Software suppliers serving fuel oil and propane marketers periodically release new or updated versions of their products. Here, some vendors describe their offerings to feature writer Maura Keller, while some fuel marketers offer a glimpse into how they use back-office and mobile information technology.
Some software vendors have recently issued updated or enhanced versions of their products for fuel marketers—or announced plans to do so this year. Software that automates routine, everyday processes can help fuel marketers operate their businesses more efficiently, resulting in cost savings and greater productivity.
“One of the key advantages with this system is the ability to drill down on a week’s worth of tickets to route them the most efficient way possible, so we don’t go back out to the outskirts of our territory more than necessary,” Randall Dominick says of the software used by the fuel company he owns, Dominick Fuel, Norwalk, Connecticut. The fuel company implemented its system, provided by Vertrax, in 2000, and has transitioned through various enhancements and updates during the intervening twenty years. “We also have zero paper tickets hanging around our office… There is no need for a ticket printer in the office,” Dominick adds, because the system is integrated with a wireless delivery system in the trucks.
Vertrax’s Smartdrops transportation management system is for “last mile” retail propane and fuel oil delivery. It ties together back office systems and route planning capabilities to create a comprehensive delivery management system, the vendor says. Key features of the software system include: back office synchronization, delivery control, in-vehicle navigation, and an end-user portal that can be accessed through any Internet browser.
This spring Vertrax is expecting to release Next Generation Smartdrops, which it says will include improved performance dashboards to better manage KPI’s [key performance indicators], updated interactive mapping and routing technology, and upgraded reporting and analytical tools. The upgrade is designed to help fuel companies and marketers run their operations more efficiently and achieve better margins, Vertrax says.
(The reception that vendors’ offerings get can be indicators of industry trends. Automated Wireless Environments specializes in energy operations software and vehicle hardware for delivery and service, including Android- or Windows CE-supported rugged mobile devices. About a year ago on its website, AWE reported that its Android delivery solution had become its most popular platform for deliveries.)
Kilhoffer Propane Co. in Canute, Oklahoma, has been using Taurus Plus since 2010. “We also sell gas and diesel,” says Kem Kilhoffer, president. The fuel dealer uses the Syntech FuelMaster System, integrated into the Taurus Plus A/R system, which creates line item invoices and handles credit card processing, Kilhoffer says. Another key feature within the Taurus Plus System is the credit card processing function, he says. “We also have handheld units in our trucks and Taurus Plus works well” with the fuel marketer’s dispatching system, Kilhoffer says. “It’s a major time saver.”
H.R. Clough Inc. in Contoocook, New Hampshire, has been using the Taurus Plus software system since 1999. “We utilize the service scheduling module for dispatching service technicians,” Donna Arsenault Lee, general manager, says. “At a glance, during the day, anyone is able to view the dispatch schedule and determine where each technician has been and where they are at currently.”
Taurus Systems provides software back office solutions to the fuel, propane and service industries. Taurus Plus Fuels Management is an “open” system, “ready to work with many industrial partners,” and is designed to enhance a business owner’s decision-making ability and daily operations. Upgrades to Taurus Plus, introduced 10 years ago, are ongoing and include a credit card interface, e-mail, routing, portals and mobile truck solutions, the vendor says.
Taurus Plus also offers businesses the opportunity to explore design ideas and personalized system modifications, working directly with the Taurus development team.
Sometimes fuel marketers feel compelled to make a switch in software. Anderson Oil and Anderson Propane Services, based in Fredericksburg, Virginia, told software provider Cargas that its previous oil and gasoline software had not served its propane business well. Implementing Cargas Energy software resolved the problems, said Nicole Sullivan, vice president of administration and projects for Anderson Oil and Anderson Propane. Speaking in a video posted on the Cargas website, Sullivan said the vendor’s solution integrated with Anderson’s propane tank monitors, enabling the marketer to see data for all accounts. And on the fuel oil side, the new management software eliminated four hours’ work daily for an employee who was then assigned to a “more valuable, productive use in a new position.”
