World Propane Contest For Best New Safety Technology

(November 26, 2019) — By Bill Stomp… Propane is an amazingly versatile fuel, but as a combustible fuel, it requires strict safety requirements. Unfortunately, a simple Google search will reveal many very recent incidents where the unsafe use of propane has taken lives and decimated houses, businesses, families, and dreams.
Bill Stomp created a Contest to enter for propane safety technology as reported by BPN propane industry trusted news source since 1939
As a dad of three daughters and one son, I know that all of our hearts ache when we hear the very real recording of a little girl calling 911 and, through tears, pleading, “Please help, my daddy is on fire!” It is an unspeakable tragedy, especially if industry safety precautions have failed her.

In addition to the personal, human aspect of safety issues, there is also the very real, negative impact they can have on our businesses and the families who make their living from working in our industry.
Bill Stomp created contest to grow propane safety technology reports BPN LPG industry trusted news source since 1939
So, how do we eliminate these problems?

With the support of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), the World LPG Association (WLPGA) held a global contest to find new solutions that may enhance safety. The goal of the World LPG Challenge ’19 was to leverage new technology in a revolutionary way that would reduce safety risks, improve compliance, enhance safety training, and serve our industry for now and years to come.

Forty different technologies entered the contest from the United States, Europe, Asia, and many other parts of the world. Each had to demonstrate its technology on video and provide in-depth explanations, examples, and testimonials in both written and video formats.

An American technology called the Propane Safety App (aka TankSpotter) was selected as one of three finalists. It provides several critical tools such as intelligent customizable inspections, forms, and documents—essentially auto-checking, auto-reporting, auto-filing, and auto-storing all critical field documents into a database for easy filtering, searching, and downloading. In our busy world, this app eliminates hours of paperwork, spot checking, clerical labor, back-and-forth communication, human errors, lost paperwork, etc. 
Bill Stomp created a lpg contest to enter propane safety technology ideas reports BPN the industry's trusted news source since 1939. nov 2019
Next, it stores, uploads, sends, and tracks all safety-related and general training needed in the propane industry right to employees’ smartphones. This enables them to complete and document their training anywhere and at any time, thereby decreasing training costs and increasing the accessibility of the best industry training to the busiest and most distant employees. As tracking and ensuring timely completion of assigned training can be a tedious task, it is programmed with an auto-reminder (affectionately called auto-nag), so management can use technology to help ensure everyone completes training on time with little or no extra effort needed on their part to do tedious follow-up.

Since drivers in the propane industry see more tanks in a day than a non-industry person sees in a month, the Propane Safety App is equipped to work on an easy-to-carry smartphone (Apple or Android). Drivers can have it in their pocket with hands free to pull the hose, and in 35 seconds or less, document every safety or maintenance issue they discover. Documentation includes a photo, video, geo-capture, signature, and date/time capture, and instantly sends the same to a database while notifying management by text and email and while flagging it in the dashboard and database if an issue is deemed urgent. Now every tank, regulator, and installation can be verified, inspected, and documented to ensure 100% safety at every installation.

Because propane industry technicians, drivers, sales reps, and management all wear many hats, this American-made app is similarly multifaceted. It incorporates all the tools a service tech, sales rep, delivery driver, safety rep, or manager could ever need. Its comprehensive collection of features includes service work orders, sales rep estimates, invoices, delivery driver forms, every inspection form in the industry, and, finally, an automatic scheduler—allowing management or sales reps to schedule customer installations and notify team members with a couple of clicks, thereby eliminating endless phone calls back and forth to the office and to other employees.
Bill Stomp creates propane safety technology contest reports BPN lpg industry most trusted news source since 1939. nov 2019 BPn magazine
Imagine if, right now, you could download from the Apple or Android app store an affordable, easy-to-use, single app that managed your safety program; provided all your service, safety, sales, and maintenance forms; and covered all the paperwork your field employees use. Via the new technology that was selected as a finalist in the World LPG Challenge ’19 sponsored by WLPGA and PERC, we may be able to take safety and marry it to smartphone/tablet app technology that reduces costs, time spent, and effort, while it improves compliance, and makes propane the safest fuel in America.   

So if you and your team have an Apple or Android smartphone or tablet, you may want to try out the Propane Safety App (aka TankSpotter) available at TankSpotter.com and via the app stores. Improved safety and profitability for 2019 and beyond may only be one click away.

