The answer to the question ‘how efficient is your on-site fuelling business’ goes a lot deeper than ‘We’re completing orders and turning a profit.’ On-site fuelling is a rather complex business to run – we should know being in the fleet fuelling business ourselves a couple of years ago. It relies on people, processes, consistency, and most importantly logistics and dispatch – all of which are prone to mistakes.
You’ve probably walked by tech trade shows countless times, admitted the inefficiency of pushing paper around, not getting the most out of your tank and driver capacity, but always reasoned it with ‘completing orders and turning a profit.’
But, the industry is changing. So is the way fuel distributors think and run their business. And it’s all happening at breakneck speed. So, to truly know if you’re leading your business in the right direction – here are 5 questions you should ask yourself.
Can your existing systems keep up with the growth spurt?
If you’re entering into new markets – think disaster/emergency response or adding more product lines to your business – paper and spreadsheets won’t cut it and neither will legacy systems built on antiquated tech. While it may feel like it’s working, in the longer run as you grow (hire more folks, onboard more customers, have more deliveries to complete )- you will find operations slowing and breaking in the absence of scalable solutions.
Operations is the backbone of your on-site fuelling business. No matter your growth approach – if you don’t have a system that’s built for the future and can be scaled – you’re putting your business at a risk.
Here are some things you should look for in a dispatch software:
- Customization – Can the solution be tailored to meet your business needs?
- Integration with other systems – So operations are connected to all legs of business
- Support – Getting your team to move to a new system can never be easy. You need a partner that offers support – whenever wherever you need it
- Will the software be your ally for the next 10 years at the least?
Is your business ready to adapt, pivot and thrive in the face of rapid industry changes?
One of the significant trends we see is the wave of mergers and acquisitions leading to market consolidation. Larger companies are acquiring the smaller ones to expand their market segments and broaden the range of products/services. It’s a smart move, because both companies benefit with a deeper competitive advantage. But here’s the kicker – if your systems are disparate and disconnected, mergers and acquisitions can never be successful.
We’ve seen that first-hand with one of our customers – 3L Energy Solutions which was formed when 3 fuel distributors walked into a merger. They were hit hard by the challenges of disconnected operations. They couldn’t wrangle a 50-60 truck operation when operations weren’t integrated. That’s when they implemented a modern dispatch solution to unify operations. And just like that the chaos turned into streamlined operations resulting in multi-fold growth.
Are your business decisions driven by data?
Running your business without accurate and actionable operations data is like sailing without a compass. You risk inefficiencies, missed deliveries, customer dissatisfaction and ultimately your competitiveness. Every drop of fuel dispensed and every minute drivers spend on the field counts. And one critical aspect that sets leaders apart from the rest is their ability to track operations metrics and leverage those to make data-driven decisions.
Here’s a rundown of the key metrics you absolutely shouldn’t miss:
- GPM – This tracks your delivery efficiency. How fast are tanks being fuelled at customer locations? How much time does a driver spend on each location, each asset, each customer? What is the efficiency per truck, per order, per location, per driver? Trucks are costlier than ever. Driver shortage continues to be the #1 challenge standing in this industry. So tracking per unit, per day, per shift gallons data is more meaningful than ever.
- Fuel efficiency – Track fuel consumption, transportation costs and delivery timeframes to ensure that driver routes are optimized based on fuel type, quantity, delivery location.
- Inventory levels – Measure exactly what goes in and out of the truck in real-time. This is crucial data point to track if the right amount of the right product is delivered to the right customer. It helps identify any inaccuracies in numbers at the end of a shift. This is also helpful in ensuring there are no stock-outs or overstocks and helps minimize inventory carrying costs.
- Asset utilization – Reports on asset utilization help maximize truck and driver capacity.
“Just knowing how many miles, how many deliveries, and how many gallons can a truck and driver make in a day is powerful. Analyzing these helps us identify who might need help or training, or if the team needs some tools for higher efficiency. “ Quotes Carl Kleimann, Co-owner at Moffitt Services.
Are dispatchers and drivers equipped to deliver efficiently?
About 6000 carriers still use paper and spreadsheets to plan multiple stops in a single run, create load orders for delivery orders and every other aspect of dispatching. Shocker? Not so much.
But here’s the deal with these manual and outdated solutions – overscheduling drivers becomes as easy as missing an important delivery. Drivers may be quitting, or calling in sick, there might be equipment breakdowns – which becomes a costly mess of missed deliveries and dissatisfied customers. It’s way too many things happening at the same time to manage it on paper or decade-old softwares.
The solution? Digitizing the dispatch process – shift planning, routing, tracking and other workflows using tech has become a key to survival in today’s marketplace.
Because your drivers are delivering to multiple locations, fuelling multiple assets you need to centralize dispatch in a way that gives you more control over dispatching.
Your drivers have all the information they need to successfully deliver the order. Dispatchers get a complete view of the operations in real-time. All workflows are automated. This ensures that operations are streamlined and manual errors and delays are minimized.
Is the cost of operations on the rise?
High operation costs eat up business profits. And there are several reasons why these costs are sky-high!
- Manual processes – Manual dispatch is prone to errors. Instances of missed, late, incorrect and failed deliveries increase your operating costs.
- Inefficient routing lead to drivers taking longer routes or changing their routes in between stops which again increases last-mile costs
- Overscheduling drivers result in overtime costs
- Legacy systems are a never ending money pit – expensive upgrades, high maintenance costs take a big bite of your budget
- The lack of visibility into operations can result in missed insights on optimization
But as Alex says – ‘There’s immense savings in utilizing technology to drive efficiencies’.
Dispatch softwares transforms the way you manage shift planning – drivers are able to complete all their daily schedules, you can route call-in orders efficiently, driver and truck capacity is maximized and fuel costs go down.
With real-time visibility into operations – you can better handle customer queries, on-demand orders, track delayed/missed orders and always have a pulse on your operations – giving you better control over costs.
How fast are you getting paid by customers?
Sending an invoice to customers requires accurate readings from the field (how many gallons of what products were delivered). Getting that data from the field to the accounting system is where the delay happens most often. That’s mostly because someone from the billing team has to manually key in that data, reconcile shifts and generate invoices.
When you rely on such manual processes – you’re basically risking creating duplicate data, entering inaccurate data and even end up sending those wrong invoices to customers?
You can guess what happens next – customers lose trust, payments get delayed, cash flow is slow and you have less operating capital to work with. Let alone all the manual effort your team puts in.
How do you tackle that? A dispatch system that integrates with your accounting system. A seamless integration ensures that all dispatch data is automatically synced to your accounting system in real-time. You can send out delivery tickets to customers in real-time and process invoices quickly and get paid quicker.
We know that’s a lot of things to wrap your head around. But the good news is that these 5 questions are the ones that can completely transform your on-site fuelling business. To succeed in this space, you need to be all about efficiency and this piece helps you figure out how well-oiled your operations machine is.