By Monica Mehta
With an ambitious vision of “a world without waste,” Recology has its sights set on the future. The 100-year-old recycling and waste management company bills itself as a “resource recovery” leader, using new technology to sort and salvage landfill waste for compost, recycling, and reuse. In addition to innovative trash processing, the company actively provides outreach and education and works in the community to promote its zero-waste mission—with results that are transformative for the environment.
In its San Francisco headquarters, for example, the company worked with the city government in 2009 to pass the Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance, which requires residents and businesses to presort their waste into recyclables, organics, and landfill waste. As a result, since 2012 San Francisco has diverted 80% of waste away from landfills—the most of any major US city.
At this point, probably 99% of the time, we can accommodate whatever [our employees] need.”–Mike McLaughlin, Director of IT, Recology
Such a forward-looking vision requires next-generation technology—not just in the recycling facilities but also in the back office. The leaders of Recology, one of the nation’s 10 largest 100%-employee-owned companies, wanted their employees to have mobile capabilities to access everything from financials to human resources. They wanted to implement IoT solutions to better manage their 2,000-plus trucks. And they wanted to utilize new, modern capabilities continuously, without potentially disruptive and costly upgrades to their systems.
With these goals in mind, and with the assistance of Oracle partner Grant Thornton, the company upgraded to Oracle’s JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.2 in 2018 and started down a path to digital transformation.
Recology’s roots are in scavenging. Its founders immigrated to San Francisco from Italy in the mid-1800s and became scavengers, sorting through trash to find items that were salvageable and reusable. Although the company’s name has changed through the decades, the descendants of its founders have long continued to be active company leaders, including its current CEO, Mike Sangiacomo.
In 1986 the company, then Norcal Solid Waste Systems, moved to an employee stock ownership model. Today Recology remains 100% employee-owned, with approximately 3,800 employees at more than 60 offices and facilities and about a million customers across California, Oregon, and Washington. Minority and women employees own more than 56% of the value of the company.
To meet its ambitious zero-waste goals, Recology continuously researches and implements new technologies for waste processing. Among its current innovative technologies are optical sorting, which automatically sorts plastics with an infrared sensor, based on their size, shape, and structure; negative-aerated static pile composting, a simple and inexpensive approach to composting large volumes of organic waste; and a landfill gas capture system that turns the methane gas generated by landfill into electricity that powers homes and businesses nearby.
In the back office, upgrading to JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.2 “falls in line with our company’s strategic vision to be at the highest level technologically and to bring new features and functionality into the company,” says Raj Uppal, manager of enterprise resource planning (ERP) at Recology.
Recology has used JD Edwards software since 1999, starting with JD Edwards World. In 2006 it implemented Oracle’s JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 8.0, which coexisted with World, and it stayed on that platform until its 2012 migration to JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.1. Now, with JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.2’s continuous delivery model, the company no longer needs to schedule and perform major upgrades. Instead, it receives recurring updates to the ERP system incrementally two or three times a year and can select which new functionality to add.
“It’s not all or nothing. We can pick and choose which upgrades we want to apply, making our sprints to those updates smaller and more effective,” says Uppal. “We felt that functionality and the future that it holds add a lot of value.”
Percentage of waste San Francisco and Recology divert from landfills
“Now, it’s nice to be able to say to our employees, ‘Tell us what you need, and we’ll bring back an answer,’” says Recology Director of IT Mike McLaughlin. “At this point, probably 99% of the time, we can accommodate whatever they need.”
Recology uses JD Edwards EnterpriseOne throughout the organization for finance, human resources and payroll, capital asset management, order management, health and safety, and leasing. With its 60 offices and facilities spread over three states, plus countless customer locations to service, Recology’s employees need to be able to access information anytime from anywhere. McLaughlin plans to implement JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.2’s mobile capabilities for the approvals process for purchasing and payables and potentially for time approvals as well. The finance department is interested in automating as much of its process as possible and having it accessible via mobile devices.
