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Target your main problem areas to pinpoint where tech solutions can improve your operations

Technology is built to increase efficiency, but what does that really mean for your operation? How can you determine what solutions could help you and if it is worth the effort? To answer these questions, start with a self-assessment and focus on your pain points. Technology solutions are built to address operational challenges, so armed with your list, you can begin to identify the solutions that are worth looking into. 

Uncover the Existing Pain Points 

Looking at technology solutions can be overwhelming, and adding technology for technology’s sake is often not the answer. When you identify your list of challenges, you can use technology to eliminate pain points. Technology should be used like a surgeon’s scalpel, rather than a carpenter’s hammer. Break your assessment into your smaller functional areas, like back office, delivery, service and management. Take a hard look at each area and be sure to seek the input of people from those departments. Different perspectives are key to ensuring there is a complete understanding of what is working well and what is not. 


Delivery is the backbone of any propane business and making efficient deliveries, as well as efficient use of employee time, leads right to the bottom line. Meeting customer expectations is also key. You need to earn their business every day with every delivery. 


Ask your team what challenges they have in order to help you determine the pain points that need to be addressed, from daily to annual tasks. Technology solutions were built to address some of the most common delivery pain points, and you could be surprised at the level of functionality available today. 

  1. Efficient Deliveries — Are you making close-to-ideal drops, too many partial fills, too many zero gallon stops or getting too many runouts? At its most basic, modern delivery software was created with the ultimate goal of maximizing gallons per stop. It offers numerous forecasting methods, as well as tank monitor integration, to help ensure maximum drops. 
  2. Efficient Routing — Are you making the maximum stops per day and are you fitting in phone orders and loads efficiently, even when they come in at the last minute? Your trucks are expensive to run, so efficient routes are paramount to maximizing margins. Dispatching software can optimize routes, taking the truck weight and hazmat road restrictions into consideration. As phone orders come in during the day, routes can be reoptimized and sent wirelessly to the truck. Loading and reloading can be included, as well, driving down your cost dollars per delivery and increasing your margins. 
  3. Communication — Do you know where your drivers are? Are they making all their stops? Do you have easy communication for last-minute changes? Is up-to-date delivery status shared easily with customer service representatives (CSRs) and customers? In-cab mobile technology with a wireless connection to the back office means fast and easy communication. A real-time picture of all the trucks on a map means one dispatcher can comfortably handle more trucks. Radio and phone time are minimized due to automatic wireless communication. The up-to-date information can also be shared with customers via CSRs, through a web portal or with automatic communication via text or email. In addition, potential efficiency-challenging events, like a locked gate at a customer site, can be remedied quickly through an automatic text or email to the customer before the truck leaves the area. 
  4. Delivery Mistakes — Are you making expensive delivery mistakes, like delivering to the wrong tank? GPS on a truck’s wireless device can help ensure the driver is at the right location, and asset verification solutions ensure you consistently deliver to the correct tank at that customer’s location. 
  5. Invoicing — Does a driver manually extend a ticket and leave it with the customer? Does this lead to errors that you must honor? Are you losing tickets? Does your back office manually enter the deliveries, leading to a delay in invoicing? Could the time from delivery to payment be shortened? Can you email the invoice? Not only does a mobile device with the driver add accuracy to the extended ticket, but the time to payment is decreased because the invoice can be left with the customer and/or emailed on the same day. There is no re-keying of tickets in the home office; the deliveries are uploaded to the system wirelessly from the mobile device, which will speed up billing. The wireless connection also means no more lost tickets. 

These are just a few questions to ask yourself and your delivery department. Question every step of your delivery process thoroughly to get a full picture, then consider what technology can help to improve. Modern solutions can address all of the aforementioned challenges, and the functionality and efficiency they bring are growing every day with overarching goals like automation, simplicity and accuracy. 


Propane service/HVAC has become increasingly important with a shift from being seen as a loss leader to a profitable operation. Embracing service means providing customers with excellent service but also making it a profitable business. Technology can help make this a reality. 

Just like your delivery operation, the first step in deciding what technology could help is to understand your pain points. Ask your service team what stops them from performing at their peak. 

