Founded in Asker, Norway in 1971, TOMRA operates today in 45 countries around the globe. In pursuing its mission of ‘Helping the World Recycle’, TOMRA maintains a strong commitment to ensuring that their activities contribute positively to society and the environment.

In North America, TOMRA has 250 employees and a fleet of 185 different vehicles that collect and process deposit beverage containers in six different states. The containers are returned through different redemption strategies, some utilizing kiosks at supermarkets, others utilizing reverse vending machines and still others using the traditional person at a counter to accept the container. A network of 16 plants across the country process these containers. TOMRA’s 8,000 customers include market-leading retail chains such as Kroger, Tops, Wegmans and Meijers.


TOMRA operates in a seasonal market where the volume of returned beverage containers fluctuates with seasonal weather changes. As a result, its fleet would average 4,000 pick-ups during the course of a week in the winter, compared to an estimated 6,000 stops in the summer. A variable operating schedule also creates fluctuations in stops per vehicle per day, depending on the region. Stops could range from two in California to 16 in northern New York, for a company-wide average of five per day.

TOMRA’s route planning was done manually, resulting in excessive driver hours, miles driven and fuel consumption. This manual system lacked information to track and evaluate customer service concerns and driver performance. According to Steve Nee, Executive Vice President of Material Handling at TOMRA North America, “Operating a seasonal business can be challenging; especially, since different route sets have to be created when changing over from one season to the next.” At various points in the company’s history, it used some simplistic routing tools to try and address its concerns, but none provided the level of sophistication or flexibility that TOMRA required to meet the needs of its seasonal operations.”


Nee has been managing transportation operations for over 20 years. During his career, he has been exposed to a variety of software solutions for routing and scheduling, but none had captured his attention like the Descartes route planning and scheduling solution for optimal fleet management. He knew that this was a supply chain solution that could address TOMRA’s complex fleet management needs. “Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to evaluate best-of-breed as well as proprietary solutions, and based on my past experiences, I knew that Descartes offered the most advanced functionality and provided unmatched levels of support.”

Descartes Routing and Scheduling enables TOMRA to drive improvements in revenue performance through strategic sales and territory planning, enhanced customer service and responsiveness, increased visibility, and lower operational costs through day-to-day route planning. In fact, TOMRA operates today using a highly efficient, centralized dispatch call center model where route planners work 24/7 to ensure routes are optimized for maximum performance.


Nee also appreciates that he and members of his team can “dig really deep” into the route planning software, creating numerous scenarios to address whatever complex challenges may arise. “The software is so sophisticated that I can deal with practically any scenario for any of our 150 dynamic, static and semi-static routes.” He explains that in snowy conditions, a route planner can now adjust the speed of the trucks, add in a second truck on the same route if needed, and re-forecast times. Previously, inclement weather would affect driver schedules. Delivery dates and times would then fall behind and a few days would be needed to catch up. “Now we can just add in an extra truck and recreate the metrics so that everyone gets the same service.”

Since drivers now use GPS-enabled mobile phones, dispatchers have real-time visibility into driver performance. Route metrics are also captured by the minute, ensuring that estimated times of arrival for subsequent stops are adjusted when exceptions or delays occur. Customers are then notified of any changes to the pick-up schedule. By integrating its route planning solution with wireless capabilities, TOMRA can also import data in real-time into a centralized data repository that can be easily accessed through the report writing tool. The end result is improved service policies, streamlined transmission of data, improved dispatching processes and reduction in overall staffing and duplication of effort. Improved route planning also minimizes fuel consumption and lessens the overall impact of its fleet operations on the environment.