Davenport Energy in Chatham, Virginia, has been a user of Blue Cow Software for five years, says Joe Pennesi, director of operations. The software vendor’s Ignite Mobile product has enabled the fuel marketer’s back office and dispatcher, rather than drivers, to control delivery processes Pennesi says. “In other words, the driver used to get a stack of tickets for the week and put in his slot. Now the office puts these deliveries on [a driver’s] tablet each day. Our delivery efficiency as a whole has gotten so much better because of this technology and software. We have increased our average drop on auto-forecasted customers to close to twenty-five percent more gallons. That equates to many saved deliveries over the course of a year.”
In addition, Davenport Energy uses Ignite to gather data and compile analytical reports for the management team to review and use to improve the overall business.
“Accounts receivable or credit is also so much easier and more efficient to utilize,” Pennesi says. “Our credit department can mirror our delivery department to know what will be needed to be delivered beforehand and thus make customer contact sooner to avoid potential run outs and vice versa”—in dealing with a delinquent account.
Blue Cow Software has a suite of products for the propane and fuel oil energy marketplace. The products consist of Ignite Enterprise, Ignite Analytics, Ignite Mobile, Ignite Routing, Ignite Web, Ignite Phone App and Ignite Imaging. These seven products, combined, give propane and fuel energy marketers a suite of software products. Ignite Enterprise was Blue Cow Software’s first product and was introduced to the market in 2005, and has since undergone several upgrades. The vendor says everything from mobile delivery routing, to customer relationship management, to back office accounting can be wrapped into Ignite Enterprise.
Shelley Fredericks of Frederick’s Fuel and Keil Oil Inc., based in New Jersey, has been a customer of ADD Systems since 1975. Fredericks notes that the vendor has evolved over the years. “What started as a fuel oil software company developed into a major software provider for the petroleum industry as a whole, including related industries,” Fredericks says.
Frederick’s Fuel and Keil Oil Inc. access ADD Systems software via the cloud which has helped the companies during times of power outages, especially Superstorm Sandy and other significant storms. “We have more than one office and if one office is without power for an extended time, we can shift work to another office and continue to access our information via the cloud and continue to serve our customers,” Fredericks says. “In our experience, ADD’s servers have continued to be up and running even if they have to run on generator power.”
ADD Systems has been a provider of software for the fuel oil and propane industries since 1973. The company offers an end-to-end software solution, including A/R, dispatching and mobile delivery and service, wholesale, inventory, and business intelligence reporting. ADD’s software solutions include ADD Energy E3 back office software, Atlas Reporting, Raven mobile delivery, Pegasus mobile service, ADD eStore for convenience stores, and SmartConnect, a web services gateway. ADD Systems first product was an accounts receivable, delivery and service software package.
Bumgarner Oil Co. recently implemented ADD software for its convenience stores as well as its retail and wholesale fuel business. Bumgarner Oil has been operating in western North Carolina since 1954. Today the company operates four bulk plants and owns and operates 13 convenience stores. In addition, the company operates B&B Transport, a transport company that provides 24-hour service to fulfill customers’ fueling needs. Bumgarner Oil offers wholesale and retail sales of home heating oil, kerosene oil, automotive and industrial lubricants, and biodiesel fuel.
Bumgarner Oil needed a software system to streamline day-to-day operations. With its new software, the company says it aims to accelerate daily business operations in its convenience store and distribution businesses.
Zach Bumgarner, general manager, said the company will use ADD eStore for convenience store operations and ADD Energy E3 for wholesale and retail fuel business. Bumgarner will also implement Raven tablets as its mobile delivery solution. In addition, Bumgarner Oil will use Atlas Reporting, ADD Systems’ solution for business intelligence and reporting. Atlas provides operational insights and analytics for the stores with real-time POS reporting. ADD says it recently developed complimentary products, fully integrated with the ADD Energy E3 back office. For example, the current Atlas Reporting makes actionable information out of all the data collected in E3, while the company’s SmartConnect portfolio of web services empowers third party developers to interface with the back office for things like web portals and tank monitoring.