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Economy and Education

3.1.03 Waste disposal and city cleaning – continuous optimisation of public utility companies

As well as extremely high requirements, municipal waste management companies now face constantly changing legal provisions and regulations. In addition to the ever-present economic demands, the companies have found themselves under increasing environmental pressure in recent years. They must comply with strict environmental regulations and ensure separate collection, recycling and disposal of all waste. The responsible managers are now being called upon to increase both the productiveness and cost-effectiveness of their operations while continuing to tackle these sometimes very complex tasks. In a joint research project, representatives from 19 such companies have worked with experts to analyse possible means of implementing more efficient waste management and city cleaning, assess the feasibility of these approaches and devise corresponding recommendations.

The project was started in 1999 as a result of an ideas competition held by the BMBF to reduce costs in public waste disposal. The aim of the venture “Cost reduction in public waste disposal and city cleaning” was to establish some basic recommendations. The project participants included representatives from waste management companies located in German cities and communities of varying sizes. These organisations embodied a number of different business types – ranging from government- and owner-operated companies to mixed enterprises and public limited liability companies. The project was co-ordinated by INFA GmbH (Ahlen), with technical support provided by the Institut für Umweltökonomie (IfU, Mainz), uve GmbH (Berlin) and intecus GmbH (Dresden). Five working groups were set up and each tasked with identifying cost reduction potential in one of the following areas: waste logistics, street cleaning, depots and workshops, cost accounting and efficiency management as well as organisation and administration.

The first step was to perform a survey of selected operations, during which the experts recorded important performance data. They worked with the companies to examine new organisational forms, methods and techniques with the potential to raise operating efficiency. Based on experiences gained during this process, the project team devised a target concept, performed target/actual comparisons and determined performance indicators. The five working groups identified savings potential in all five areas, which in some cases was quite considerable. They also found that these savings could be successfully applied to other operations in the sector.

Corporate process structures (from: DWA-M 801, “Integrated quality and environmental management system for operators of wastewater facilities”, April 2005)

Corporate process structures (from: DWA-M 801, “Integrated quality and environmental management system for operators of wastewater facilities”, April 2005)
Corporate process structures (from: DWA-M 801, “Integrated quality and environmental management system for operators of wastewater facilities”, April 2005)

Waste logistics

In the area of waste logistics, a range of possibilities were examined with regard to their potential cost savings and practicability. These included the collection and vehicle systems, collection intervals, type and scope of separate collections, the route planning and software used for this purpose, personnel and vehicle deployment planning, internal procedures, business information systems and new working time models. The project team identified significant savings potential. Depending on local circumstances, examples included intelligently controlled vehicle and personnel deployment using route planning software, adapted collection intervals, the separation of waste collection and transport using swap bodies, more flexible working time models, the use of an improved documentation and management information system as an effective controlling instrument and more intensive personnel training. In the area of waste logistics, many companies had already achieved a high level of efficiency before the project was launched, but were still able to reduce costs by 5 to 20% as a result of the joint venture.

Street cleaning

Significant savings potential – of 5 to 15% – also exists in the area of street cleaning. The corresponding measures are frequently employed to raise the quality of street cleaning, since the image of a clean city has become increasingly important in recent times. Examples of these measures are an improved and requirement-based deployment of vehicles, longer and more effective cleaning times as well as close co-operation of manual and mechanical cleaning systems. The introduction of group systems, optimised route planning and the supportive use of small sweepers can also help to reduce costs.

Depots and workshops

The members of this working group investigated six workshops dealing with refuse and street cleaning vehicles to assess their workshop configuration, order acceptance process, operational workflows, working hours and cooperation as well as the areas of planning, software and controlling. Among other things, they found that fewer interfaces between the computer programs for time recording, workshop order management, invoicing and payroll accounting would enable significant time and cost savings. A functioning controlling system proved to be particularly significant with regard to business decisionmaking.

Cost accounting and efficiency

To allow operations to work more efficiently, this working group developed a controlling system with integrated reporting. It allows employees to gather, prepare and present information in a manner that facilitates management decisions. For this purpose, the company must know, record and systemise its various services. The project participants therefore created service catalogues for their individual operations. These can be combined with the basic cost accounting and reporting pyramid to form an integrated management system.

Organisation and administration

PDCA cycle (from: DWA-M 801, April 2005)

PDCA cycle (from: DWA-M 801, April 2005)
PDCA cycle (from: DWA-M 801, April 2005)

Administrative employees should be able to focus on their core activities. Therefore, the experts of the working group for “organisation and administration” recommend that a service centre and administrative office be set up, individual service areas reorganised and procurement centralised; this should be done in line with the size of the operation and on the basis of local conditions. One public waste disposal company was given advice and how to improve its call centre, while the working group supported another operation with the implementation of suitable fleet and workshop management software. Notes on more efficient waste management can be found in DStGB document no. 58 “Handlungsempfehlung zur Kostensenkung in der kommunalen Abfallentsorgung” [Recommendations for reducing costs in municipal waste disposal] (published in 2006), while the efficiency of street cleaning is addressed in DStGB document no. 67 “Handlungs - empfehlung zur Optimierung der kommunalen Straßenreinigung” [Recommendations for optimising municipal street cleaning] (published in 2007). DStGB document no. 58 appeared in the supplement of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities (DStGB) “Stadt und Gemeinde INTERAKTIV”, issue 4/2006 (http://www.stadt-und-gemeinde.de; only in German).

INFA – Institut für Abfall, Abwasser und
Infrastruktur-Management GmbH

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Klaus Gellenbeck
Dr.-Ing. H.-J. Dornbusch
Beckumer Straße 36
59229 Ahlen/Westfalen
Tel.: +49(0) 23 82/9 64-5 00
Fax: +49(0) 23 82/9 64-6 00
E-mail: info@infa.de
Internet: www.infa.de
Funding reference: 02WA0728
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