Moving solid waste in and out of facilities quickly is highly valued within an industry that frowns upon any excess amount of downtime involved in the necessary weighing process. Even more detrimental than lengthy weighing is inaccurate weighing.
Some collections companies save time by weighing individual customer loads long before they arrive at the landfill. Teletrac Navman has a customer in Australia with a “rubbish truck” business that incorporates RFID tags. “As the truck lifts the bin, it is weighed automatically by scales on the hydraulic lifting fork,” explains Adrian Duigan, product marketing manager, construction. The RFID tag also identifies the bin automatically. As the truck is dumping the bin into the back, the system has already identified the customer and started issuing an invoice for the weight of rubbish collected. The all-electronic system tracks when and where a bin is collected and automatically identifies and bills the customer, based on weight.
The system helps collectors remain compliant with transportation regulations. “In Australia, there are strict limits on truck weights,” continues Duigan. “Trucks of a certain size and type are not allowed to carry more than a predefined maximum weight.” Exceeding these weight or mass restrictions can result in serious fines and can also revoke a transport business’s IAP status. IAP is a special government program that allows qualified transport operators to use certain road networks and exceed normal weight restrictions under certain conditions.
To enable a truck operator to constantly declare their weight compliance electronically, Transtech integrated with industrial scale suppliers such as LoadMan and LoadRite. “Our telematics system is able to constantly report on the weight and location of an IAP truck at any time and therefore satisfy the IAP authorities,” explains Duigan. In addition, IAP-certified customers can carry an extra 3–5 tons per truck, which is a significant competitive advantage against operators who do not have truck-mounted scales.
Mettler Toledo uses Powercell load cells for accurate onboard weighing. Each Powercell load cell uses an onboard microprocessor to monitor internal and external influences that affect weighing accuracy, explains Steve Graham, segment marketing manager, vehicle, industrial BA. “By compensating for changes in those influences, the microprocessor enables each load cell to provide accurate weights in any environment.”
Powercell PDX provides a system that doesn’t need a junction box, gathering box, or summing box to communicate the weight data to the terminal. “This technology contributes to greater reliability with the scale since these boxes often introduce failure points and unplanned maintenance into a system,” elaborates Graham. “Owners can better protect their profits and reduce downtime through a system without a j-box.”
The ability to receive a digital signal straight out of the load cell signals evolving technology. Graham predicts that 2018 will be a “revolutionary” year regarding the ability to utilize the Internet of Things movement and progress into Industry 4.0 revolution. “Customers will benefit with expanded software capabilities within their smart devices and hands-on reports in real time through DataBridge Software.”
The intuitive DataBridge Software features point-and-click selection options that a scale house attendant can easily learn and manage. DataBridge provides quick throughput for operations and reporting visibility to management. For facilities that require faster throughput or no scale house, Mettler Toledo offers unattended terminal units for drivers to operate on inbound/outbound scales.
DataBridge Software is currently available in different versions to suit various customer uses. “Customers with one scale or global companies with hundreds of scales can benefit from this technology,” specifies Graham. When the IoT features begin to hit the market in 2018, customers will be able to use the software to do anything from eliminating handwritten weight tickets all the way up to tracking inventory management processes.
Another way ROI is achieved is by eliminating downtime. If a scale is hit by lightning or if moisture penetrates a j-box and causes errors, a scale can be down for hours or days. Most operations can’t afford to be down because traffic backups slow down business. Mettler Toledo sales consultants offer a free ROI worksheet for customers to review their current process and performance of the scale. By keeping customers running in all environments, they remain efficient.
Understanding the demand that the solid waste industry places on moving material quickly, Cardinal Scale Manufacturing offers two distinct truck scale products to assist in maximizing the flow of product going to landfills and transfer stations. One is a hydraulic-based load cell system. “This scale incorporates hydraulic load cells at the scale,” says Fred Cox, vice president of sales. They are impervious to water and lightning. In addition, the Cardinal Scale Armor series Guardian high-capacity truck scales carry a lifetime warranty on the hydraulic load cells, which Cox says maximizes uptime in all types of weather and power surges.
More recently, Cardinal Detecto introduced the new Armor series digital truck scale for maximum gain on operations and investment. It incorporates the latest digital-based load cell technology, requiring no AC power or system junction boxes that resulted in downtime due to component failure from water or lightning in past systems. The load cell is mounted near the top of the scale, which prevents debris and water from affecting day-to-day operations. In addition, the scale includes a built-in diagnostics system that can be monitored at the scale house or anywhere else, thanks to a cloud-based supported system. Alerts regarding weight issues can be sent via text or email.
