Southampton City Council

Southampton City Council

Trade Waste Project – A Case Study

Introduction

In May 2013, Southampton City Council (SCC) initiated a project to rationalise its Trade Waste systems and provide a sound platform for the expansion of the service in future years

At the commencement of the project Trade Waste collections were partly managed using Bartec’s Collective System and billing details were then passed via email to the Council’s central ‘Periodics’ billing system. Unfortunately over the years, the systems had become disconnected so that:

  • Correct charges were not being levied for the lifts actually taking place on the ground
  • A lot of time and effort was required to keep the systems synchronised
  • Systems could not reflect quickly and accurately charges that needed to be put on customer accounts
  • Debt management was poor and collections were frequently made on customers who did not pay
  • Customers were billed 3 months in arrears, making account management difficult

Project Objectives

The project objectives were:

  • To have a single system for managing accounts whilst still retaining use of ‘Agresso’, the Council’s corporate accounting system (Periodics was an older system running alongside Agresso which was due to cease)
  • To invoice customers one month in arrears
  • To synchronise systems so that SCC billed what they lifted on the ground
  • To link the systems change with a management change to ensure the service was more reliable
  • To improve debt management so that customers who did not pay, did not receive a service
  • To give management one point of reference to know the status of each account
  • To have an understandable and reliable system which would allow for future expansion of the service

The Solution

The solution was to firstly validate and consolidate all existing information into a single database on Collective. This involved reconciling information from customers and existing systems

Interfaces were then created between Collective and Agresso. This allowed Collective to be the management system and record bin lifts and account details. Making changes to charges on Collective was very simple when compared to making changes to accounts on Agresso. Once a month, invoices are issued to Agresso via a file which creates the customer invoices.

When a new customer account is created on Collective, the customer details are passed to a system called the ‘Demographics’ system which allows the corporate debtors section to review accounts to ensure duplicate accounts are not set up in Agresso. Collective Accounts are then linked to Agresso accounts.

Payments (Direct Debits, Card payments and cash payments) are received through Agresso and passed back into Collective. However Agresso remains the main financial system for the Authority. Once a month, Accounts in Agresso and Collective are reconciled.

Bad debt is managed by putting accounts on stop and ultimately terminating services after a short period of non payment

Management Reports were written in Collective so the service knows how well the service is doing in terms of customers, charges per week, accounts on hold etc

The service contract with customers was also reviewed and reissued to tie customers in to a process which worked for the service, ensuring customers notified Trade Waste early if there was a problem with the service and this could either be rectified or reflected in the billing.

Rugged computer terminals installed within the collection vehicles provide crews with detailed collection instructions and route guidance. The terminals also provide instant information to the back-office including all completed collections giving depot staff a live view of the progress of each round. Furthermore, any extra lifts recorded by the crews automatically generate additional charges to the customer account.

Exception events reported, such as bins contaminated or those that are inaccessible, update each customer record in real time allowing customer enquiries to be dealt with immediately.

Conclusion

The service has thoroughly benefitted from the project. Staff are much happier with the new processes and procedures, finding the systems easy to use. The service has expanded and debt management has vastly improved. SCC now knows the position of its business with a great deal of confidence

A recent external review of the service in Southampton tested the quality of the data and stated:

We are absolutely delighted to report that at SCC not only do these tests give the correct results:
SCC actually apply such tests themselves and regularly check that the results are correct. This is facilitated by the systems used (Bartec interfacing with Agresso).

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