Tackling Our ‘New Normal’
by Ed Burke and Kelly Burke, Dennis K. Burke Inc.
How one fuel wholesaler has adapted to the post-pandemic business environment
We got an early start preparing our fuel and lubricants business for what the COVID-19 virus might bring. Even before COVID, we’ve been moving to electronic only, cloud-based, accessible platforms for info sharing to drivers, sales, marketing and operations.
When shutdowns were on the horizon, Dan Hill, Burke’s chief operating officer, made sure all key employees had the proper equipment at home to access the network for any files and programs they need. When the shutdown happened, we seamlessly switched over to remote working and stopped all non-emergency meetings. From that point, everything has been done using Microsoft Teams, phone and email.
Dan has really done a great job thinking through minimizing any interactions possible, so we haven’t had any real concerns. People are social distancing, and everything is running remote – so thankfully, all the employees have been as safe as we could help make possible.
Currently there are only a few people onsite, primarily upper management and warehouse workers. Everyone else is working remotely. Thanks to VPN connections and Microsoft Teams, working remotely has been running smoothly.
Social Distancing in the Workplace
Dan did an awesome job coming up with an internal policy for segregating departments into zones.
Zones never cross (blue zone and purple zone) so that no one working on one side ever comes in contact with employees on the other side. This way, if anyone were to test positive, the chance of spread would be minimal.
Customer calls are routed to the customer service team at their home setups. Since order entry and everything else they need to access is available remotely through VPN, the transition to working outside the office was relatively seamless.
The process for order placement via email boxes (fuelorders/lubeorders emails) has been in place for quite a while, so there have been no hiccups or confusion on the customer’s end there. The customer service team also uses Microsoft Teams to stay connected and check in.
Using DeliveryWorks, lube products are barcode scanned when received, and also when sent out for customers. This automatically tracks inventory changes and product receipts in the financial system.
Lube orders come into customer service and after entry go to the DeliveryWorks system. The warehouse picks orders with barcoding from tablets and then electronically dispatches the orders from platform to driver tablets. Completed orders sync back to the platform in real time, and any products remaining on trucks are easily trackable.
The completed info is downloaded and imported into the financial system. It is then processed to customers either electronically or mailed.
All of this being electronic means customer service going remote and contact being eliminated (no signatures, etc.) did not cause any issues with lube operations, dispatching or inventory levels.
Burke’s fuel dispatch system has been electronic for years. Like lubes, fuel orders dispatch to driver tablets (so no phone calls back and forth).
Dispatch info matches out with the financial system info, and completed orders are imported and processed electronically by finance based off driver work completed.
Burke’s rack side (wholesale) has been all electronic since 2011. Liftings at the rack update in real time, and that info comes into the financial system in the morning. Invoices are electronically processed based on pin numbers and bill of lading (BOL) cross reference programming. Pricing is all tied into that system as well.
Pricing has run off of a cloud-based platform integrated with DTN feeds for several years. We feed racks in (uploaded from Platts and other market data), and prices are sent via email to customers for products and terminals/sites applicable to them. Again, this matches out with the financial system so, for example, when driver work, TABs, BOLs, and price file imports come into the system, we process everything electronically in Sage accounting software.
The customer side (tank monitoring, etc.) runs electronically as well, so there’s been no issue with them either.
Burke uses a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) system, and the sales force runs on tablets. For this reason, coming out of the office and off the road did not impact any access to customer info, and the existing processes for submitting orders (email) and pricing, placing special orders, etc. did not change, so that ended up fairly seamless too. Our marketing system and website platform is integrated with our CRM as well, so we did not lose a step with sales/marketing alignment.
For sales, we do full videoconference meetings (and dispatch as well), which has allowed discussions and daily items to be addressed real time (which is particularly helpful for dispatch). We started using Microsoft Teams to facilitate sales meetings, so everyone has been able to check in, work collaboratively and share screens as needed.
Keeping Drivers Safe
The drivers were all provided with masks, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes for their vehicles. Our drivers use E-log and GPS, so we’ve experienced no difficulty there. We sent out gaiters to all employees. Our safety meetings are held using Microsoft Teams. The chat function has replaced a lot of extra emails we probably would be seeing without it, and it keeps things simpler that way.
In the end, we rely heavily on a great staff to make it all work and do their jobs safely.