Welsh Water – Resource management and waste collection scheduling

The challenge

  • Matching the frequency of sludge collections to actual demand
  • Scheduling “tramping” journeys efficiently
  • Saving costs by reducing reliance on outsourced transport services
  • Identifying drivers available to deal with urgent jobs
  • Achieving full visibility of a dispersed 33-vehicle transport fleet

We have been able to reduce the cost of bought-in services significantly by using our own drivers more productively, reduced unnecessary collections from sites that need not be visited so frequently, and improved our vehicle fill rate significantly.

Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, the regulated company providing water and sewerage services to over 3 million people living and working in Wales and parts of England, operates wastewater treatment works at 880 sites of varying size, and collects sludge (partly-treated waste)
from them regularly. It uses 33 specialised bulk tanker vehicles based at 23 strategic locations to transport this material to larger sites for further processing.

Historically these trucks ran on predetermined “milk round” routes that reflected the typical collection pattern required by each treatment plant. Rounds were planned in advance for a whole year’s operations, with frequencies ranging from twice daily to once every few months. Welsh Water cuts sludge transport costs

However, these fixed journeys did not always reflect actual operating requirements. Vehicles would proceed even if there was not enough sludge at a site to make up a full load, compromising efficiency. Sometimes the driver might be asked by on-site staff to do unscheduled
work such as hosing down the yard, potentially disrupting other visits later in the day.

If an urgent job came up, a driver might be pulled off a scheduled round to deal with it; but there was no standardised system for identifying available drivers or recording work left unfinished. Often an external contractor would be hired in to do the reactive work at extra cost, even
though an in-house driver could have handled it.

“Drivers held a lot of the routing information in their heads,” says project manager Owain Jones. “They planned their movements themselves, and there was no easy way to tap into that information or alter their journeys to reflect changing requirements.”

He adds: “Because it was a paper-based system, there was also a lack of central coordination. We didn’t have a full overview.”

The solution

  • The TRUCKSTOPS vehicle routing and scheduling system from Mapmechanics
  • A bespoke planning and diary system developed by VSc Solutions
  • VSc’s TranSend ePOD sign-on-screen data capture and POD system

The system is doing exactly what we wanted it to. We are reducing the cost of bought-in services, monitoring our internal costs much more closely, improving our efficiency and productivity, enhancing the service we provide to our sites, and keeping a much closer check on the treatment process.

Welsh Water’s solution has been a wideranging transport resource management project mounted jointly by Mapmechanics and VSc Solutions. At its heart is a centralised planning and diary system developed specially by VSc, which holds details of all sites and their requirements in terms of sludge volumes and visit frequency.

With this in place, the organisation used Truckstops to build a new “template” schedule of vehicle journeys that were based on historic data and driver feedback, and took account of any constraints on vehicle size or weight.

Where possible, vehicles and drivers were kept on the same work as before, but Truckstops optimised routes and call sequences, creating an improved “base plan”.Welsh Water cuts sludge transport costs

Significantly, the plan is no longer fixed. Journeys are now scheduled by Truckstops week by week. Drivers capture operational details in real time, including arrival and departure times on site, load volumes and water content; and Truckstops then schedules intelligently for the week ahead.

This has been made possible by the introduction of TranSend ePOD, VSc’s signon-screen electronic data capture and proof of delivery system. Drivers carry Motorola MC75 handheld computers, and use these to report back details of their activities by GPRS in real time.

Routing instructions are now transmitted daily to the drivers’ terminals, leaving scope for changes to reflect unplanned or urgent tasks. Less urgent jobs can be “cascaded” according to priority.

Two full-time schedulers have been appointed to monitor the planned schedules, allocate urgent jobs and respond to queries from drivers.

The benefits

  • A reduction in the cost of outsourced transport provision
  • Cost savings from improving vehicle fill and avoiding part-loaded journeys
  • Day-to-day fleet scheduling that reflects real-world requirements
  • A reduction in journey disruption caused by unplanned work
  • Cost-to-serve information about the entire sludge operation
  • Full fleet visibility at all times

For the first time we have full visibility of the operation, and because we are capturing so much data in real time, we can run reports and analysis in finer detail than ever before – which allows us to manage the operation more proactively.

The project has produced wide-ranging benefits. Welsh Water has been able to reduce the cost of bought-in services significantly by using its own drivers more productively. It has reduced unnecessary collections from sites that need not be visited so frequently, and improved its
vehicle fill rate. By avoiding unnecessary repeat visits to sites, it has also improved its service to the sites, since the operation is now more reliable.

The organisation can now identify delays at sites, and calculate the cost to serve each site more accurately. And by correlating vehicle movements with information about each load, it can detect instances where the water content of the sludge is too high, and save costs by imposing tighter operational controls.

“The project has involved a culture change for drivers,” admits Steve Farley, the organisation’s logistics manager, “but they have realised there are advantages for them.” In particular, he says, they appreciate a new instruction to seek approval before doing unscheduled work. “Now they don’t have that responsibility.”

The operation is seen as a good demonstration of Truckstops’ effectiveness in “tramping” operations – its capability to schedule the movement of full loads between sites.

Welsh Water’s Dave Lewis sums up: “The system is doing exactly what we wanted it to. For the first time we have full visibility of the operation, and can run reports and analysis in finer detail than ever before.”