Building a Common Sense Solution
McEvoy Oil Company looked inside to meet its technology needs
Petrotrac addresses all phases of deliveries, product line inventory and accounting.
Increased business costs have forced every energy supplier to focus on their operations and find ways to improve competitiveness and the bottom line. The problem days of manual registers using bulky paper tickets, time consuming inventory control, hand data entry and invoicing by mail are over if a company wants to survive and grow. One long established company found itself in this situation and decided to take a common sense approach to the solution.
For 75 years, McEvoy Oil Company of Bellingham, Wash., has been a large retail station owner and wholesaler along with being a fuel oil and packaged goods distributor to a large area of the Pacific Northwest. Through generations of growth, the company now has a reach from Oregon to past the Canadian border. Such an expansive base of operations demands cost controls that can be used as a competitive advantage. Before looking for a solution, McEvoy Oil looked at the wide range of needs they had: bulk gas stations, their bulk plants, train locomotives, home heating oil, commercial fishing boats and private yachts, large and medium sized trucking and reefer fleets, construction sites and hundreds of different sized packaged lubes, oils, antifreeze and greases.. All phases of deliveries, product line inventory and accounting needed attention and better management tools. After extensive research its then Director of IT Patrick Golden, found that the same needs were popping up from large companies to smaller jobbers. “We went searching for a solution with our checkbook in hand, but what we found were technical shortcomings, limited reliability, inflexible designs and very over priced systems” said, Golden. The result was to develop a solution in house.
It was necessary for the system designers to think through every phase of an energy distributor’s business process to be able to improve on current issues. Golden’s background in wireless system design helped guide the direction for not only McEvoy Oil, but what could be considered a better solution to others in the energy market. Improvements needed to be made to what was available regarding hardware, software and user interfaces. The product needed to be rich with features that included wireless communication, real time connections, Web-based design, multiple scanning capabilities, the ability to track mobile fleet and bulk fuel deliveries, bulk plant loading racks, the entire packaged goods inventory control, automatic payroll data gathering, improving real time dispatching, handle D.O.T. compliance reports, personnel records and have a billing module to speed invoicing. The system also had to have a customer information element customized to fit their needs and the needs of their customers. The hardware also needed attention. The handheld needed to be robust and a better value. The controller had to be built with truck tested components and be more compact than was available at the time. The strategy was also to save customers’ money by using a modern “plug-n-play” installation design. If that wasn’t enough to ask for it had to be considerably less (by half) in initial and overall cost than what was currently available in the marketplace. It was also desirable to offer customers both a purchase or lease option.
Proof of ROI
“Any system can be designed but the customer must find it user friendly, be able to afford it, and most important, it must have a proven return on investment based on hard numbers,” said Golden. Any company that invests their hard earned money and efforts into a technical solution needs to see how the system will save, or most critically, will make them money. Golden calculated that given the task of delivering a system as described above, his product needed to deliver a ten to one ROI (it had to add 10 cents to the bottom line for every one cent invested). His system surpassed that to deliver 14 to 1. Over a very short time this adds up to thousands, even for a small company.
“It was clear based on market response that I had something of value, and it was time to form a company to market and sell what we designed,” said Golden. The company PetroTrac, Inc. was spun off, with Golden as president, to handle the new customer interest and address any concerns McEvoy competitors might have about confidentiality when adopting the software. “Companies and drivers seem to like what we have done and the proof is that we are so busy, so quickly after releasing into the energy market,” Golden said. Another market strategy is that PetroTrac has aligned itself with high quality companies also in the energy supply business, such as Veeder-Root registers, TCS meters, and the best energy products distributors in the world. Careful planning and attention to value seem to have PetroTrac poised for that “common sense solution.”