When a current operational procedure involves hours and can be replaced by a procedure that takes minutes, then change is good. Valley Oil of Hopewell, N.J., identified a number of core operational procedures that burdened management, office staff and field personnel. They then researched a number of solutions that would help them reduce the time burden on these positions. In the end, they chose an integrated solution that included replacing their back-end customer accounting software, upgrading to electronic meter registers on their fuel delivery trucks and deploying a wireless data communication system that linked the office and the field.
Randy Jaeger, operations manager at Valley Oil, admitted that they were a little intimidated by the prospect of taking on so much change at one time. Yet, in Jaeger’s words, ‘the transition went smoother than we anticipated and the results exceeded our expectations. This is a feature-rich solution that offers more than we could have hoped. Posting the previous day’s work and preparing the next day’s route used to require a full-time assistant and take three to four hours of my time daily. We were able to eliminate the need for an assistant and now I can get the same work done in less than 30 minutes. The savings to the company are significant and can be measured in saved time and saved dollars.”
Among other things, features of Valley Oil’s integrated system include:
Complete customer accounting and record-keeping
Flexible and robust report generating
Comprehensive delivery and service scheduling
Electronic route building using sort criteria such as degree day, date, driver, truck, zone, product and much more
Mapping and route optimization tools
Real-time vehicle and inventory tracking
Real-time status and productivity reporting
Voiceless digital dispatching
Wireless data capture
Electronic batch posting
Field invoicing and printing
The system allows Jaeger to monitor the progress of drivers throughout the course of the day and makes reassigning work from one driver to another a breeze. The occasional same-day emergency order can be dispatched with just a few clicks of a mouse.
‘The decision to go with this system has radically changed, for the good, the way our dispatching operation gets the job done,” said Jaeger. ‘I am very happy we made this move.”
Efficiency gains are achieved through the full cycle of the delivery work order, from the time the ‘ticket” is created in the customer accounting software, through the delivery process and until the completed delivery is posted to the customer’s record.
When asked about any drawbacks to the system, Jaeger said, ‘you have to be realistic when deploying a solution built around wireless technology. You will have occasional ‘dropped calls,’ but the system has smart, built-in safety nets; you never lose data. Occasionally, you have to recapture or enter data manually, but that is a minor issue compared to the enormous benefits of the system as a whole.”
When asked about the support from the vendors who provided the components of the integrated system, Randy’s comment was ‘we don’t want our close competition to have this technology; it gives us a competitive edge, so if you don’t compete with us, we highly recommend them.”
Another potential drawback is change itself. Resistance to anything new will vary from organization to organization. If an organization is unprepared or unwilling to embrace the change, the system will not achieve its potential. Fortunately for Valley Oil, ownership, management, office staff and field staff have all embraced the change, and with the exception of the person whose position was eliminated, all are benefiting from the change.
Jon Brost, service manager at Valley Oil, has been an interested observer of the transition to this technology from across the room. Brost saw the phenomenal improvement in the efficiency of the fuel-delivery operation over a matter of a few short months. Brost now wants the same technology for his service department.
Fortunately for Brost, the same central vendor that orchestrated the integration of the fuel-delivery solution for Valley Oil offers a comparable solution for the service department. Valley Oil is looking forward to deploying this technology in its service department this summer. There is no doubt that this deployment will change the way service gets dispatched and managed at Valley Oil, but Valley has found that ‘Change is good!”
For a list of vendors that provide this type of solution, as well as other solutions for the fuel-oil industry, look for the advertisers in FON. Also, visit the AREE Trade Show on May 3-5 in Atlantic City, N.J. For specific information on the Valley Oil selection of vendors for its integrated solution, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.