Bill Stomp is a war veteran; has helped over 200 propane companies improve sales, safety, and profits; and is an international presenter on these topics. He is a partner at TankSpotter.com and DigitalSoftwareServices.co.

Message from NPGA President & CEO Stephen Kaminski

(November 26, 2019) — Earlier today, representatives from the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) and Iowa Propane Gas Association (IPGA), along with other propane industry stakeholders, participated in a meeting with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Washington, D.C. Below is a joint statement from all parties, which was agreed to under the terms of FERC’s regulations of confidentiality.
NPGA circle logo
JOINT STATEMENT
On November 25, 2019, Commission staff convened a meeting under the Alternative Dispute Resolution procedures with Enterprise TE Products Pipeline Company LLC (Enterprise), ONEOK North System, LLC (ONEOK), the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA), the Iowa Propane Gas Association, Association of Oil Pipe Lines, and interested shippers to explore actions FERC and industry can take to alleviate potential propane pipeline constraints in the Midwest.
 
Operational updates were provided by the NPGA, Enterprise, ONEOK and other participants. As a result of the discussion, in order to bring additional propane supplies into the Midwest, Enterprise TE Products will file to extend its emergency propane service, currently provided under Docket No. IS20-66. ONEOK will file a tariff revision waiving a restriction for a limited time in its allocation policy to allow qualified shippers to transfer their current allocated capacity, which could facilitate additional capacity for propane shipments.
 
The parties will reconvene on December 16, 2019.

Call For Comments On PERC Funding Requests Due Dec. 2nd

(November 25, 2019) — By rule, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) must solicit comments before approving any proposed project costing $1.5 million or more.

Call for comment on Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) propane project funding proposals more than $1.5 million require LPG industry comment period reports BPN propane industry trusted source for news since 1939Members of the propane industry and the public are invited to comment on the following funding requests:

Docket 22098: Residential Construction Professional Integrated Outreach Program, $2,140,000
Docket 22112: 2020 Corporate Communications, $2,050,000
Docket 22113: 2020 Residential Consumer Integrated Outreach Program, $4,250,000

Comments may be submitted online by clicking here.

You may also send comments by mail to:PERC, Public Comment on Funding Request
1140 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 1075
Washington, DC 20036

Comments may be faxed to 202-452-9054; or emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
To receive consideration, comments on funding requests must be received by December 2, 2019, 5 p.m. EST.

Rural Computer Consultants: 40 Years Of Growth and Change

(November 22, 2019) — Rural Computer Consultants Inc. of Bird Island, Minn., is celebrating 40 years in business this year. A look back makes it clear that nearly every aspect of the business has changed dramatically since its early days at the end of the 1970s. What began as two brothers, Brian and Kevin Sheehan, in a small office inside the family retail propane business is now 60-employees strong and led by Brian Sheehan, his sister Susie Peterson, four of their grown children, and 54 more employees.
BPN's special Then and Now segment profiles Rural Computer Consultants providing propane indusrtry software 40 years LPG software Nov. 2019
The home office, originally in Bird Island, a small town of approximately 1000 people, was moved briefly to Redwood Falls and then Willmar before returning to Bird Island near the end of its first decade of business in 1987. Currently, staff in Bird Island now totals 46, with 14 more employees based in Alabama, Montana, Mississippi, Virginia, and Maine.

Current owners Brian Sheehan and Susie Peterson spoke with BPN about the genesis and evolution of Rural Computer Consultants, or RCC, as it is known to many in the propane industry. Touted as “For Fuel People, By Fuel People,” RCC’s roots go back to the small, family-owned retail propane business, Sheehan’s Gas, which was founded in Bird Island in 1952 by their father, Fabe Sheehan. The need for a quality software program to support the family propane business initially presented an entrepreneurial opportunity for his young sons Brian and Kevin. “One of our older brothers, Mike, was leading the family propane business at the time and sought an automated system to help run the business efficiently,” Brian Sheehan explained. “Our business and programming skills were put to the test. A software program specific to a retail propane company was developed and we felt we could be successful marketing the program to other fuel companies.”

