Tracking and Managing Container Assets

A container management company becomes an emergent ally to any hauler’s operation when that company leverages technology, employs proven processes, and maintains its customer’s inventory.

Ever since public and private waste and recycling companies first began providing residential containers to their customers, managing residential container systems comes with its challenges. These include maintaining the container, managing the container inventory, processing warranty claims, delivering, removing and exchanging containers on time, and proof of service. Outside of truck expense, containers represent one of the largest capital investments a hauler can make. To track and manage container assets is an ongoing process for any waste and recycling hauler.

The Core Problems

At the core of the problem is the lack of focus placed on managing the container department. This department is a cost center, not a revenue-generating operation for a hauler, and it is not given the needed attention to manage properly. The primary focus for a hauler is always the collection operations. Trash and recycling must be picked up, which is given the highest operational priority.

Many haulers pull from their container delivery drivers to fill in gaps due to absenteeism. Management prioritizes the route operations instead of the pending container delivery and exchanges. This attitude towards the container operations trickles down to the yard operations. Without effective management of yard operations, a hauler may compromise proper container maintenance and tracking.

Inventory control, warranty containers, washing, and repairing containers are not key competencies of most haulers. The lack of focus in the yard operations translates into container assets not being fully used, which results in the hauler purchasing more container assets than necessary.

Container Management Services

Outside container management service companies have been providing these services for more than 20 years, but they have not been widely adopted across the country. This situation has persisted because one of the primary providers of these type of services has traditionally been cart manufacturers themselves, or small locally owned independent companies. Cart manufactures started providing container management services to their clients to capture additional cart sales and maintain the relationship with their customers.

The motivation of cart manufacturers is to sell more carts, and this results in the existing container inventory not being managed properly. Another issue is that container management contracts represent a very small portion of a cart manufacturer’s revenue, and container management service is not a core strength of these type of companies. If the hauler does not see an improvement in customer service or a reduction in capital costs, they do not see the value in container management services.

Successful Programs

In areas with large installed cart populations, some national haulers have seen marked improvements in customer service and reduction in cart capital expenses by using regional container management companies that provide container management services. Their multi-state presence has a large enough footprint to leverage professional management and technology. As a result, the haulers realize and verify real operational improvements due to the management services.

For a container management program to be successful, the on-street delivery, exchange, and removal services should be tracked with GPS or onboard computer technology. The hauler now has access to real-time, photographic service verification. This use of technology provides the hauler with solid data that can be used to track proof-of-service as well as to facilitate resolution of customer service issues. This type of information is bi-directional as it also ensures transparency and excellent customer service on the part of the contracted container management company.

Another key component to a successful container management program is for the container management company to have a strong process for maintaining all the container assets. Companies that thoroughly wash, Poly-Weld, and reuse old container components for repairs provide haulers with the most cost savings by reducing the number of new containers that need to be purchased.

Container asset cost reduction can also be realized by a container management company that not only is able to manage the inventory effectively but also can submit and manage all warranty claims. The warranty process is cumbersome; the company submitting the claims must understand what qualifies as warranty and must document all the claims for the cart manufacturer. Many haulers do not take the time to submit warranty claims, which is a missed opportunity for cost reduction.

An Emergent Alliance

If a hauler chooses a professional container management company that is solely focused on service (and not selling containers or other products), then the hauler can see improvements in service standards and reduction in capital asset expenses. Through the use of real-time tracking and routing technology, proven operational processes, and inventory support best practices, the container management company develops an emergent alliance with any hauler’s operations.