The software that you choose to rely on will no doubt give your company an edge when compared to low-tech alternatives. Adopting practices that allow you to maximize the organizational gain through high-tech tools is the larger challenge.
In today’s fast paced and heavily regulated environment, running a solid waste hauling or recycling operation is not for the faint of heart. At the core of our industry are the passionate people that get the work done day in and day out. Most of what they do has not changed over the years, but the equipment and technology that they use are rapidly evolving. With this rapid pace of change comes a lot of uncertainty and variability in the quality of the software on the market.
Hauling and processing operations choose to add software to their workflow for a wide variety of reasons that this article won’t go into. After making the decision to add, expand, or improve the technology adoption, finding the right platform and vendors to work with are by far the biggest challenges. My family’s hauling company worked with three of the leading software vendors in the years that I was directly or indirectly involved. Each time a change was made, it was a painful prospect that was fueled by our needs outpacing the capabilities of our vendors. I encourage everyone to take a look at where they want their company to be in 10 years and then work with a technology vendor that will help you along the way.
As mentioned above, software is just a tool for the amazing people doing the work everyday. When all you give them to work with is a hammer, every task they take on will look like a nail. Ensure that your software isn’t just a hammer, but a tool belt holding the appropriate tool for every task that you plan on incurring as your company expands. With versatile software throughout your company (from the office, scale house, and to the cab of your trucks), your employees will have the tools they need to efficiently and accurately provide services to your customers.
Now that I’ve introduced the bigger picture, I’d like to offer some tips for undertaking the adoption or expansion of software in your organization. These tips come from a variety of experiences and I’ve seen them be fairly consistent throughout my interactions with a diverse group of hauling and recycling operations.
Tip #1: The People Matter More Than The Technology
This is by far the most important tip I have to offer. People make your company what it is and technology is just one of the many tools they use to provide services for your customers. Providing them with software that is easy to use and quick to learn will make the transition much easier on your primary asset. At this same time, technology will likely change some of their roles within your organization. As this happens, ensure the right people are rising to the challenge and are steering your technology usage in the right direction.
Tip #2: Technology is A Lubricant
Software provides nothing more than a framework for efficiency and accuracy. Expecting that it will somehow improve underperforming aspects of your organization will, in most cases, lead down an unpleasant path. Take the adoption or expansion of software as an opportunity to coach and redirect as necessary to empower all of your employees to be top performers. With the right approach, software will make your company more competitive and able to adapt to changing market demands.
Tip #3: Leverage the Cloud
When possible, don’t spend money on physical servers or IT people to manage them. In most cases those resources can be contracted for through a cloud services provider (Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, Azure, or a local co-location facility) for around the cost of just the personnel that would have been managing them. You’ll save yourself the cost of the hardware and upgrades. Also, a vendor will provide greater redundancy and 24/7 support. Some software platforms provide complete cloud solutions that take care of everything. Consider those as a top option.
Tip #4: Reevaluate Everything
There are many workflows and processes that your employees do everyday that may have originated out of a need or compliance issues that are no longer relevant. There are probably processes that are done everyday that not a single person could explain the reasoning behind. Take any technology migration as an excuse to reevaluate every process. Leaving the ones behind that no longer matter and adjusting the ones you’re keeping to be more efficient will make your transition provide more value in the long term. The little things like printing notes for drivers, when that information can be available to them through in-cab software are often overlooked. The notes will still be printed, and the drivers will still take them and write on them. The process is a habit, not a necessity.
Tip #5: Habits are Hard to Break
Once the shiny new technology has been rolled out and processes have been reevaluated, habits will hang on for dear life. Training and explanation go a long way to help curtail this, but you’ll likely still have to coach a subset of your employees on the habits they’ve formed through their years of service. After embracing the change, their habits will evolve as they become more comfortable with the software.
Maximizing Operational Gain
The software that you choose to rely on will no doubt give your company an edge when compared to low-tech alternatives. Adopting practices that allow you to maximize the organizational gain through high-tech tools is the larger challenge. Working with a vendor that will be your partner for years to come will make that challenge much easier as they’ll have advice to offer and will mold their software into your workflow. Before long, your employees will not be able to recall how their job was possible before receiving the gift of a great tool that automates away repetitive tasks and enhances their daily interactions.
Jed Dawson’s family has a hauling operation in Paso Robles, CA. He is a software engineer for CORE Computing Solutions, Inc. specializing in Android and Web. CORE makes EnCORE, a full-stack software solution exclusively for the solid waste industry. CORE has been providing a comprehensive solution for haulers and recyclers of all sizes for more than 10 years. Jed can be reached at (805) 423-3568.