Tackling today’s challenges for the waste industry demands a robust strategy for Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) and intelligent use of service solutions

According to industry market research firm IBISWorld, waste management services in the UK grew by 4.4% in 2022 to £1.2bn. The sector’s real value, however, lies in the vital infrastructure it provides. As Chris Cruise, Industry Sector Manager for Utilities, Power and Communications at RS, observes, “If a plant stops working, the waste from the factory is still going to be produced, isn’t it? There’s a limit to what can be stockpiled.”

Here we explore the challenges facing the waste industry and how better management of Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) can help indirect procurement professionals involved in industrial, household and commercial waste collection, composting, energy recovery and landfill to respond to these pressures.

Economic challenges
The waste industry is facing a range of financial pressures. More than 80% of respondents surveyed for the RS and Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) Indirect Procurement Report 2022 said that inflation and higher costs will be a major challenge for procurement in the next twelve months, but the waste sector is particularly vulnerable to such trends. Why? Because fluctuations in the economy influence the amount of waste generated and therefore demand for waste management services.

Higher energy prices add another layer of pressure, as does the necessary expense of compliance with environmental regulations and health and safety legislation in this high-risk industry.

Less cost, less risk
A common way to alleviate increased expenses is to reduce costs. Respondents to the Indirect Procurement Report survey, for instance, cite reduced operational budgets as the biggest business pressure and delivering annualised savings as the number one day-to-day challenge.

Again, these demands are particularly challenging for the waste sector. Why? Because while savings can often be made in MRO, it’s vital that doing so won’t increase risk to workers, the public or the environment. It’s a balance between cost savings and maintaining infrastructure and equipment to a safe and sustainable standard.

One solution is to use maintenance services to make MRO more efficient. Condition monitoring, for example, detects potential maintenance issues before they become problematic. You can schedule preventative maintenance to tackle what’s been identified, avoiding more expensive, and more risky, unplanned maintenance down the line.

"Each instance of reactive maintenance means risk that you want to avoid"Chris Cruise, Industry Sector Manager, RS

Energy management services can help to reduce costs by identifying areas for improvement, while calibration services keep equipment accurate and reliable – thus further reducing unplanned, reactive maintenance. Lubrication services likewise improve asset performance and extend asset lifetime.
As Cruise notes, “Every plant could use these services. Each instance of reactive maintenance means risk that you want to avoid, but the other thing that’s often missed is the cost. If you get your maintenance right, you don’t need to spend as much on product. You’ll mitigate a lot of downtime and risks.”

Environmental demands
Sustainability is another major challenge. According to respondents to the Indirect Procurement Report, sustainable and ethical procurement comes a close second to reduced operational budgets in terms of business pressures.

"Sustainability is having a massive impact on the waste industry"Chris Cruise, Industry Sector Manager, RS

Once more, however, this is an issue that particularly affects this sector. “It’s having a massive impact on the waste industry,” says Cruise. “It’s completely changing the way they do things.”

Why? Because demands for waste to be disposed of more sustainably are growing and the answer involves all aspects of waste management organisations, including operations as much as materials processing.

Sustainability and safety
Suppliers have a vital part to play in providing solutions. Those who contributed to the Indirect Procurement Report survey recognise this, with around three-quarters of respondents regard Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) criteria as important when selecting suppliers and when choosing products and services.

Translating this into meaningful action means looking for suppliers with practices in place to support your organisation’s ESG strategies. That could be anything from use of tote bags to reduce packaging waste to external accreditation such as EcoVadis certification to verify ESG standards.

The maintenance services that help to reduce operational costs can boost sustainability too. How? Less reactive maintenance means fewer tools, consumables, parts and PPE are needed – saving you time, money and waste.

Inventory solutions have a complementary role. Rather than maintenance engineers driving round wholesalers searching for vital parts, managed inventory systems such as RS ScanStock® mean supplies are on hand within the plant as required – so less temptation to take a risky shortcut, whether that’s foregoing essential PPE because the storeroom has run out or using a generic, off-the-shelf spare when an exact item is specified. “We can profile your operations so the right stock is always available,” says Cruise. “We can also offer vending options where appropriate.”

Knowing that what you need is there when you need it is more sustainable, brings savings and, above all else, is safer.

For more information on how our solutions can help click here.