Finance | May 3, 2019

Zero-Waste Innovation

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.

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.

Continuous Delivery

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.”

“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.”

Gaining Mobile Capabilities

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.

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.”

Read the original post for more on Recology’s IoT-enabled fleet and the JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Orchestrator feature to create actionable business processes.

Photography by Bob Adler/Getty Images

Monica Mehta (monica@mehtawriting.com) is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to Profit.

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