Accounting and reporting can strain most managers. But when you have 5,000 clients, 6,000 delivery points, and up to 18,000 transactions a month, it becomes a formidable task. Throw in mobile, wide-spread, self-scheduling distributors, plus the date-based pricing of the fuel industry, and you're facing a potential administrative nightmare.
Such is the business of Waitomo Petroleum Limited, a Mobil fuel distributor employing 40 staff, whose fleet of 23 tankers delivers fuel and lubricants to rural service stations, commercial operations and agricultural operators in the Northland/Auckland and central North Island areas of New Zealand. The company also operates a customized "into-machine" mini-tanker service in the Auckland metropolitan area, plus a network of over fifteen fuel stops and three lubes depots dispatching two independent lubricant brands – Mobil & Sinopec.
In 2002, Waitomo replaced its Petsys system with the Octane Fuel Distribution (Octane) business solution, because the existing system could no longer meet Waitomo's needs, due to rapid growth. Octane is best described as a proven business management solution, designed specifically for fuel distributors and their associated businesses. Octane is an end-to-end fully integrated system, offered as an outsourced hosted solution that is delivered by an experienced trusted partner, and it is priced competitively via a simple transparent monthly fee.
Waitomo engaged Octane 12 years ago, so it was timely to revisit Waitomo and speak with Leanne Milligan who was first interviewed in 2002. Leanne is the Chief Financial Officer and had a hand in all the changes in the Waitomo business and so was best placed to comment on how Octane had performed during the intervening period. Leanne stated, "Octane is an integral part of Waitomo’s IT solution as it dovetails with Sage ERP/CRM. It also integrates our payroll and utilizes Qlikview, which provides all the business intelligence reporting."
A key reason for the initial change was the high level of Octane support. Leanne acknowledged that the Octane development team showed the willingness to embrace constant improvement coupled with tailored product development to meet new business challenges: "The people factor is a very important element of the solution, and Octane people care and respond quickly when problems occur." The fuel industry deals with a liquid product, which creates HSSE issues, plus intricate pricing coupled with complex stock and creditor reconciliation systems. These issues require a high level of focus and from Leanne's perspective, the Octane solution has delivered by showing the understanding, adaptability, and flexibility vital when dealing with complexity. A recent example of this support was the company's conversion to paperless Accounts Payable using Octane's new Payables Workflow system.
A unique element of Octane's offer was external data hosting, which has removed system downtime and provided greater data security and modern platforms. Hosting by Octane reduced Waitomo's capital commitment and freed up funds to be utilized elsewhere in the business and importantly carried little risk. Hosting provided Waitomo the ability to "snap on" new programs, e.g., Qlikview. For many organizations, having your own IT Department is not feasible, and the Octane team provides all the Waitomo needs.
Since the Octane implementation, Waitomo has maintained 2 full-time administrative staff who have coped with significant growth over recent years. Octane has reduced the need for additional staff, and the system can cope with more transactions without any effect on staff. Leanne watches others struggle with manual processes, whilst enjoying a trouble-free process herself. In the pre-Octane days, some jobs took 5 days to finish. Today, this now requires a quick visual scan and the push of a button. Octane improves office efficiency by providing rapid access to customer data, resulting in fewer paper reports while reducing storage requirements. Octane has laid a platform for growth for Waitomo, as staff can now focus on more productive work. By 10:00 am "the job is done." By this, Leanne means the job that she initially signed on for is complete. Now she applies her time to exciting projects or business development opportunities.
Leanne comments that all aspects of the business have benefited from Octane, not just the administrative function. The drivers utilize "portable data terminals," and they had to write up their work each night to balance stock and check their deliveries – no need for this since Octane was implemented. This Octane flexibility allows the sales manager to effectively manage the sales team. Consequently, the sales team effectiveness has improved, due to having CRM data on their phones coupled with integrated Octane information. All Waitomo staff benefit from this access to information and one view of the customer, which has improved communications across their supply chain.
Competitors cannot easily match the Waitomo service levels, because of the functionality delivered by their customer portal. The portal delivers a competitive advantage that's difficult to replicate, which can be the difference between winning and losing a customer. Customers who love the convenience utilize their portal in many ways, such as analyzing their own business by looking at their fuel purchases, checking their fleet fuel card transactions, or simply reprinting delivery dockets online – thus saving them and Waitomo further administrative effort and reducing bottlenecks. Waitomo is planning significant enhancements to deliver even more value to their clients.
The Waitomo Board of Directors and management team view Octane as a competitive strength, because of its ability to provide key reports rapidly and enhance service to Waitomo customers. Individual directors access the system remotely to examine the financials and other information, which makes preparing for Board meetings so much easier.
Leanne says, "Implementing Octane over competitor offerings was singularly the best business decision I have made in my 14 years with Waitomo. It has paid for itself a hundred times over and is an integral part of the business." When competitor vendors call, Leanne's response is "No. Never." All her business needs are covered by the current functionality, and she states that there is nothing out there that is remotely close to offering the functionality provided by Octane, especially at this price.
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