By Sid Gaitonde
Most people understand that logistics enables the delivery of goods that we all want and rely on to our homes and offices. In the last 18 months, across every industry, logistics has become a Boardroom topic and a top priority across the C-suite. Organizations now understand how critical a comprehensive logistics strategy is for running a successful operation.
In the fuel logistics industry, we focus on what it takes to get gas to the pump. Most consumers pull up to the pump and expect the gas to “just be there” to fill up their cars. What they take for granted is that it takes a well run fuel supply and logistics operation to ensure that gas gets to the pump, in the correct amount and just in time. In the past year, we have witnessed the impact that a lack of digitization can have on this industry when operations are run manually by pen and paper or spreadsheets.
One of the biggest issues in our nation’s fuel supply chain is that a lot of gas stations and fuel distributors are using manual methods to manage their fuel supply chain. In the recent past this was done through reliance on domain knowledge mostly in the heads of dispatchers and drivers who worked in one location and ran the operation manually for years. However, when COVID hit, these businesses were completely exposed, leading to run-outs across multiple gas stations in the country.
This is when many of those operators realized that they need digital tools that allow them to centralize all different supply points and be able to sync dispatch teams wherever they are located. Digitization helps make dispatch teams more efficient by centralizing data, giving visibility to all the fuel supply across different locations and improving speed of order to cash. Technology can replace manual processes by eliminating multiple steps to increase speed and efficiency.
In addition, more than ever, fuel operators need to be able to rely on technology tools to provide insight into price fluctuations, dispatching issues, fuel inventory and invoicing. Small mistakes across these functions can have a terrible impact on revenue, customer retention/satisfaction and the future of operations. Tools like AI and Machine Learning make it easier to have a repeatable process that works with every customer—allowing for process efficiency and real-time continuous connectivity for all of these various parts of the chain.
Operators are challenged with lack of time and resources and automation and technology tools can deliver the immediate on-demand insights they need in the fast-paced world of logistics. AI and ML also allow organizations to hire and train new employees including dispatchers a lot faster, as the technology allows new hires to ramp quickly and learn the business.
In the last year, we realized how important the logistic industry is to our economy and our lives. We have to transform, adjust and adapt to our new world and make the necessary changes in the fuel logistics space that will keep our industry stable and attractive. So let’s make sure to keep things moving with digitization.
Sid Gaitonde is a SVP and the general manager for the Logistics Solutions business line at PDI. PDI is a leader in enterprise management software for the convenience retail and petroleum wholesale markets, and delivers solutions to connect to intelligent business.