“Kevin’s passion for programming was found in college while he was seeking to find his niche,” Peterson said. “He got a lot of programming training in college and had further honed his skills working at Control Data.” With professional guidance from the Southwest Minnesota Small Business Development Center, Brian and Kevin had the confidence to market their software nationwide. Within a short time, “a lot of people wanted to see the new program that was working for Mike,” Sheehan said.

“We went to the propane convention in Atlanta and stressed that our roots in propane guided our development process to be successful for our company as well as others. Our program was designed to run on a lot of machines and did well.” In the early years, the program ran on Cado machines. Later, the system also ran on Altos computers, which were sometimes sold with the programs. IBM and Surface computers were also sold with the programs. From the beginning, the plan was to design and maintain a technically advanced, low-cost system that could be used nationally. “We wanted to be a company not too small to handle corporate organizations or too big to handle independent offices,” Sheehan said. “At that time, being in an open, transportable Unix operating system where we could choose our computer program made us very price competitive. This made the program and computer systems available to even the smallest companies.”
BPN's special Then and Now segment profiles Rural Computer Consultants celebrating 40 years as the Propane industry Software provider reports BPN Nov 2019
“The first trade show we attended was in Atlanta in 1984,” Peterson said. “The guys learned quickly about needs of other fuel companies in other parts of the country that did not run exactly as the Sheehan retail company did.” Some quick adjustments were made to the software.

“Nonetheless, the guys had a lot of real world propane experience that paid off,” she added. “As an example, there was a time when we were going to assign tanks to be moved in the yard by serial number. The guys quickly knew some flexibility in the computer program would be a lot better in cases where the tank needed to satisfy the serial number match was in a stack under six other heavy tanks. It was better to make a serial number change in the system.”
Then and Now Rural Computer Consultants celebrates 40 yeras as the propane industry's leading software provider reports BPN the LPG industry's leading source for news since 1939. Nov 2019
In 1987, the company expanded its product offering when it acquired Bird Island Computer Services, a mutual insurance software marketing company. “We rewrote the software package and started marketing it to the insurance industry nationwide.” In addition, their sister Susie Peterson adapted the software for use in her retail clothing stores in Bird Island and Renville. Eleven years later, in 1998, Peterson joined brothers Brian and Kevin as an owner of RCC, bringing her unique knowledge of accounting and retail to the company.

“For many years, I was a sounding board for my two brothers,” Peterson explained. The three of them were the youngest of their parents’ eight children, so they were especially close. “As adults, we could talk through life and business challenges. Before I was an owner in RCC, we had an agreement that if my brothers couldn’t come to a decision together on something, they would walk across the street to my store and I would listen to both sides and break a tie. They would go with my decision.” This happened only a very few times, according to the siblings.

Just a few years ago, Kevin Sheehan retired and sold his share of the business to his brother and sister. A fourth partner, Brian Fagerstrom, who was also an owner for several years, has since sold his share. Before the departure of Kevin Sheehan and Fagerstrom, they, along with Brian Sheehan and Peterson, were named Minnesota Small Business Persons of the Year in 2011 by the U.S. Small Business Administration. This prestigious award is given to a company that demonstrates growth in the number of employees or increased sales, markets innovative products, or makes a contribution to community-oriented projects.

Not long ago, the company sold the insurance software division but has continued to grow in the areas of propane, natural gas, and fueloil. With more than 1800 software installations at 1500-plus companies, many with multiple locations, the company has grown significantly through sales of the software and acquisition of other software companies including PSI, Data Control, and Fuel Pak. “We now have invested significantly to have the latest technology available to our customers,” Peterson pointed out. “Certainly, a lot has changed since 1979. Email, high-speed internet, smartphones, and tablets have come about; cloud hosting is a new technology; and many more changes have occurred. It is important for a company wanting its customers to have the latest, most efficient business software to always keep up.”
BPN's Then and Now segment profiles Rural Computer Consultants the propane industry leading software provider celebrates 40 years reports BPN Nov 2019
“The needs of the Sheehan retail propane business were one factor that led to new programming strategies,” Peterson said. “As time went on, it was really the needs of all of our users driving future upgrades. We often sent out an email seeking input. Furthermore, we hold a user group training seminar for three to four days every year. After several days of formal training and mingling, we have a lot of valuable feedback regarding future development.”

Peterson and Sheehan credit a great staff for most of RCC’s growth and success. “We have such a top-notch staff in our information technology department. It is amazing and keeps us on the forefront of current technology to many more areas,” Peterson said. “Our programming department works to keep our legacy programs running for customers who have not moved to our new version and works tirelessly on the rewrite to our new v10 product.”

