Jeff Andress – WIN Waste Innovations
How high-tech waste-management has become, and how integrated one of its heavyweights is becoming with other industries. That gives Jeff Andress opportunity to apply his techno-savvy to the inner workings of WIN Waste Innovations.
CIO since March 2020, he’s guiding a digital transformation that reaches far beyond a single company. For just prior to his arrival, Wheelabrator Technologies had been acquired by Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, which also owns City Carting & Recycling and disposal company Tunnel Hill Partners.
In April 2021, Wheelabrator announced the integration of 10 waste industry business into a single company operating under the WIN Waste Innovations name. The vertically integrated waste management company includes: Wheelabrator, City Carting & Recycling, Tunnel Hill Partners, Charles George Waste Disposal & Recycling, United Material Management, Shipyard Waste Solutions, Bay State Disposal, County Waste Management, Fiore Trucking Recycle & Disposal, and Noonan Waste Service.
Macquarie intent on fostering communication and data-driven decision making among those new partners, it’s entrusting Andress to fine-tune the details from the Wheelabrator side.
“I don’t know if it [digital transformation] will ever end,” the CIO tells Toggle in July from WIN Waste’s facility at the former Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
“It’s going to change on a regular basis as the companies evolve. The way we must approach it is by deep diving among the business groups. We’ve got to understand what their goals and objectives are and what they need to achieve them.”
Complex and comprehensive
WIN Waste Innovations owns and operates waste-to-energy facilities, transfer stations, ash-only and other landfills, and fleets of railroad cars and collection vehicles. These entities combine to process 13 million tons of refuse annually and convert 9 million tons into renewable energy and a smaller amount for recycling.
Also generated are volumes of sensitive data that must be securely stored and made available to an increasing number of stakeholders—which is where Andress’ duties lay.
Early on, he saw inefficiencies coming from the legacy processes across the multiple companies. He advocated for centralized data storage in the cloud, and since then he and his infotech team have been laying the groundwork.
The transformation commenced under challenging circumstances, Andress leaving another Macquarie holding, Lagoon Water Solutions, early last year and beginning his WIN Waste Innovation duties the same week that COVID-19 had employees fast-adjusting to remote work.
Having spent just one week in Portsmouth, Andress went back to his former home to Oklahoma for what was supposed to be a short stay, only to have it turn into six months with WIN Waste’s COVID-19 restrictions in effect. Finally, he returned east in late summer and met his new colleagues.
With a capable crew, they’ve since managed to consolidate the accounting, billing and maintenance systems, with procurement next on the agenda.
“Essentially the value of IT as a business partner lies in understanding how information can be a service delivered to respective business teams,” Andress says. “Getting beyond the reporting to the information the data holds, the analytics, means making the right decisions at the right time.”
As the cloud migration continues, Andress also can rely on several strategic partners, including AMCS Group, which customizes cloud-based solutions for waste management in the public and private sectors. WIN Waste bought Weigh It scale software from TRUX a few years ago, and TRUX was acquired by AMCS in January 2020.
Andress says the AMCS Platform for commercial and industrial waste is ideal for interval pickups as well as on-call services and includes technology for customer relationship management and other needs. Such a partner, Andress says, gives WIN Waste a leg up in an industry often stuck on yesterday’s ways.
“There’s a lot of smaller companies out there that play in the curbside trash pickup space that operate the same way they have for 40 years,” Andress says. “There’s a lot of value creation that really is low-hanging fruit and can be achieved with modern technology.”
A changing industry
Andress has applied lessons garnered from previous positions that include the equally dynamic energy industry. As senior manager of Chesapeake Energy and director of enterprise technology for Enable Midstream Partners, he witnessed the companies—and the industry—enduring down cycles as the prices of oil and natural gas crashed during the mid- and late-2010s.
That reshaped how the energy industry viewed operations, he explains, and how critical it was for stakeholders to access accurate and up-to-the-hour information. Upon coming to Lagoon Water Solutions as vice president of IT in early 2019, he initiated the buildout of systems for data analytics. A year later, when learning of WIN Waste’s need for a CIO, he saw a bigger opportunity to make a difference.
“A lot of the things I was doing there [Lagoon] were very applicable to what WIN Waste Innovations was looking for,” he says. “And Macquarie is very pro-active about having a tech group that’s a first-class citizen to strategic growth.”
So, the vertical integration of the 10 companies that now comprise WIN Waste Innovations is well underway—from curbside pickup to disposal to recycling to the waste-to-energy process to all business matters. Overseeing the technology isn’t quite what Andress envisioned when studying for his undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering at Oklahoma State University, but it’s turned into a most fulfilling career.
Son of an energy-industry engineer, Andress recalls an early fascination over how things work and loved science and math. “It also got me out of having to write term papers,” he notes with a laugh.
But it did lead to a nine-year stint as lead engineer at Seagate Technology and then to a decade-plus at Boeing that marked the start of his transition to IT. There he led a large software team that serviced Air Force platforms. That prepped him for his first official IT role at Chesapeake and all that’s followed.
New Hampshire also has proven an agreeable and family-friendly place for Andress, his wife and their three daughters settling in Dover, a 10-mile drive from Portsmouth. Having lived for a few years as a boy in Norway, where his father had been deployed, the winters won’t faze Andress, who’s becoming a capable skier. And valuable as his mechanical engineering background has been in shaping his mindset, IT just might be more fun.
“It’s being on the ground floor for digital change and the ability to positively affect the business,” he says.
View this feature in the Toggle Summer III 2021 Edition here.
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