HomeResourcesCase studiesSonoco Recycling drives efficiency with Verizon Connect Fleet

Case study

Sonoco Recycling drives efficiency with Verizon Connect Fleet

By reducing idle time, we were able to save more than $100,000 in fuel alone. Reducing idle time also increases our driver capacity to pick up more customers or make more deliveries, which helps drive revenue and profit margins. We now average 17 to 18 tons per route, instead of 10 to 12 before.
Daniel Walker
Plant Manager at Sonoco Recycling

Sonoco Recycling drives efficiency with Verizon Connect Fleet

Since 1899, Sonoco has partnered with customers to create and recycle world-class packaging products. Now, this sustainability leader's recycling division collects nearly 3 million tons of paper, plastic, metal and other materials annually to create the next pallet, snack container, cardboard box or paper tube.

Dave Mastrodomenico, Fleet Manager at Sonoco Recycling, knows the important role his drivers play in helping Sonoco turn used materials into useful products. A former driver himself, Mastrodomenico is now responsible for effectively managing a fleet of 83 trucks that pick up materials from customers and deliver them to 21 Sonoco recycling plants across the southern U.S. “We look to achieve a number of goals with our routing system,” Mastrodomenico said. “Increasing our market share, growing our profit margins, improving driver safety and reducing fuel usage drives everything we do.”

Overcoming the challenges of manual routing

A key challenge for Mastrodomenico was that plant managers had no visibility into a truck's location at any given time. This led to a massive game of phone tag, where customers would call the sales team to check on a pickup, who would then call the plant managers, who would then call the drivers. "All day long the plant managers would be getting calls, then they'd have to call the driver," Mastrodomenico said.

In addition, a lot of institutional knowledge—such as optimal routes and customer delivery preferences—was embedded with a seasoned workforce, making it difficult to onboard new drivers. Many of the tenured drivers didn't even have a smartphone. Mastrodomenico knew he had to find a way to digitally transform and automate his operations for more effective route optimization, without alienating his drivers. "We needed to move beyond just cell phones to having technology that could help coordinate drivers for us and proactively route drivers to where they should be," he said.

The solution: Verizon Connect Fleet

Mastrodomenico sought a technology solution that would improve these manual routing systems—to help make them safer, more efficient and more effective. He interviewed a few companies and even tested one in his operations, but it failed to deliver the route optimization and automation results he needed. Then, Mastrodomenico reached out to Verizon, a long-time partner of Sonoco. In Verizon Connect Fleet he found the capabilities and operations insights he was looking for.

Verizon Connect Fleet leverages GPS tracking to provide near real-time visibility into where trucks are located, how they are being driven and what routes the drivers are taking. Mastrodomenico can now analyze idle time and optimize routes to deploy trucks more effectively. "I now know how many trucks and drivers I'll need for the next day, what routes they'll take and how much it will cost," Mastrodomenico said.

Sonoco and Verizon worked together to implement, optimize and train. Daniel Walker, Plant Manager at Sonoco Recycling, said, "Our Verizon team went above and beyond to train us on every aspect of the system. When we first started, I spent three or four hours a day trying to work out issues or learn about features. After about a month working with our rep, it now takes me less than 45 minutes to set the routes for the entire month," he said.

Data visibility improves operational efficiency

Today, Sonoco can track the location of its trailers across the country, giving it insight into its fleet deployment. With customers across the region, every pickup and delivery is unique. Sonoco uses Verizon Connect Fleet for customized route optimization, analyzing the time it takes at each customer site to improve operational efficiency.

"We can track idle times to identify customers who might have a situation like a blocked trailer. If this happens a few times in a row, we can call the customer to work out the issue," Walker said. "Before Verizon Connect Fleet, everything was anecdotal. Now we can have data-driven conversations with customers who didn't even realize there was an issue, which also helps improve our customer relationships."

Cost savings are evident. "By reducing idle time, we were able to save more than $100,000 in fuel alone," Walker noted. "Reducing idle time increases our driver capacity to pick up from more customers or make more deliveries, which helps drive revenue and profit margins. We now average 17 to 18 tons per route, instead of 10 to 12 before."

Sonoco also uses Verizon Connect Fleet's integrated electronic logging device (ELD) to track driver hours of service (HOS). Jeff King, a Plant Manager at Sonoco Recycling, explained how it helps him plan drivers' schedules. "Tracking hours of service for dozens of drivers lets me know who I can route for the next day, or even three or four days down the road, which was impossible to do before," he said. "I know early on when I am going to have to switch out a driver, which saves me a lot of headaches."

Furthermore, drivers can take photos to document a trailer's condition before leaving the customer's site. As trailers may stay at a customer's location for weeks at a time, it was difficult to prove whether any damage was already there or if it was the fault of the customer. Now, it is easy to prove if it took place while in the customer's possession, allowing Sonoco to charge back repairs. "We've saved at least $60,000 in damage repairs by tracking damage," Walker said.

The drivers see the benefit, too. With Verizon Connect Workforce, a routing optimization and work order management solution, Sonoco is able to reduce laborious manual paperwork as drivers can now easily complete all their paperwork from their phones. For example, a driver used to have to manually complete a 40-question pre-trip form for each drive. Now, the driver can do an initial digital setup that defaults each question to "pass," and then only click "fail" for issues that need to be addressed. "A driver can do a pre-trip for his truck once, and not go through it each time he picks up a trailer. That saves so much time and frustration," Walker said.

Mapping a route for the future

Sonoco and Verizon are already partnering on the project's next phase. Sonoco recently asked Verizon for help with routing scenarios to prepare a bid for a potential new customer. Mastrodomenico immediately saw the potential, realizing that this zoning feature could also be used to optimize existing routes. Kolin Campbell, Manufacturing Associate for Sonoco Recycling, jumped in to provide key mapping data—plotting the proximity of Sonoco Recycling mills and depots to customers. With this data imported into Verizon Connect Workforce, Sonoco can now create more efficient service zones across all the territories it services.

These new insights into its routes allow Sonoco to improve financial forecasting, inform hiring and redeploy resources, making the organization more agile and adaptable to a changing market.

Drake Lewis, a Production Supervisor at Sonoco Recycling, explained how Sonoco is now able to make better business decisions. "We have a better idea of our cost per mile or cost per ton, so we can make smarter decisions about what to charge a new customer, or whether it's worth exploring a new opportunity," he said. "We're now more prepared to deliver the right service at the right cost every time we take on a new customer, so everyone wins."

Subscribe to our newsletter for helpful fleet management content delivered straight to your inbox.

Tags: Billing & Invoicing, Community, Cost control, Customer retention rates, Customer Service, Cybersecurity, Data & Analytics, Dispatching & Scheduling, ELD & Compliance, Field management, Fleet utilization, Fuel cost management, Government, Inspections, Nonprofit, Payroll, Performance & Coaching, Productivity & Efficiency, Public works, Revenue & ROI, Routing, Safety, Service level compliance, Team Management, Training, Vehicle & asset security, Vehicle Maintenance