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Invest to Grow: Fast-track to digital

SUEZ recycling and recovery UK

This case study is part of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce’s Invest to Grow campaign. Invest to Grow aims to inspire and inform businesses around investment in R&D, innovation, technology and machinery and how it can help boost productivity through case studies, expert opinion pieces and briefing information. Click here to find out more and don’t forget to join the conversation on social media with #I2G18. Part 2 of Invest to Grow focuses on investment in technology and machinery and is sponsored by MCS Corporate.

SUEZ is a global leader in recycling, waste and water management, present over all five continents. In the UK alone, we handle over 10 million tonnes of waste every year, out of which 8.5 million tonnes is recycled or recovered. A large part of our business is collecting and sorting waste from over 30,000 industrial and commercial customers of all sizes, from small coffee shops to large and complex manufacturing sites.

Until recently, most of our innovation was focused on our core strengths including our processing facilities and infrastructure, or the art of extracting value from waste and moving the UK away from landfill. But in 2018, our customers expect much more from us than ever before. They want to buy and manage their services online and they want to access and analyse data about their recycling habits. With this customer-focused approach, SUEZ endeavoured an immense challenge of reinventing itself to become a digital company.

Every day in the UK, up to 500 SUEZ collection vehicles are operating on our roads. Each one is now equipped with a connected on-board computer that records all vehicle movements and data about each bin that is collected. All of our vehicles are equipped with certified scales to measure the weight of the containers accurately. This access to data helps us to build incentive programmes for our customers to help them to recycle more and understand what happens to the waste they put in the bin.

In 2017, we developed a new online portal – giving our customers access to detailed reports via a personalised dashboard enabling them to track their services, the end destination of their waste, and monitor their habits, whether they are a private business or local authority.

Historically, the waste industry has been selling its services door to door. In early 2018, we developed a sophisticated pricing and quotation system which enabled us to make our services available online. Now, anybody in the UK can find our prices online, get an instant quote and sign up for their waste to be collected. We took a big step towards offering transparency to our customers by publishing our rates online and offering instant quotes, this forced us to streamline our offer even further. In the Midlands area alone, SUEZ has 4,200 industrial and commercial customers, with a growing number of these being acquired via our e-commerce platform.

Another challenge we had in our logistics business was the management of our sub-contractors. In order to extend our service offering to all corners of the UK, we built a network of close to 200 local partners, each performing thousands of unique services every month. These relationships could not be administered by emails and phone calls, therefore we developed a unique sub-contractor portal. The portal helps us manage all transactions centrally in our newly created network where we auction work, agree the rates, allocate jobs and manage supplier documentation as well as contracts. We now manage our extended network of approximately 30 suppliers in the Midlands, thanks to our sub-contractor portal giving us the opportunity to offer a broader service to our customers in this region.

There are some basic off-the-shelf tools available to companies like ours, however when it came to industry-specific software, or innovative processes that are unique to SUEZ, it made much more sense for us to develop our own software. This proprietary innovative technology and unique processes give us a competitive edge in the marketplace.

When developing our recent applications, we adopted a low-code development platform, which enables us to build code very quickly and deploy it instantly on websites and mobile apps, both IOS and Android.

We also had to change our organisational processes to adopt an agile project methodology. This has significantly reduced our development costs as well as software release time. Once we were at full speed, we went from an idea generation to launching our e-commerce website in a matter of weeks.

We started this journey just 18 months ago, and we are already managing a large portfolio of online and mobile applications. The pipeline of innovation and development is growing and we are learning to prioritise it.

About SUEZ

SUEZ recycling and recovery UK is the UK-based recycling and waste management division of the SUEZ group. We serve over 12 million residents and 30,000 business customers throughout the UK. We enable all our customers to reduce their impact on the environment by using waste to create new products or generate energy, helping to conserve natural resources and reduce landfill.

Arthur Goujon 
Head of digital
SUEZ recycling and recovery UK