Finding a solution that works for you and justifies an annual or monthly fee, should not be like throwing a dart at a board. The right solution will check all the boxes.
By Dalton Handy
Whether you are looking for your first software platform, considering an upgrade to your existing platform, or just curious about what else might be out there, this is the place to be. We have put together a list of the key aspects we recommend looking at when evaluating your options for the roll-off dumpster industry:
- Built for the industry
- Customer support
- Modern and scalable
- Must be able to bring your data
- Key features:
• Scheduling and dispatch, including exchanges
• Accounting and invoicing suite
• Inventory tracking with all units on a map
• Mobile capability and flexibility
#1: Dumpster Focused
There is a big difference between running your business on a platform specifically designed for your business and just making it work with a generic system. While there are dozens, if not hundreds, of solutions that offer some functionality like scheduling, inventory tracking or managing invoices, only a select few of these solutions offer these features in a roll-off dumpster friendly way.
What does that key differentiation really add up to? The answer might be more than you think. Software platforms that are specifically designed for the roll-off industry cut the valuable hours, minutes and seconds out of running a business. In turn, that time saved leads to more opportunities for revenue generating activities, less overtime paid to employees, and fewer headaches for office employees and drivers alike. Time savings are gained in a variety of ways.
Invoicing time can be drastically reduced, as can the necessary phone calls to collect and store credit card information (which can also lead to breaches of PCI compliance). Routes get more efficient, which has the added benefit of saving on fuel and vehicle maintenance. Plus, accurate inventory tracking that allows you to distinguish between bin types saves you trips to your yard(s), renting out bins you do not have, missed revenue from forgotten units and potentially even losing a container altogether.
#2: Support and Customer Success
Regardless of what type of platform you use to run your dumpster business, you will want to make sure that company offers support that will not leave you out to dry. After all, any down time, whether that is the result of a problem with the system or user error, can directly impact your bottom line. So, not only do you want to partner with a business that is readily available and easy to contact, but you also want a team that is invested in your success. Even great solutions fail if they do not have the infrastructure in place to get users up to speed on the platform and make sure they operate at maximum efficiency. Do not underestimate this element. Operational software is complex, all-encompassing, and can provide an excellent foundation for your business, but it cannot help you if you do not understand or cannot use it. Here are a few key questions to ask when evaluating providers to make sure you are going to get the support you need:
• What are your support hours? Do they align with your time zone?
• What is the system uptime? (i.e. how often does the system crash)
• How can I get a hold of support? Look to see if they have chat, e-mail, phone support, etc.
• How big is your support team? Will they have enough time to onboard, train and support you along with their other customers?
• What resources do you have to help me learn? How many training sessions do we get?
#3: Bring Your Data
This may sound a bit obvious, but your data is the lifeblood of your business. Your customers, schedules, invoices, etc. have probably been built up over the case of years, if not decades. So, losing that information would likely negate a lot of the positives you get from signing up with a shiny new software platform. Sounds straightforward right?
Not so fast. The platforms in this space are largely built on very different infrastructures with very different ways to represent the same data. As a result, it can be very difficult to bring data from one platform to another. Ensure that they have an entire team dedicated to ensuring data migrations go as smoothly as possible. This allows for the importation of a wide variety of data types from a range of different sources including spreadsheets, QuickBooks and other software platforms. Any solution you choose should be able to do the same or offer to manually enter the information on your behalf—if at a cost.
#4: Forward Thinking
Let’s face it, some platforms are newer and shinier than others. By itself, that is not a great reason to choose one over another. However, newer platforms are usually easier to use and understand, especially for employees that are not as tech savvy. If your drivers are the type to still use a flip phone (no judgement here, we have met a bunch!), then getting a system in place they can easily adapt to without causing frustration and anxiety on their end is of the utmost importance. The same goes for office personnel. If the system is not user friendly, you are going to waste extra time on training and waiting for support rather than running your business. A great way to test usability is to have the company you are considering show you exactly how to do your most common tasks. Have them create an exchange and assign it to a driver, ask to see the invoice creation process, ask how to optimize the route, etc. If these seem cumbersome or unintuitive with a pro showing you the ropes, chances are it will not get much easier from there.
Another aspect to consider is whether a solution is going to continue to improve. We all like to think of companies and their products getting better over the years, but quite frankly that is not always the case. Some platforms simply are what they are. They may get the job done today, but in a year will be lacking the next generation of features that make your life easier and more profitable. Look for companies that provide consistent releases to their product and are committed to improving every single day. Make sure that whatever you choose has a similar mindset or you may be back looking for a new solution sooner than you would like.