Much of Recology’s waste management work is done on its 2,000 trucks. The company’s 2012 upgrade to JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.1 enabled paperless fleet maintenance through the capital asset management module. Mechanics can now see their work orders in the system and fill them out, giving company managers real-time information instead of their having to chase down paper orders to get current information on vehicles.
We are always on the lookout for technology that will enable us to perform better for our customers.”–Raj Uppal, Manager of ERP, Recology
With the new functionality of the JD Edwards EnterpriseOne UX One feature, users will have access to the system through role-based landing pages and forms. Recology was able to personalize these forms easily within standard applications, eradicating the need for customized applications. For example, Recology’s health and safety team needed a few changes to the fields of the JD Edwards health and safety module, which streamlines health and safety processes and creates one central electronic repository for documents. Uppal said the team was able to personalize the standard application by utilizing form extensions instead of building and deploying a customized application.
“Changing an application to a user’s needs became easier by using the form personalization and form extension user-defined objects,” says Uppal. “It simplified the experience of form-level changes and does not create a barrier to adopting future new updates from JD Edwards.”
Another transformative technology Recology is implementing in the back office is IoT. Currently truck drivers report fuel levels to the office through a manual form and an office worker has to key that information into the fleet management module (“Truck 123 pumped 75 gallons today”). Soon an IoT device attached to each truck’s fueling system will automatically sense and send that information directly to the JD Edwards module—eliminating the need for human intervention.
New trucks will be outfitted with IoT devices tied into their Controller Area Network (CAN) bus—a message-based protocol that enables devices to communicate with each other. These devices will collect more than 1 million data points every day from every vehicle, including the amount of fuel burned, throttle position, speed, and hydraulic actuator movement. McLaughlin and his team will be able to decide which data to feed into the ERP system so managers can analyze the information coming in and manage the fleet more efficiently. “From a fleet management perspective, automating this type of data collection will save a lot of time, allowing drivers to spend less time maintaining their trucks and more on route pickup activities,” says McLaughlin.
Once the IoT system’s gateways feed all this data into the fleet management module, an analyst or a manager can use the JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Orchestrator feature to create actionable business processes based on the data. For example, if the fuel level is low, the Orchestrator can trigger an email to the truck driver to refuel the tank the next morning. If a truck component displays an error, the Orchestrator can signal a process to schedule the truck for repair. Taking human touch out of these processes frees up resources to focus on tasks that create value for customers, such as conducting waste audits to find more ways for companies to do recycling and composting.
“We are always on the lookout for technology that will enable us to perform better for our customers,” says Uppal. “Automating these types of tasks will allow us to do that.”
By the end of this year, private companies will need to overhaul their accounting approach to almost all types of leases—including real estate, vehicle, and equipment leases—to comply with new global lease accounting standards (FASB 842). This is top of mind for Recology’s finance team, and McLaughlin plans to use newly updated functionality in JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Rental Management to meet those standards. Also, Uppal plans to leverage additional features of the ERP system, including role-based landing pages, prebuilt orchestrations, and an inbound/outbound REST-based platform for integration with other systems.
Number of residential/commercial customers served by Recology
Most importantly, JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.2’s continuous delivery model and modern digital capabilities will enable Recology to better meet business challenges. Last year China announced that it would no longer accept recyclable materials from foreign countries, causing the US to lose its primary destination for recyclable paper and plastic. In response, the company has stepped up its own processing efforts, upgrading its largest recycling facility and encouraging customers to recycle more and put less in the trash. With greater automation, mobility, and flexibility in its back office, Recology can focus on these types of important tasks.
“The upgrade to 9.2 has put us on track to transform our business,” says McLaughlin. “All of the things we’ve talked about wanting to do, we can now do them. We’ve got a working application that is meeting our needs today and has all the capabilities to grow for tomorrow.”
Photography by Bob Adler/Getty Images