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Building back greener: how SD-WAN is helping Veolia’s operations become more intelligent

22 Oct 2020
Ben Elms

Ben Elms

VGE Director, Vodafone Business

In the world of environmental solutions, Veolia is leading the charge and it’s not easy.

It requires a commitment to carbon reduction by creating a circular economy and preserving scarce raw materials. And Veolia has some big goals.

Transforming our energy supplies, recovering more recycled materials from households and future-gazing with its Imagine 2050 report, the business is turning the once 'traditional' waste, water and energy management industry on its head.

To succeed, it will need some strong partnerships and an infrastructure that can adapt to its changing demands.

That is where a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) comes in. Building on the existing connectivity services provided by Vodafone Business, the new SD-WAN solution will provide greater flexibility, control and visibility of the IT infrastructure. This in turn will help Veolia run a more streamlined service, improving customer experience and making their operations more efficient, driving operational excellence.

I sat down with Stuart Stock, Chief Information Officer, to discuss how the business needs are changing and what this first step in digital transformation will mean for its employees and customers.

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Ben: What prompted you to look at expanding your current digital capabilities?

Stuart: We have been migrating away from our private data centre for the past 12 months and moving to a cloud strategy, something that should be completed by the middle of next year.

With a resulting increase in bandwidth requirement, more reliance on the availability and quality of our network and our real-time data approach, this requires us to significantly reduce latency.

It was clear we needed to redesign our network topology and SD-WAN was the obvious choice.

Ben: What does SD-WAN allow your business to do that it couldn’t before?

Stuart: Veolia has over 300 frontline operational sites across the UK and Ireland and each are using a variety of web applications with fluctuating bandwidth demand.

With SD-WAN, we will be able to use the bandwidth more securely and efficiently whilst ensuring high levels of performance for those important applications, especially during peak service times.

It will also set the foundation for future technologies such as 5G and AI.

Ben: Why is becoming more agile important for the business?

Stuart: The current pandemic has resulted in large numbers of our workforce working from home, further magnifying the level of reliance on our digital solutions. More than ever before, we need to ensure that our customers' experience with work-based applications is as seamless as it is with their own personal digital expectations.

Now we have recognised that employee productivity needs are evolving, we need to essentially change how IT delivers software and provisions hardware to support the ability to easily work from the home, the office and anywhere in between.

Ben: You describe your employees as the resources behind the resources. How will this technology support them in their day-to-day work? And what does that mean for the customer?

Stuart: This technology will help our operations become more intelligent and, through the Internet of Things (IoT), we will have access to previously unknown data. This means our employees can make quicker and more insightful decisions.

In line with this, we have a strategy to move towards prescriptive AI-driven operations, which will improve our already outstanding efficiency across our plants and equipment. More importantly, it will free up our team’s time allowing them to focus on strategy and adding more customer value – reinforcing us as leaders in operational excellence across our various industries.

By improving our service delivery and communicating with our customers more proactively, the effort for them will be minimised to such a degree, that we will feel like a silent service to them.

Ben: Looking further into the future, how do your digital transformation plans support your wider purpose to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change?

Stuart: Digital transformation largely supports a data-enabled culture within Veolia, to improve both our own and our customers' operational efficiencies.

As the majority of our services involve the management of large plant, machinery and vehicle routing, efficiency improvements have a direct correlation to a reduction in carbon emissions. Which is good news for the planet!

Learn more about what SD-WAN could do for your business.

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