According to Peterson, the administrative and sales departments work together well to handle existing and new accounts to RCC. “The MOGO [Mobile Office on the Go] and fuel support departments put in very long hours assisting customers, training customers and supporting them,” she added. “If a customer has something difficult going on, that could mean our staff helps them at some unusual times of the day and night. Our father grew his business with a focus on service and support and it is truly how we have grown ours.”
Then and Now Rural Computer consultants 40th anniversary as propane industry software provider reports BPN
Growth for a successful software company in a small town does have its challenges. “Fortunately, little Bird Island has three fiber internet sources,” Sheehan said. “That is unprecedented for such a small town, but it has been wonderful for us. The technology has allowed us to keep our business here.” In 2010, with a downward trend in the economy, the timing was good for RCC to expand and renovate the St. Mary’s Convent that the company had moved into. “Interest rates were lower and construction costs were down. We put some people to work. Fifty years after the foundation was laid for the convent, we were renovating and expanding to accommodate our rapid growth.”

Recently Sheehan accepted a large role as second vice president of the International Lions Club. “This has him traveling much more all over the world. We are so excited for Brian,” said Peterson. “It is a seven-year commitment. He will go through all of the offices including president.” Sheehan, who has already been to South Africa, Bosnia, China, and Zambia in this role, said he looks forward to the heavier travel and Lions Club activities. He feels confident in his sister as well as the next generation and many other employees who handle the day-to-day work of leading RCC.

While the technology and growth have changed RCC dramatically, the basic goals of the company have largely remained the same: to create, maintain, and enhance software that is quality, affordable, complete, and, wherever feasible, self-supporting. Sheehan said, “We will continue to provide the highest quality support for all customers.” — Pat Thornton

Kansas City Royals Purchased by Industry Entrepreneur John Sherman and Partners

KANSAS CITY, MO (November 21, 2019) — Commissioner Rob Manfred today announced that the owners of the Major League Clubs have unanimously approved the ownership group of the Kansas City Royals, led by John Sherman, a Kansas City, Missouri-based entrepreneur. The vote was conducted at the Owners Meetings being held in Arlington, TX. The final approval is contingent upon the closing of the sale transaction with the David Glass family, which is expected early next week.
Sherman John propane entrepreneur and kansas citian purchases Kansas city Royals reports BPN LPG industry trusted source for news since 1939
Sherman and the co-investors will mark the third owner of the Royals since their inception in 1969 when Ewing Kauffman brought Major League Baseball back to Kansas City after a one-year absence. Closing of the transaction is subject to satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including MLB approval.

John Sherman propane industry entrepreneur and partners purchase Kansas City Royals baseball club reports BPN the propane industry's most trusted source for news since 1939“First, I’d like to express my gratitude to David Glass and his family for all that he has done for Kansas City, for Major League Baseball – and for giving us an opportunity to do this in our hometown,” Sherman said. “Second, my thanks to Paul Dolan for being a great partner in Cleveland; I look forward to continuing to be his partner in Major League Baseball. Finally, I want to thank the Commissioner’s Office and my fellow MLB owners for their confidence and trust.”

Mr. Sherman is an entrepreneur who has started and developed two successful businesses based in Kansas City, Missouri. His first startup, LPG Services Group, grew rapidly and merged with Dynegy in 1996. Mr. Sherman later founded Inergy L.P., which became a public company in 2001. He led Inergy through a period of tremendous growth, merging it with Crestwood Holdings in 2013. Mr. Sherman continues to serve on the board of the merged company - Crestwood Equity Partners (NYSE:CEQP).

Mr. Sherman has served and supported the Kansas City community extensively in both a civic capacity and through his philanthropic efforts. He has been recognized with numerous honors for his entrepreneurial successes including as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. In addition, in 2014, he was inducted into the inaugural class of the The Entrepreneur Hall of Fame at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Henry Bloch School of Management with a group that included Ewing Kauffman, the original owner of the Kansas City Royals and Lamar Hunt, a founder of the American Football League (AFL) and late owner of the Kansas City Chiefs.

A formal press conference will be held Tuesday, November 26, 2019, at Noon in the Hall of Fame building at Kauffman Stadium.