  1. Easy Scheduling — Is it easy to schedule calls in advance and to make changes to that schedule? Modern software makes scheduling so simple that a new employee can do it. Visual calendars with drag-and-drop capabilities and suggestions for technicians based on skills, location and availability mean that the latest software does all the hard work to streamline the process and presents the best option to the scheduler. 
  2. Efficient Dispatching — Is dispatching streamlined and communication between your dispatcher and techs quick and easy? Do you know where your techs are? Are they servicing the maximum number of customers in a day? Are they using the most efficient routes? Are they doing too much overtime? Today’s service dispatching software with wireless devices in the techs’ hands gives a dispatcher a complete, real-time view of all the techs in the field on one map. Easy electronic communication means that radio communication is all but eliminated, enabling a single dispatcher to handle 35-plus techs. Built-in warnings help avoid call overlaps and overtime, saving money and helping to keep customers happy. 
  3. Effective Customer Communication — Are CSRs adequately informed and able to share up-to-date information with customers quickly? Are customers well-informed both before the call and afterward? Real-time communication with techs in the field means up-to-date information on customers’ accounts and accurate, fast answers from CSRs. Even better, automatic communication with customers both before and after the service call via texts and email keeps them well-informed about their calls from scheduling to completion, leading to reduced calls to the office and happier customers. 
  4. Prepared Techs — Do techs have what they need when they are on-site? Do they have quick access to client history? Easy access to customer history means the tech can proactively stock the van appropriately for the call. Once on-site, the tech’s device has a complete record of the customer’s location, including all the equipment, history and even pictures to help with troubleshooting on-site. 
  5. Easy, Fast Billing — Can your billing team easily and quickly invoice the service calls? Is paperwork missing? Are details incorrect? Are parts missing? Is handwriting difficult to read? Mobile devices in the techs’ hands mean work orders are more accurate and completed work orders flow automatically to the back office. Options like flat rate or time and materials billing are available. Payment can be collected in the field, or an invoice can be sent out from the home office. Either way, the process is fast with no more re-keying of difficult-to-read handwriting in the back office, and no lost paperwork. 

Modern service and HVAC technology can address all of these challenges and more, even including parts inventory management. The tools focus on efficiency by improving communication, addressing accuracy, automating as much as possible and keeping relevant information at the techs’ fingertips. 

Management Reporting 

In addition to delivery and service operational efficiency gains, modern technology offers powerful reporting tools for management and ownership. Business moves fast, so data-driven quick decisions are necessary to stay healthy. Excellent reporting is a must. 

As with delivery and service, the first step in deciding if modern reporting can help you is to understand your pain points. In reporting, that often means thinking about available reports, flexibility, accuracy and speed. 

  1. Available Reports — Are all the key performance indicators (KPIs) you want to track available in your software? Is your team spending hours manually pulling together spreadsheets to create the management reports you need? Today’s business intelligence (BI) reporting is adept at pulling data together to create actionable information you can use to improve right now. With both standard and customized reports, you can get the information your company requires in the format you prefer via a report or dashboard. Your reports can give you both top-level summary KPIs and the ability to drill down to the details. 
  2. Information When You Need It — Can you get an up-to-date snapshot of your business throughout the day, or do you have to wait for regular intervals for some reports? Modern tools give you updated information throughout the day as you need it. Current dashboards with your KPIs can be updated at your chosen frequency throughout the day. Reports can be run with any date range as well as other criteria that let you home in on exactly what you need to see. And there is no concern about report-running slowing down your operational software. BI reporting has a separate data warehouse with no impact on your operational database. 
  3. Exception Reporting — Are you paging through long reports to find the transactions that need your attention? Do you get notified when something is outside of normal activity? With efficiency in mind, modern report architecture facilitates exception reporting, only pulling information that is out of normal range and needs attention. Automatic email notifications can even be sent to alert management to these exceptions. This means you can investigate an event right when it occurs and avoid it turning into a bigger, time-consuming issue. 
  4. Automated Reports — Do you find yourself running the same reports day after day to get what you need to run your business? With the same efficiency goal, reporting can be automated to send reports on a preset schedule to specific people. No more need for a long reporting prep period for planning meetings. If you have a regular monthly planning meeting, reports can automatically arrive in the attendees’ inboxes the morning of the meeting. 
  5. Separate Data Silos — Are you limited in your reporting capabilities because your data is in separate systems, or are you forced to combine the data manually? Whether your data is in one system or multiple systems, BI reporting can combine it into one warehouse for easy reporting. For example, combine your back-office data with your phone system data to report on customers with excessive support calls to consider the ways to improve. 

Management Reporting Opportunities 

Modern propane management software can address all of these challenges. Operational software comes with built-in reporting designed with flexibility in mind. It can offer everything from reporting on delivery efficiency to margin analysis to gains and losses. 

In addition, BI reporting can also be added to introduce even more flexibility, customization and automation. Modern reporting can give you the tools you need to make informed decisions today and the flexibility you need to address your needs tomorrow. 

Use Technology to Address Pain Points 

Technology moves fast. It’s easy to fall behind and lose track of what is available to improve your operation. Taking a quick survey of your pain points can help uncover areas that need attention and can benefit the most from a technology upgrade. The next step is to consider the solutions available right now to address those challenges and turn them into opportunities for greater success in the future.

John Coyle is the vice president of sales for ADD Systems, a leading supplier of back-office and mobile software solutions for the propane industry. With over 25 years of sales, marketing, manufacturing and product development experience, Coyle has a passion for process efficiency management and customer satisfaction. Today, Coyle is able to align his passions through supporting ADD customers across North America, helping them become more profitable while enhancing their customer experience. Contact


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