Optimizing Optimization

Jul 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Michael Fickes

Route optimization can't rely on software alone. The input of drivers and other employees is critical.

Taking It to the Streets

At the new Republic Services, each local branch is responsible for optimizing its collection routes. Before its purchase of Allied Waste, the company handled route optimization in its corporate office. After the merger, however, senior executives decided they needed to move the process closer to the people managing and running the routes.

"This was a culture change," says Lance Carlson, senior manager of operations research and GIS for Republic. "But it comes with many benefits."

For starters, the change improves safety, Carlson says. Drivers know where the schools, the low bridges and the left turns to be avoided all are. "You don't know these things if you route from 1,000 miles away," he adds.

Each of Republic's 400 local branches use eRouteLogistics, a web-based route optimization application from the Magnolia, Texas-based Institute for Information Technology (IIT). "We don't have to manage software licenses or install new versions of software," Carlson says.

Carlson has been conducting training on the system for at least one person in each branch, a process that is winding down. The next step, he says, will be adding onboard computers with technology that will inform a supervisor when a driver alters an optimized route. The supervisor will then discuss the change with the driver.

"We have an initiative out for onboard computers and route management software," Carlson says ."We're focused on the total route management package today. That includes optimization technology, listening to the drivers, using technology to watch how the drivers work and asking them about it."

In the end, Carlson says, optimization is about people. Software can provide the foundation for route improvement but it's the knowledge and perspective of those in the midst of a firm's operations that are needed to maximize the benefit of any route optimization initiative.

Michael Fickes is a Westminster, Md.-based contributing writer.

Source: WasteAge
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