#5: Feature Checklist
When evaluating your potential software options, perhaps the most important factor is ensuring you pick one that has enough functionality to meet your needs. The right solution has to be robust and all in one, otherwise you will be left trying to piece together a comprehensive solution out of spare parts. Following are a few of the key features to look out for and how they can benefit your business.
Scheduling, Routing and Dispatching
As the hub of your day-to-day operations, scheduling and dispatching should be simple, fast and save you money on every route. An advanced platform will allow you to view your schedule by driver and across different timeframes. This should provide you with the flexibility to plan ahead—maybe even saving early morning and weekend trips to the office to build the schedule. Your schedule should also be responsive and adaptable to allow for additions or changes throughout the day without wrecking your routes. Any changes should be synced automatically to a driver application, so they know exactly where to be throughout the day. Route optimization is also a key to look for. Optimizing routes minimizes wasted windshield time and gas prices, allowing your drivers to spend as much time completing jobs as possible.
Consider this example: your operation currently has 8 trucks on the road with drivers covering about 100 miles/day. With fuel at $3.25/gallon (splitting the current difference between gas and diesel national averages), your monthly fuel cost would run around $5,200. If you are able to make your routes just 10 percent more efficient (a low estimate compared to manual and outdated mapping tools), you can cut out 1,600 miles per month and shave $520 off your monthly fuel bill. Over time, these efficiencies also translate to savings on vehicle maintenance down the road (see Figure 1).
You should also have access to a variety of different job types, including drops, pickups and exchanges. Chances are, only software built specifically for the dumpster industry will have the right mix of schedule usability and job types to have you running at full capacity.
Accounting and Invoicing Suite
Whether you use QuickBooks, Sage or another accounting platform, you should be able to sync your data between that and your dumpster platform. This includes invoices, outstanding balances and payments. Having this data available in both systems allows you to minimize double data entry and save as much time as possible.
Inventory Tracking with All Units on a Map
One of the primary benefits we see from companies getting their first software solution is the visibility they gain into their inventory. While there are a variety of ways to track inventory, including geotagging, barcode scanning and RFID tags, they all provide essential information back to the company. Not only does a proper inventory management platform allow you to see all units that are onsite, including their type and how long they have been there, but it also gives great visibility into available inventory at different yards. One of our customers has a variety of yards spread across a large metro area. Prior to onboarding, they had to send a driver to see what inventory was available at each yard, which wasted both time and money.
Mobile Capability and Flexibility
A great software solution without an equally great mobile application is a little like having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the peanut butter—kind of worthless. When evaluating different apps, be sure to check out the routing and directions, ease of use, adaptability and whether or not it can work offline. The routing and directions should be clear and easy for drivers to see/hear, as well as fueled by the latest and greatest maps. Google maps, here.com, and Waze are all considered top of the line maps. As far as ease of use goes, your drivers should be easily able to not just route themselves between jobs, but also take notes on the job, take photos when necessary (great for overfilled or misused bins) and accept payments. The application should also be available for any device, whether it is Android or iOS, phone or iPad—the best solutions work across all platforms so you do not have to equip your entire team with new devices.
Offline is also really helpful for those that work outside of cellular range—apps that work offline allow drivers to carry on completing jobs, taking notes, etc. then sync their data back to the platform once they get service again.
Finding a Solution
The software space for waste companies has come a long way in the last decade. From on-premise solutions aimed at a broader market to dumpster specific cloud-based platforms accessible anywhere, waste providers are better suited now to run their business now than ever before. That said, finding a solution that works for you and justifies an annual or monthly fee, should not be like throwing a dart at board. The right solution will check all the boxes: that it is designed for dumpsters, it will have a plan to get you onboarded and provide ongoing support when you need it, allow you to access from any device, support business growth without having to redesign your operation, and bring your data without hours and hours of manual entry. It should also offer solutions for scheduling and dispatch, including exchanges, accounting and invoicing suite, inventory tracking with all units on a map as well as mobile capability and flexibility. | WA
Dalton Handy, Head of Marketing at ServiceCore. He has spent the last two years leading the marketing team at ServiceCore, a software company dedicated to helping waste operations maximize their operations and profits. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] or on LinkedIn.