, the information from the TMT platform is what helps him determine how to improve the maintenance department in order to accomplish the ultimate objective for Casella—service the customer.
After a few false starts, Casella Waste Systems has finally found the fleet management platform that fits its innovative culture and relentless need to improve responsiveness and operational efficiencies. With TMT Fleet Maintenance Software, Casella is poised for its next stage of growth and increasing market leadership in a highly competitive industry.
Monica Truelsch is Director of Marketing for TMW Systems (Beechwood, OH).With a background in technical and engineered products, including capital equipment, engineered materials and industrial laboratory software. Monica joined TMW in 2004. She had held positions as Sales and Marketing Manager for the “High Tech High Temp” business group of GrafTech International and Vice President of Software Sales for the Americas at Alpha Technologies LLC. She can be reached at (440) 721-2260 or via e-mail at [email protected]