Case Study: How ALPCO Recycling Brought Order To Chaos With Trello and Unito

Logos for Trello and Alpco Recycling, representing the Alpco Recycling case study

ALPCO Recycling is a recycling company operating in Upstate New York. They have become the leader in Upstate New York in the areas of residential, commercial, and industrial recycling. Because of the variety of their services, ALPCO Recycling uses multiple databases to track everything that needs to get done. Donna Figel, the IT, Safety and Compliance Director, was asked to tame the chaos and bring order into the system they were using.

Find out how she combined Trello and Unito to do just that.

The problem

Before they started using Trello, ALPCO Recycling used an ad-hoc system to track all the work that goes into managing recycling pickup and disposal. Since the company relies on a third party for everything that requires a truck, keeping communication and visibility going between the dispatcher, the drivers, and ALPCO Recycling’s in-house team was a challenge.

When Donna first started looking into improving this system, she didn’t like what she found: “We had this meeting where everyone said what they were doing, and the owner looked at me and said ‘you see the problem?’ It was a lot of using spreadsheets, phone calls, emails, and text messages.”

The problem was that, while this system used methods that many people were comfortable with, it often ended up costing the company later on: “There wasn’t a good check and balance to make sure things weren’t missed all the way along the line.”

So Donna started looking into Trello. Being able to build boards to house all the information that previously existed in spreadsheets, emails, and text messages was key in providing the dispatcher a bird’s eye view of all the jobs going on while being able to drill down into specific jobs if needed.

But Trello wasn’t solving all of ALPCO Recycling’s problems. Namely, because so many departments needed to work in tandem, many sets of eyes needed the same information. But keeping all the information on one board wasn’t feasible, since anyone looking for something specific needed to sift through a ton of cards just to find the piece they needed. Beyond that were security concerns; giving everyone access to every board meant something might get deleted accidentally, or specific information might go somewhere it wasn’t meant to.

And as soon as that information was split up on several boards, it made keeping visibility on all the jobs more difficult. After all, a specific card might have to go from one board to the other and back. But as Donna puts it, “I needed the ability for the dispatcher to have a dashboard where she could see everything.” So while splitting cards among multiple boards might have made sense for each department, it didn’t make sense for the dispatcher. ALPCO Recycling needed a way to limit the information each department saw on their individual boards while still giving their dispatcher full visibility of all jobs and their status.

Donnal almost gave up on using Trello.

The solution

So how did ALPCO Recycling give their dispatcher full visibility while controlling the flow of information for all other departments? They built a [Trello master board].

The concept is simple; start by giving each department their own Trello board. For example, ALPCO Recycling’s accounting department needed to see cards when accounts needed to get billed or paid, but they didn’t necessarily need to be aware of them before that. Likewise, a department  responsible for specific jobs didn’t need to see the cards other departments were responsible for. Donna was able to set this up with Trello.

But sometimes the cards needed to go from one board to another as a specific job changed hands. And on top of that, there’s another piece of the master board that Trello couldn’t handle out-of-the-box: the dispatcher’s board.

When a call comes in, it needs to get processed and dispatched. But the dispatcher still needs a way to keep an eye on that job. Say a truck is delayed, and the customer calls asking what’s going on. With Trello, the dispatcher would need to find out which board that card is on before getting the info they needed.

By using Unito to build a master board, the Trello cards the dispatcher needs access to are all synced with the other department boards. That means all the information they need is at their fingertips. The dispatcher can easily find the card for a specific job and either check for updates or find the customer’s contact info. No switching from one board to the other, no potential disruptions to a department’s workflow.

Beyond the construction of the master board, the depth of Unito’s Trello integration means that Donna was able to get the most out of Trello’s key features, such as labels and custom fields: “We use labels primarily to identify the type of job, but also to finalize a job. Once a job is done, it comes off of the dispatch board and over to a follow-up board. From there, we needed the ability to send a card back to a specific department if it didn’t have all the required information. So we have labels that say ‘needs more information from scale house’ for example.”

With Unito, Donna was able to build rules to sort cards by these labels, making sure they end up where they needed to go. That meant no more checking spreadsheets, fewer phone calls, fewer emails and the added ability to work remotely if needed.

“During these challenging times, this process was a true blessing and enabled the dispatcher to stay home when needed and her job wasn’t affected because she could do it all remotely.”

The results

By bulking up ALPCO Recycling’s Trello boards with Unito, Donna was able to bring a great deal of order to the chaos that was the company’s dispatch workflow. That meant no more spreadsheets, fewer phone calls, and better security. Before Unito, Donnal was worried that all teams would have to have  access to every Trello card to keep information visible, but with Unito’s rules that was no longer the case.

How did the rest of the company see the addition of Unito to their workflows?

“The dispatcher sees how much easier the day is and feels more secure that everything is getting done in a timely manner. Everyone involved in the workflow feels less stressed and more productive knowing that everything is being documented in Trello. The workflow is now there, and the visibility amongst all of the departments is finally there,” Donna says.

And by using Unito, there were other aspects of the workflow that were made that much better. Day-to-day occurrences that might once have created huge headaches now fit into ALPCO Recycling’s workflow nicely. Donna gives a simple example of this in practice: “When a load comes into receiving, and it’s a hot mess, now they have the ability to take their phone out, take a couple of pictures and attach it to the associated Trello card. The dispatcher understands what they’re talking about and can address it to the customer.”

Everyone in the company is empowered to communicate in an archivable way, so everything they say can be referred to later.

Recycling jobs have a lot of moving pieces. From the initial customer call to the dispatching of work and the actual moving of the recycling load itself. There are plenty of hiccups that can happen along the way. But by using Unito as the nexus of their workflows, ALPCO Recycling and Donna Figel were able to bring an incredible level of order to the chaos and throw out their spreadsheets.

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