Waste firm develops own ERP software

11 Feb 2008

Not satisfied with the range or capability of business software in the marketplace, an enterprising waste management company currently spending €15m on a nationwide expansion plan invested in R&D and has built its own ERP (enterprise resource planning) system.

Galway-headquartered The City Bin Co now has patents pending on an internationally exportable product.

The company is currently engaged in a €15m expansion plan that will see it sign up 30,000 new customers around Ireland. The company estimates that the Dublin market alone is worth €100m.

The company, which was founded in 1997 by entrepreneurs Glenn Ward and Gene Browne, has designed its own software to run the business, which has 42,000 interactions per month.

The company’s technology manager Paris Browne told Siliconrepublic.com that it was focused on boosting its customer service standards and while it looked at various ERP systems in the marketplace, it didn’t want to have to change its business to accommodate one.

“We are a customer-driven company and we felt that any change to our structure or service wouldn’t work for us,” Browne explained.

Instead, the company put together a software development team of four people and developed a new ERP system that runs schedules for drivers and messages them through handheld devices, and keeps a track of whether the drivers have downloaded, accepted and completed their tasks.

The software also enables the company to track household and commercial bin collections up to the minute, tell whether black, green or brown bins were collected and the weight of the rubbish in each bin.

In terms of the customer relationship aspect, the information is back ended so that customers can log onto the company’s website http://www.citybin.com to track their bin-lift history and see how much waste they are generating in their black, green and brown bins.

The City Bin Co’s chief executive Gene Browne said that this is proving to be a big hit with customers, who are increasingly aware of their role in preserving the environment.

The company was the second company after ESB to be approved to operate the Direct Debit Plus system and 30pc of its customers have signed up online.

It has also implemented a text messaging system that allows it to text customers the night before bin collection days to remind them which bin to put out.

“We realised very quickly that through our understanding of our industry and by doing R&D into our own software, we had an edge,” Browne explained. “We were able to get management information back to us per customer, per route and per sector on a daily basis and this enabled us to make on-the-spot pricing decisions.

“We then spread it out to not only include customer information but also modules like human resources. We also noticed potential investors started to get more excited about the software than the waste management.

“We were faced with a decision: do we spin off this software engineering department or do we refine it here first? We chose the latter option in order to allow us to stand out as a waste business first.

“We consider ourselves different to any other provider in our space because we have a real culture of innovation, unlike other firms, which tend to have a ‘me-too’ mentality.”

Browne says the company’s tax advisors recommended that it looks at patenting the technology in order to be tax efficient and a patent is now pending.

“We won’t be offering the technology to other waste management companies in Ireland but we’ll consider exporting it to other countries. There’s a great momentum in the company about it right now. Our main focus at the moment is to boost revenue from waste management by 50pc and we don’t want to lose that focus.

“At the same time, we believe the software product will open the doors to driving efficiency in our business model,” Browne concluded.

By John Kennedy