Efficiency is based on uptime in all industries. In the solid waste industry, it is also partially based on the accuracy of weight. Cardinal’s Armor Smartcell truck scale has no moving parts below the scale; this prevents debris from inhibiting the weighing platform. Also, without external electronic junction boxes, there is no concern about downtime resulting from physical damage or inclement weather. Further enhancing uptime as well as accuracy, the Smartcell scales—and the Guardian Hydraulic scales—incorporate an internal I-beam structure to ensure scale stability and maximum life in the demanding solid waste world.
By providing maximum uptime through limiting the scope of power and components, the Cardinal scales reduce the time and money spent on service and repair, Cox says. That contributes to a faster ROI. “The customer just needs to keep on weighing to increase optimum efficiency.”
Cardinal isn’t the only company going digital. Air-Weigh offers LoadMaxx, a digital scale that provides accurate steer, drive, GVW, and net payload weights. This allows drivers to load legally and safely, says Michael Ferguson, national account manager. It also gives them the ability to maximize payloads while preventing overloading and abuse of the trucks—with alarm settings to provide warnings of overweight situations and potential control shut-offs.
The system can be integrated with onboard computers such as Routeware, FleetMind, and Geotab, and can be accessed through standard Bluetooth and smartphones, providing the ability to email weights to the office in real time.
Lower maintenance costs and reduced downtime are other benefits contributing to ROI. Additional contributions to payback include reduced liability and the elimination of fines and penalties from running overweight trucks, and fuel savings from route optimization. “The driver knows exactly when to come off route, allowing for route optimization and the elimination of under-loading,” says Ferguson. By legally maximizing loads, there is no unnecessary running of trucks.
Accurate weights begin with the containers, so Air-Weigh also offers BinMaxx, which provides the lift number and container weight for each individual container. It allows the drivers to easily identify which customers are overloading their containers. The BinMaxx XL allows trucks to download daily weights to the cloud, making them accessible by computer. It also provides GPS coordinates of each pickup and the weight of each container. This allows the hauler to set a rate based on the customer’s container weight, adjusting profits accordingly.
Borrowing technology it uses for other industries, DTSystems Inc. offers haulers choices. From the days of iButtons, a paperless rudimentary tracking system that replaced the three-ticket system with a bar code and scanners to track cycle times to the batch-down system, to a small, watertight wireless handheld laser system that fits in the palm of your hand and syncs with hot spots and cell phones, they have evolved.
The iButton is simple, inclusive, and easily deployable in the field. “It pays for itself on the first project, “says Frank Nicotera, CEO/owner/president. The batch-down system is more expensive, running $50,000 for the system, which includes software, scanners, and updates.
Now, however, haulers can choose a web-based service that is sold as a complete virtual machine. “They download into the IT department,” explains Nicotera. “They own their own URL and make this a part of their system. For $70,000, they own everything.” As part of this new online service, DTSystems keeps the data. The customer pays a per load and a monthly fee if they don’t have the budget for the whole system.
It’s comparable with any type of tracking, such as GPS. “If you don’t use GPS, are you concerned about load counts?” posits Nicotera. He says it provides more detail than GPS. “GPS is expensive, but it doesn’t track tickets.”
It can be set up to scan at either end; at the dump, it can record arrival time and tear weight. It can also calculate cycle or route time. “Knowing the total volume on a real-time basis elevates the paperwork.” It all depends on how much information you need. “It collects a lot of valuable information [the hauler] may not even be aware of.”
Reporting for Duty
“Reporting is really a big focus for our customers these days,” states Jon Leeds of Carolina Software Inc. Customers want specific data in specific formats, and they want it daily. ”Our job is to make sure we collect the data on the ticketing side of things and then deliver it in the way the customer expects.”
One way is WasteWORKS, for balance forward accounting, open invoice accounting, or a combination of both. WasteWORKS is an off-the-shelf solution that acts like a custom package, with enhancements and innovations that are based on input from customers. Its accounts receivable module was developed by a CPA and it comes standard with a wide range of built-in or stock reports, but because the software is configurable, the user has the choice to toggle options on and off. This means that a ticket can be created with the minimum number of steps needed to collect the relevant information for a complete, reportable transaction. The data doesn’t have to be exported to utilize these stock reports.
For customers who want customized reports, they use external tools such as Crystal Reports and Microsoft SQL Report Builder. “The sky’s the limit here,” exclaims Leeds. ”We have tons of templates for just about every report you can imagine, and if that’s not enough to provide the customer with what they want, we can build it from scratch.”
One thing many customers want is automated report delivery. ”If you are a solid waste supervisor and you want to get an email each morning at 5 a.m. so you can review yesterday’s tonnages while you drink your coffee, we can deliver that information to you,” promises Leeds. The auto-email module provides automated report/ticket/billing delivery to staff, customers, and anyone else who needs regular report information. It can be set up to deliver reports to customers who regularly request this information. Images and scanned documents can also be embedded in these ticket and report documents.
