Waste technology uncovers operational inefficiencies in retail and restaurant facilities.
By Geoff Aardsma
What are the implications if you are not being proactive about waste management? Imagine this restaurant scenario.
A director of facilities is responsible for overseeing more than 300 locations across a national quick-serve restaurant chain. One of the restaurant locations notices that its waste container is overflowing. To address the issue, the facilities director contacts the waste broker that they have contracted to schedule their waste pickups. The broker connects with the waste hauling company to resolve the overflow, but by the time the hauler gets around to the store, it’s too late. This is a high-volume location, and during that time, the trash kept piling up.
Customer perceptions for facilities that serve food are critical to the success of the brand. People want and expect to dine at clean facilities. They want to know that their food is being handled safely, especially for fast food brands. And since they cannot see everything that happens in the kitchen, customers will associate the cleanliness of the facility with its food quality and safety.
If there is an overflowing dumpster next to the drive-thru, customers will notice and it will reflect negatively on the restaurant’s brand image. And if a health inspector sees it, the facility could incur a fine, or worst case, be shut down.
Now this one little problem has blown up. An overflowing dumpster has turned into a multi-day saga of operations issues.
Hidden Costs of Waste
Even if a facility manager has never had to deal with a waste issue this extreme, they likely don’t ever want to. Waste issues are inherently messy. Stockpiling waste could result in loss of customers, costly fines and food safety or health risks inside the facility. And when a problem with waste occurs, it could impact other parts of the facility operations.
For example, waste containers at a retail facility are often stored in the receiving area. If these containers are overflowing, major delivery problems could result. If new product is en route and needs to be unloaded that day, the waste overflow needs to be resolved first in order to clear the area for delivery.
And even less obvious are the resulting inefficiencies that could affect equipment downtime or that shift the focus of staff onsite from serving customers to resolving an operations issue.
Ultimately, when a facility manager is dealing with a waste issue and the resulting problems that come along with it, they are taken away from their core priority of ensuring that smooth operations provide the customer with a positive experience.
So, what’s next? To prevent this type of issue from happening again, the quick-serve restaurant chain in this scenario increased its waste collections to twice daily, seven days a week. They were willing to increase their service costs to buffer for the immeasurable risk. But, adding more pickups isn’t the only solution, and it is clearly not the most cost-effective solution.
Waste Technology as a Facilities Solution
Waste management technology provides facility maintenance professionals with transparency into a chain’s waste generation. Waste container sensors monitor the amount of waste produced, providing data and insights that can improve collection and management programs. Advanced software compares collection schedules with what a facility’s waste sensors detect, allowing a waste service provider the ability to work with haulers to flex their schedules to meet facility needs.
The waste management industry has traditionally been based on assumptions. End users sign a contract for a waste collection schedule and there is no verification that pick ups occur. On average, 9% of scheduled waste collections are missed. If facilities professionals are not using waste technology, missed collections may go unknown — until this becomes a visible problem to employees at a location, or worse, a waste overflow that is visible to customers.
Another common waste management solution addresses the need to correctly size containers, ensuring that waste collection costs align with actual needs, often leading to operations efficiencies and cost savings. About 21% of sites require waste service adjustments.
In the restaurant example above, this chain did not know why they were experiencing dumpster overflow. It may seem like an immeasurable pain point. And when they needed to ensure that the issue would not happen again, they increased their waste collections, adding to their fixed costs for waste management. While this addresses the immediate need, it does not uncover the true driver of waste generation at their restaurant. And this strategy will likely result in a steady increase of waste management costs over time, as services get added each time an issue needs to be resolved.
Waste technology can help. On average, most waste generators achieve about 10% of cost savings post implementation. For this restaurant chain, their annual waste management bill was cut by $250,000.
By monitoring waste at all locations across a retail or restaurant chain, facility managers can better predict their waste management needs, and more importantly, make data-driven decisions that can improve their operations.
Benefits Beyond the Dumpster
Using waste technology will, at minimum, improve waste services and achieve cost savings.
By leveraging the data from container sensors and using those insights to know how much waste facilities are producing, to monitor when collections are needed (and when they actually happen) and to predict what’s coming, waste management can be more accurate and efficient for retailers and restaurants.
Container sensor technology moves beyond the promise from haulers that collections happen based on GPS tracking, which uses geo-fencing to monitor when trucks enter into a service area. Waste sensor technology is able to confirm that collections paid for actually happen because they monitor the fill levels in the dumpsters. And the result for facilities professionals is more accurate waste collection bills and services that match the needs of their locations.
Once collection schedules are adjusted and containers are correctly sized to fit the needs of the retail or restaurant business, a waste service provider can offer more value to their operations by analyzing the waste data. Through data-driven insights, waste services can help a retailer or restaurant chain to better understand what is driving their waste generation.
Similar to the insights gained from facility management technology that monitors HVAC or refrigeration systems and offers insights for enhanced equipment performance or setting temperature schedules based on store needs, waste management technology can help facilities to better understand areas for improvement that could affect various aspects of their operations.
Partnership Driven by Needs
Waste technology offers the insights to proactively address missed collections, eliminate overflowing containers and ensure proper service levels. And for additional value, the data from waste technology can help uncover operational inefficiencies that need to be addressed.
By working with a waste services partner, facility managers can focus on their main responsibility of managing their operations. They can implement consistent, uniform services throughout their chain to monitor different regions and ensure that waste management needs are met across all locations.
Waste services can offer valuable insights and strategic recommendations for operational improvement that are data-driven and align with the everyday priorities of retail and restaurant facilities.
— Geoff Aardsma is vice president of client services at Enevo, a waste-as-a-service solution provider headquartered in Boston.