• Mobile Solutions Business Division – Europe

GREATER EFFICIENCY AND SAFETY IN COLLECTING WASTE BATTERIES

Stibat is a non profit organisation, responsible for collecting waste batteries in the Netherlands. The organization supports manufacturers, importers, and resellers in the execution of their statutory obligations to collect and recycle waste batteries in a responsible manner. The Netherlands now has over 24,000 collection points: 5,000 schools and 19,000 businesses, often stores. To collect the waste batteries, five trucks drive around the Netherlands picking up 3.2 million kilograms of batteries, which translates into 160 million batteries.

With the help of the Toughpad FZ-B2 and system integrator Map Trace, the Stibat drivers are able to consult their driving schedules, transmit data on the quantities of batteries collected, and where necessary report anything unusual.

The collection of waste batteries seems to entail a lot of work given the huge number of collection points, but there's much more involved than just that. In cooperation with its Belgian counterpart, Bebat, Stibat has developed a smart software tool called OptiBat, which uses historical data from the last ten years at each collection point to accurately predict when the collection containers are full.

The data stored in OptiBat is fed into another software application, Optiflow. This application generates weekly lists of the collection points that are due to be emptied. The lists are then automatically processed in the driving schedules for the drivers. It may be that some collection points are visited every two weeks, while others are only visited once every two months.

Chemical waste
For the collection of batteries, it may seem a bit excessive to have an organization with fourteen employees, its own backoffice system, lorries, and drivers, but discarded batteries are chemical waste. "So they have to be handled with great care to prevent any harm to people and the environment," explains Gert Jan van Huuksloot, manager of the national network at Stibat. "Transporting the waste batteries from the collection points to the central Stibat sorting center in Lelystad is subject to a European Directive governing the transport of hazardous goods and substances by road.

As a result of these rules, Stibat drivers have to keep records of the weight and number of batteries they are transporting. Any incidents that arise in transporting hazardous substances have to be reported to the hazardous substances hotline, which obviously has to know exactly which consignment is involved. The information also has to be up to date for interim inspections. An exact overview of the consignments being transported is fortunately always available, because data on the waste batteries collected at each collection point is directly transmitted to the backoffice via the Toughpad tablets.

Van Huuksloot: "All collection containers have to comply with stringent requirements for safe storage and transportation. The trucks are specially equipped for transporting the containers. Although the trucks are owned by the transport company, they are entirely branded in the Stibat house style. The drivers are employed by the transport company, but work full-time on collecting the waste batteries.  They wear Stibat uniforms and have attended special training."

Navigation and reports
To ensure access to real-time information on the consignment and to streamline work processes more effectively, the five Stibat drivers and four Bebat drivers have been working with Panasonic Toughpad FZ-B2 tablets since the start of 2015. "At the start of their working day, drivers receive their driving schedules on their tablets," explains Van Huuksloot. "The tablets, which are docked in a station on the dashboard of the vehicle, are loaded with Interoute. This navigation software was developed for transport operators and takes account of roads that are not allowed to be used for the transport of hazardous substances, when planning the routes. Another benefit of the solution is that it gives Stibat the option of generating management reports, for example on the number of trips, duration and distance of trips, location and duration of collection, and capacity utilization of the vehicles."

The tablets are also used to sign in and out when the drivers are at the collection points, and to directly enter the new consignment in the field. An interface with special input screens has been developed for this purpose. The data is immediately sent via the mobile network to Stibat's backoffice in Zoetermeer and Bibat's backoffice in Tienen. Weighing takes place using calibrated scales in the trucks. In the long term, Stibat intends to incorporate an automated link between the scales and the tablet, so that the weighing data is uploaded automatically. Information on the collected batteries is also important for the collection point, as schools for instance are awarded credit points per kilogram of batteries collected, so that they can purchase new games and toys. 

The third application on the tablet is for recording the situation at the collection points, as there are also stringent conditions governing these sites. Part of the drivers' remit is to monitor that everything is running as it should at the collection points. For instance, if containers are not correctly positioned, they take photos of the situation with their tablets. Stibat can then contact the collection point to discuss ways to improve the situation. 

Map Trace
The solution for Stibat and Bebat, its implementation, and the purchase of the tablets was carried out in close collaboration with Map Trace from De Lier. Map Trace is a system integrator, which not only develops and implements intelligent applications for data exchange for mobile workers, but also supplies professional mobile solutions. Such solutions include the exchange of data between mobile workers and the backoffice, and the processing of data on geographical position, vehicle identification, temperature, humidity, distance traveled, and fuel consumption.

Map Trace includes hardware in its solution, such as vehicle tracking systems, sensors, planning boards, on-board computers, and other mobile devices.
"Based on the work processes, we came up with a functional design of the solution and then, together with Stibat, we selected the Panasonic Toughpad FZ-B2 tablet based on a wish list. They obviously first underwent thorough testing," explains Alexander Lancee, director of Map Trace. "The top requirement was ruggedness, which meant consumer tablets were out of the question. Another important factor was ease of use for drivers, in terms of entering data via the screen and practical usability of the tablet in the vehicle and on site. Although screen brightness was not set as a specific requirement, in practice it has proved to be a huge asset of Panasonic tablets. Panasonic has also supplied docking stations and chargers for mounting the tablets in the vehicles, as well as belt holsters for carrying the tablets."

Project rollout started in January 2015 and went flawlessly according to Van Huuksloot and Lancee. There were no problems, either in terms of technology or acceptance among the drivers. They are very satisfied with the tablets and save time thanks to better route planning and faster information processing. Van Huuksloot: "Saving time was not in fact the primary objective of the project. So we won't be increasing the number of trips or workloads. But we are looking to improve information management, increase the reliability of work processes, and ensure better supervision at collection points. After all, safety and correct compliance with legislation and regulations are our top priority!"