WasteWORKS and WasteWIZARD options are the primary systems for facilities with scales, such as landfills, transfer stations, recycling facilities, and mulch yards. WasteWORKS provides a point-of-sale ticketing interface for processing vehicles, an integrated billing module, and comprehensive reporting, Leeds says. The two systems work seamlessly with one another, allowing a weighmaster to start a transaction with one and finish it with the other—or vice versa.
WasteWIZARD is Carolina Software’s solution to automate the processing of transactions. A vehicle is either automatically scanned with an RFID reader or a driver is presented with an interface to identify the vehicle and enter additional information about the type of load. The rest of the transaction, including weighing and printing, happens automatically.
“There are many different combinations of interface solutions and peripheral options available,” notes Leeds. “We work with customers to create the most appropriate setup for their operations.” He says automation is not just a solution for unmanned facilities; it can be effective at manned sites, too. For example, at a facility with two inbound scales and one outbound scale, one of the inbound lanes can be dedicated as an “express” lane. This minimizes the need for additional manpower (a second weighmaster) and allows the existing weighmaster to concentrate on the customers who need more attention.
Automation is in high demand these days, Leeds insists—and there are other uses for it. ”We have customers who have a single scale and use WasteWIZARD.” During the day, they use WasteWORKS to process vehicles, and at the end of the day the weighmaster shuts it down and opens WasteWIZARD for automatic, unmanned processing. During the night, county vehicles can come and go, while their transactions are processed automatically. A long list of peripherals, such as lights, gates, cameras, intercoms, and printers, are available to round out the automated solution and provide additional security and traffic control.
All scales and components are tested and approved by the Weights and Measures Division, which certifies that each scale is legal for trade to be utilized in the industry. The federal government weights and measures requirements for accuracy were established decades ago when the only products on the market to weigh large vehicles used mechanical and analog technologies. These loose standards were based on the limits of the technology at the time and permit up to 160 pounds of error on a fully loaded truck. This allowable error could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over time.
A scale is most efficient when it’s working as it should, Graham says, explaining that scale service companies check and record “as-found” accuracy and re-check “as-left” accuracy after making any necessary adjustments. He says Mettler Toledo’s latest Powercell technology delivers as-found accuracy with a standard deviation typically 2.5 times tighter than analog systems, emphasizing the importance of craftsmanship in ensuring accuracy. He adds that a comprehensive warranty inclusive of parts, travels, labor, and mileage is also important in reassuring the customer of buying a quality product.
In the Clouds
Service is important, but cutting-edge technology is giving haulers advantages in many areas. “Rubicon’s technology is through the roof,” says Jimmy Contreras, founder, RJ Recovery. “Rubicon has allowed my fleet and my business as a whole to become more efficient.”
Haulers in the Rubicon network can access cloud-based technology through an iOS application or a proprietary device that is plugged in beneath the truck’s dashboard. “The platform provides route optimization for each pickup during a trip and can suggest additional pickups on the way to dropoff/disposal,” explains Renaud de Viel Castel, vice president of operations for Rubicon Global. The platform monitors the efficiency of the routes (including miles driven, duration, and pickup frequency) as well as fuel usage and idle time.
The platform also provides the hauler with real-time dispatch to see where each truck is on its particular route. As drivers service their routes, pickup confirmations, tonnage, volume, and disposal information is captured automatically. In the event of service issues, drivers can also provide photos to further document conditions at the service location. Service confirmation data, including pictures sent, aid service dispute resolution. The Rubicon platform easily diffuses any customer disputes, due to the visibility, pickup confirmation, and timestamped picture options.
Route optimization and route history help improve overall service performance, while also saving fuel with each incremental route adjustment, contributing to a rapid payback period. Haulers can also find ROI by enrolling in the RubiconPRO buying program, which provides fuel, equipment, financial, insurance, and compliance benefits that previously were only available to the industry’s largest regional and national haulers and truck fleets.
There are other cost-saving aspects of the cloud-based technology, such as maintenance alerts. The plug-in device within the vehicle captures issues, such as engine performance and tire pressure, that enable the hauler to avoid emergency repairs that could impair the truck’s performance.
The portal also provides a safety report that centralizes all issues into actionable items, including driver suggestions and truck improvements and repairs, Contreras continues. “The hands-free functionality enables more safety protection for the driver, providing no distractions in confirming service while executing each pickup.”
Communication between dispatch and drivers is improved and data is continuously gathered, packaged, and analyzed in order to assess performance—tonnage picked up and disposed of in a day/week/month/year, as well as driver performance.
Cardinal has also made advancements in weight and scale performance through cloud-based solutions for diagnostics. Cox considers this the wave of the future for scales, as it is for many industries. It’s one of many innovations making weighing at landfills and transfer stations more accurate and efficient.