In the UK, COVID-induced restrictions in the last eighteen months have only been exacerbated by Brexit-related shortages, and there’s not a sector that hasn’t been pushed to its limit. For some, these sink-or-swim conditions have triggered a full-throttle push toward Industry 4.0, but as some embrace automation and digitalisation, the construction industry could find itself lagging behind.
According to VABVA, a UK-based construction and waste management startup, it doesn’t have to be this way.
“It all began with a phone call,” explains Wisdom Oparaocha, the company’s founder, “back in 2019 I was catching up with a friend, Wesley, when I asked how his skip hire business was going. He told me they were no longer in operation. When I asked what went wrong, he started reeling off a list of issues, from delivery logistics and schedule management, to performance analytics and finance administration. On that day, the idea for VABVA was born.”
Within a month, he had set the wheels in motion. His vision: an integrated digital platform that would allow skip hire companies to fully optimise their operations, catapulting waste management solutions into Construction 4.0.
The app boasts a whole range of features focused on streamlining almost every process imaginable, from a waste map that allows clients to find local services, to an e-commerce platform through which suppliers can take bookings and payments, and a live rental scheduling calendar that reacts to updates in real time. “The most eye-watering part of my discussion with Wesley”, reports Oparaocha, “was learning that he would record skip delivery and collection data on whiteboards in the office.”
While few other rental agencies use such erasable methods, it is surprisingly common for small businesses to be behind the curve on the transition from physical to digital record keeping.
In addition to bringing the industry up to speed, tech-wise, the VABVA Concept Lab is already buzzing with new ideas about how to disrupt waste management. One of the biggest challenges faced by skip hire companies is the recruitment and management of delivery drivers, who are usually employed internally. However, the share of e-commerce in UK retail grew more in 2020 than it had in the previous six years, leaving delivery drivers in short supply.
[Source: Office for National Statistics]
When small businesses go up against delivery big-timers like Amazon and Tesco, their clients are often left disappointed. “Imagine a centralised delivery service, where the responsibility of delivering and collecting skips fell on an external agency. That’s how most e-commerce works; not every service provider can also be a shipping company”, says Oparaocha.
Similar models have seen recent success in the US and Canada, with a growing demand from traditional brick-and-mortar businesses for a way to digitise all at once, and all in one place. Suppliers who host their business on VABVA will even be able to track their revenues in an analytics section that enables them to identify trends and predict future demand in a rapidly-growing industry. According to a recent report by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, the amount of commercial and industrial waste generated in England rose by five and a half million tonnes from 2014 to 2018.
But VABVA’s vision for the future doesn’t just involve a more efficient way to manage waste, it also includes a cleaner, more eco-friendly way. Ahead of the app’s release, potential users can already browse hundreds of responsible waste disposal guides on the startup’s website, from ‘How To Dispose Of Asbestos Waste’ to ‘The Ultimate Skip Hire FAQ’ and ‘How To Dispose Of Food Waste Without Plastic Bags’.
VABVA’s waste map with over 130,000 data points is already live, but other features are currently in development. Prospective suppliers and clients can expect to be trading on the platform by the second quarter of 2022.