Digitization

Digital solutions help make waste management more efficient

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Some 25 years ago Mark Abbas was working in a small Dutch IT company mainly developing CRM systems, when the company was approached to develop software solutions for the waste industry. An industry that was way behind in the digital sector and so offered huge opportunities. “I quickly get bored and am always looking for new exciting projects, so of course I said yes,” Abbas remembers. At the beginning it was primarily back end programmes such as billing systems. But Abbas was intrigued. On the one hand it was the industry's slowness to accept and adapt new technology. He saw that there was big potential to change the world, as he puts it.

On the other hand it was the focus on sustainability, which slowly emerged at that time, that made working in the waste industry so exciting. “Especially as I was starting having kids, that became more and more important for me. I really do want to leave a better world for my chil- dren.” Soon the IT company collaborated with some larger US companies such as Browning Ferries Industries (BFI). It was the early 2000s and recycling became more and more “a thing” and this development of a circular economy naturally sparked new technical requirements. The company grew slowly but steadily and now had about 60 people working there. Abbas was then asked if he was interested in running the company and with the help of an investor he led a management buyout. Subsequently they expanded and bought companies worldwide.

Cloud platforms can simplify the workflow

By that time he had garnered a lot of experience in the waste industry and thought the time for the next step had come. So in 2010 he founded Wastehub in the Netherlands, a cloud platform that provides ICT (information and communications technology) broker services for the waste industry. On it waste collection, recycling or treatment sites can exchange operational data in real time. Looking back he thinks he might have been too early with this project. When a couple of years later he met Jimmy Martin, co-founder and CEO of the AMCS group, he found a kindred spirit. Both have a vision of a global tech- nology company with a mission to change the world through technology in terms of sustainability, efficiency and customer intimacy. For five years now Mark Abbas has been the CMO and director of business development of AMCS, a software company with 600 employees worldwide that offers a single digital platform that combines industry-specific waste solutions for the various areas of the business from ERP (enterprise resource planning) software and mobile technology to route optimization and analytics. “Our cloud based platform provides end to end technology. But of course customers can take from it what they need,” says Abbas, whose Wastehub now is integrated in the AMCS platform. Different systems can be combined with the AMCS technology. The ERP software and route optimization software are the most popular.

New technology is not the enemy

Generally speaking, waste management software is designed to help businesses be more efficient in terms of the colletion and disposal of waste. This includes not only billing and pricing services and on board/tablet solutions for the mobile workforce but also route optimization and on board weighing, material grading and analytics. The technology is designed to streamline the workflow, reduce costs and make work more (cost) efficient. The industry has changed, the work is much more complex and needs a lot of planning. It is no longer just collecting waste and dumping it in the ground. The competition is fierce so you have to be more effective and react to change.

Solutions for a complex industry

In creating the best technology and software you have to understand the challenges and requirements the waste industry faces. It's a logistically and legally complex area, especially when working internationally. “I have every- one sit in the back of a waste truck for at least a couple of days before they work here to know what it's like, see the logistics themselves so that we can offer the best technology,” Abbas says. AMCS strives to make its platform as accessible as possible. Abbas sees the reluctance of some companies to trust in digital solutions also in the mistakes the tech industry made at the beginning. “In the early stages it all seemed very complicated, there also were a lot of delays and failures,” Abbas explains. Companies got scared and were asking themselves if they were risking too much. So nowadays easy and effective solutions are key. “We want our customers to be successful and we won't leave them until they get there.”

Get your basic processes up and running in a digitized way, clean up your data before you look at the fancy stuff.
Mark Abbas, CMO of AMCS Group.

Basic technology to stay competitve

According to Abbas the industry still has a lot of catching up to do. “We asked companies if they would rather buy a new truck or the technology that would save them from buying that new truck. The majority said: 'Buy the new truck!'” says Abbas. The truck is something more tangible whereas a software program, well, it's a screen you can look at. Some companies still need to be convinced that software solutions can improve their business. But the IT specialist is convinced that it is necessary for all companies to jump on the digital train. “You have to move to the cloud or you're going to miss out,” Abbas is convinced. “I'm not saying you're not going to survive but you will miss out on the opportunity of rapidly adopting new technologies.” There is just so much potential to save money in the long run.

According to Abbas there are some basic digital solutions each and every company should use:

A digitized route sheet, that is to say a completely digitized order flow. There should be no paper in and out of the truck. Because of the pandemic that al- ready changed a lot in a short amount of time. Many companies that relied on paper route sheets handed out to the drivers in the office had to reorganize the process because offices were closed.

It's also not feasible to have the job and billing system separated.

For recycling companies a mate- rial grading system is essential. A lot of money is lost because of wrongly graded material. “Get your basic processes up and running in a digitized way, clean up your data before you look at the fancy stuff,” Abbas recommends. If a route optimization system fails, it's usually because of the lacking data.

The future is smart

But what does the future hold? As things get smarter – our phones, cars and even our homes can be smart nowadays – new investments are necessary. Machine learning and algorithms are the project of the future. AMCS has some pilot projects in the works from ERP software that can predict when customers will pay their invoice to autonomous driving and contamination detection. What now may sound like something out of a sci-fi novel might in the not-so-dis- tant future be the gold standard.

About

Mark Abbas has been CMO and director of business development at AMCS for five years. He has worked as an IT executive in the waste and recycling industry for over 25 years, developing innovative digital solu- tions specifically designed for the waste & recycling industry. Before completing a management buyout of GMT, a leader in the Dutch market for industry-specific waste solutions, Mark led various IT projects in a project director role for companies like Suez (France, UK, Middle-East), Renewi (The Netherlands) and Fer- rovial (Spain). In 2010 he founded Wastehub, a cloud platform that of- fers ICT broker services for the waste industry. As the CEO of GMT Europe, a company that was acquired by AMCS in 2016, he completed a number of acquisitions in Europe and Australia and led the company to international growth.