Los Angeles Solid Waste Replaces Pulp-Based Navigation

Simplifying Vehicle Routing and Repair Scheduling with the ArcGIS Platform


By Matthew DeMeritt, Esri

Solid Waste bureaus like the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation don’t just pick up “waste” anymore; the trucks on its routes also must collect yard trimmings, recyclables, and animal carcasses. With special collections and three separate receptacles to empty, solid waste fleets have ballooned in size and logistical complexity.

To build a more efficient maintenance tracking and routing mechanism for its sanitation force, the Los Angeles Solid Resources Collection Division (SRCD) thoroughly integrated Esri cloud and mobile technology into its fleet management workflow, increasing routing accuracy, saving time, and conserving fuel.

Thomas Misguidance

In 2004, SRCD had a decent routing and fleet-tracking system in the form of Motorola personal digital assistants (PDAs) with ArcPad and Esri ArcLogistics routing software. That combination worked well for years — until PDAs went into steep decline and Esri phased out ArcLogistics (to replace it with more capable apps in ArcGIS Online). With stylus-operated devices increasingly succumbing to entropy — and without any technology ready to succeed them — a worrying disruption loomed at the division. SRCD had no choice but to use Thomas Guides and physical maps to route its drivers.

That’s right — Thomas Guides.

It was a textbook case of technological regression. Surely, coordinating routes with hardcopy map books couldn’t be the future of fleet management at the division. Sal Aguilar, environmental engineering associate at SRCD and the SRCD GIS staff, knew there was a product to extend ArcGIS, the office’s enterprise mapping software, to digitally route the fleet again and much more. That missing piece would finally let them dump their Thomas Guides in the recycle bin.

This dashboard shows real time statistics for the status of calls by type of service resolutions.

Machete through Red Tape

ArcGIS Online, Esri’s cloud GIS, was just the product Aguilar needed. By 2011, ArcGIS had grown into a true platform by tightly integrating with ArcGIS Online for real-time anywhere access and making optimal use of existing spatial data infrastructures. Although ArcGIS Online’s real-time mobile routing capability was the answer for the bureau’s sequencing needs, endemic bureaucracy in the City of Angels threatened to delay approval of an efficiency upgrade.

Fortunately, the 2012 Los Angeles mayoral election changed all that. Having won for promising more efficient government, new mayor Eric Garcetti created a sweeping initiative to update technology where it was needed throughout the city. Aguilar’s plan to extend ArcGIS now had full support.

Special Collections Routing

SRCD collects bulky items such as furniture and white goods (i.e., large broken appliances) by request. More than 60 drivers deliver these services and all by appointment. Aguilar uses ArcGIS to pull out the requests.

“Those service orders go from our call center into the Oracle database,” says Aguilar. “We needed to be able to map the orders in real time and automatically generate optimized routes to our drivers.”

A Special Collection Driver where the service locations are on their route (Blue = location to be service & Red “Halo” = Remaining to be service order). Once the service is completed the Red “Halo” disappears automatically, so the drivers know they have completed a service order, when all they see is Blue dots. The shaded areas represent the collection day boundaries in South Los Angeles.

The exported orders are converted to a web service for consumption in Collector for ArcGIS, Esri’s field data collection app. Aguilar’s team lead GIS specialist, Maria Maldonado, configured Esri Route Planner (an ArcGIS Online app based on the core functionality of ArcLogistics) to update the drivers with any new service request. It enables field staff to build routes, import, and map out route assignments. By this time, 2013, smartphones had proven their worth as business tools and easily ran Esri mobile maps without hiccup.

“The web service allows the drivers to find their route map in Collector and then enter the field data they need to collect, such as service resolution, items collected, and quantities.” says Aguilar. “Pushing that web service directly to the drivers’ phone ensures all the stops are current and updated, adjusting the routes as necessary.”

Back at the office, management can view status of work completeness on Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS. Next on the bureau’s agenda was feeding maps with the health status of its vehicles.

Telematics: Automating Maintenance

Stop-and-go fleets, such as sanitation trucks, must be concerned about vehicle wear and tear. To improve the monitoring and scheduling of vehicle maintenance, the city implemented a pilot to upload inspection and maintenance information to Zonar Systems, which is an electronic vehicle inspection report and AVL system that automates GPS events (e.g., container lifts, truck weights), capturing and verifying the inspection process to ensure compliance with state and federal law. Esri complements Zonar fleet data by displaying fleet location and other data specific to operations in maps fed with Esri GeoEvent-processed data. The integration of inspection data into the bureau’s GIS allows them to automate curb-side route generation and provide real-time ETA for service calls.

Progress of work assignment completeness and individual status of calls by type of service resolutions.

“Zonar provides many vehicle parameters, such as GPS location, speed, odometer, and truck fault codes,” says Aguilar. “With a fleet this big, we need fine-grained telematics information to keep our fleet working at a high level.”

In today’s fiscal climate, it’s never been more important to build on and extend the existing mapping resources offices such as SRCD already have. With most public works departments running core ArcGIS for enterprise mapping, they have a solid base to extend the system into a platform. Los Angeles’ elimination of IT roadblocks proves that it only takes a few small pieces to transform foundational GIS into a route- and maintenance-automating powerhouse, vastly improving fleet operations and saving time and money.


For more information on the ArcGIS platform, visit www.esri.com/software/arcgis/platform.

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