Is increased efficiency within your grasp, but a stubborn tenacity to existing methods and systems keeping you from grabbing hold and making needed changes? If so, you are in good company. It’s been said that the greatest human fear is that of change, followed in a close second by fear of failure. (Rejection is number three in case you’re wondering!) It’s no wonder most of us keep doing things the hard way!

If you are tired of your company doing things the hard way, and willing to risk a little change, consider these ideas for your business.

Internet-based tank monitoring – For years Meridian has been showing marketers how inefficient their delivery systems often are through random sampling of drops in comparison to tank sizes. Well, an innovative marketer decided that existing tank monitoring systems were pricey and often just as bad as having to stick tanks. With diligence and trial and error, he developed an interesting alternative. Top vendors now include great case studies from actual marketers. They will conduct random sampling of your deliveries and show you just how much money you may be kissing goodbye every month from not using tank monitors. It’s refreshing to see vendors cost-justifying their product.

Automatic Daily Fuel Prices Without Data Entry – Thanks to the wizardry of computers, and some pretty smart software guys, DTN pricing can download directly into your accounting system, no matter what GL system you are using. The major benefits to automatic price download are accuracy and timeliness. In times of price volatility, you will never be “behind the curve” because the new prices haven’t been manually entered in your system yet. To get your download set-up, ask your GL vendor for assistance, but rest assured that if they say they can’t help you, the folks at DTN will, either with their own staff or by referral to an outside recommended software specialist. The “patch” is quite simple and cost-effective.

By the way, if you think this service wouldn’t be functional for your company because of negotiated discounts or special pricing situations, you’d be dead wrong. The more “weird” pricing you utilize, the more you need automation! The pricing patch works beautifully with “special pricing” situations including one-time buys, time constrained discounts, etc. No matter what pricing twist you have concocted, the download patch will still work accurately. Just be sure to explicitly explain all of your pricing quirks to your vendor or programmer. They can’t prepare your system for what they don’t know about!

Paperless Customer Service – Whether you sell fuel, lubes, or propane, having your order takers jotting handwritten orders is highly inefficient and typically error-laden. The better solution is computer-assisted order taking. The customer service rep has access to your computer system at their desk and simply brings up the customer’s screen as soon as she knows they want to order. The order history appears on her screen. She can simply duplicate the last order, modify the last order, or create a new order. In the case of lube customers, prompts of previous products can increase sales and help with delivery efficiency. Can you imagine your CSR during her next customer order saying, “Mr. Customer, I see you ordered a case of ________ and two drums of ________ on your last order? Do you need those today too?” Screen prompted order-taking is a terrific service for your customers and a moneymaker for you.

Paperless Order to Dispatch – Once you have paperless ordering mastered, the next step is for that order to go directly via your computer network to dispatch. In the most elementary system, the order simply goes to to a printer located in the dispatcher’s work area. In a more sophisticated system, the order may not be printed until PC-based dispatch is complete with driver and truck.

Best Buy/Best Rack Automated Decisions – If your company’s delivery geography is such that you consistently have multiple rack and vendor choices, you can’t afford to be without a Best Buy module for your software. This module, coupled with automatic pricing downloads, makes foolproof profit-maximizing rack choices, simplifying your dispatcher’s day. Many popular petroleum GL systems offer exceptionally good Best Buy modules that allow you to integrate your exact cost of operations into the software’s calculations formula.

Based on a cost-per-mile, product and gallons needed, fuel price (including your special pricing if applicable) and distance; the system will automate rack choice. More sophisticated modules can track volumes by vendor for min/max purposes and have user-friendly manual overrides for outages or allocations. Again, check with your current software provider for their Best Buy capabilities. Most vendors have generic modules and can also customize them to your exact requirements without a large expenditure. How much time would your dispatcher gain if he or she did not have to struggle with rack choices?

If you need motivation to make these changes, just pencil into the margin your guess about how much money your company could save by implementing each idea. Then, pick up the phone. Ideas are good, but action is better. You will never know what you can save until you try.

PetroAnswers Still Doing Things The Hard Way?