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B2B collaboration and how it is becoming essential for businesses

Date: 8/09/2014 | Author: Paul Sanderson

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Ahead of RWM, Resource Efficient Business and Prodware will be publishing an article every day on the Top Ten Drivers for Recycling Change.

We would like you to share your views on which of these 10 ideas you think will be the most significant drivers for recycling change. Come to the Prodware stand at RWM (4F106-G107) and show what you believe will be the key drivers on the 'Cool Wall' or tweet your Top 3 to @ProdwareUK and/or @ResourceEBnews using #TopRecycling

Today, we look at B2B collaboration:

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The waste and recycling sector is a funny old place. It is fearlessly competitive and yet greatly collaborative.

A recent straw-poll showed that over 50 per cent of UK waste movements involve more than one service provider. For example, a customer contracts with a waste collector who disposes material at different (competing) waste collectors’ landfill. And then, that same customer chooses to contract with a broker who still uses the services of the same collector and disposal site to perform the exact same task? And it costs less! As I say, it's a funny old place. But, it kind of works.

You can compare and contrast with other industries - for example motor manufacturing. In the 1970's car factories built engines, body panels, seats, dashboards etc. In fact, apart from tyres and paint, almost everything was made on one site by one company. Today, it is the complete reverse.

The platform for the Fiat 500 is exactly the same as a Ford Ka. Engines are built by third parties, as are seats and other sub-assemblies. Even design work is often contracted out.

In the assembly factory, the catering, cleaning and maintenance are all done by third party companies. The manufacturer doesn't do much more than stick the badge on the bonnet.

So, just like the waste and recycling companies, modern manufacturers have to be very good at collaborating with their partners. And this is where the similarity ends, because the manufacturers make extensive use of technology to create, process and complete orders. Everything is done just in time and with little or no human intervention. IT systems and electronic data exchange makes this work, and work well.

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In waste and recycling, we make telephone calls or send an email to arrange a lift by one of our partners, we assume the job was done, we telephone again (and again, and again…) to get the weight so that we can print ON PAPER and invoice to put in the post. And this can be repeated across two, three or sometimes four companies all servicing one material movement from one site to another. The industry suffers from transaction overload and employs huge numbers of staff that actually add very little value to the service provided.

It is time to collaborate, but not at a transactional level, at a business level. Technology exists and can be used to join companies together so that jobs can be raised, processed and completed without the need for the telephone, email. This leaves the humans to agree contracts, rules and procedures. The choice is, would you like to be British Leyland or BMW?

This approach to collaboration is one seen by Palm Recycling as very important. Palm Recycling works with a range of companies and organisations in collaboration, whether it is on Sainsbury’s bring banks (as pictured), contracts with councils or businesses, or with collection contractors.

Palm Recycling business development director Mandy Kelly says: “Palm believes that collaboration is important as it ensures that mutual activities are done as efficiently and effectively as possible for all parties. There can be cost synergies to be realised by working together in a more partnership manner, and just as importantly there are reduced administrative burdens to be gained.

“Palm currently has electronic interfacing for certain tasks such as ordering, weighing and invoicing right through the supply chain from customers, to suppliers, to contractors. This allows for an overall view of the supply chain which helps to drive value across the business.”

Mandy Kelly also believes that technology is making businesses more likely to work together.

She adds: “Palm believes that businesses will see more improved and integrated working relationships. Software advances have enabled links to be established between entities within the supply chain and this assumes an element of flexibility and trust in order to make that happen. However, we as businesses must ensure that we don’t all become too interdependent on each other at the expense of commercial considerations.

“Technology is changing the way that businesses are able to collaborate in that it is standardising the way that certain activities are carried out. The advances in fully integrated IT systems have helped towards creating single transacting when historically many would have been required. Further investment in technology is taking place within the Palm Group to ensure that more time and efficiency synergies are realised across more mutual collaborations with our business partners.”


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