Family discussion at golf outing leads to software solution for retailer

August 28, 2015 By    
Hamilton’s Propane Inc.

Hamilton’s Propane Inc. sponsors the Balloons Over Bavaria festival almost every spring in Frankenmuth, Mich.

After a four-year process, Michigan-based Hamilton’s Propane Inc. plans to fully implement a customized software solution to help with propane deliveries within the year.

Jeremy Kratt, a supervisor at Hamilton’s Propane, met with his cousin, Russ Tripp, at a golf outing four years ago and discussed software solutions with him. At the time, Kratt says Hamilton’s Propane was looking to update its software system that looks at temperatures and average propane usage in fluctuating temperatures, customized to each customer’s use.

Tripp, owner of 906 Technologies, a Michigan-based IT developer, told Kratt he could help Hamilton’s Propane create a better solution. Since that conversation, the two companies have been developing a software system for Hamilton’s Propane. The partnership resulted in a system that aids in deliveries, ticketing, tank monitoring and accounting.

Kratt says Hamilton’s Propane began testing the software program a couple of months ago in tandem with its old software program. While the system is still being piloted to work out a couple of kinks, Kratt thinks it is already an improvement over the company’s old software solution.

“It’s been running smooth the last couple months, so we are confident it’s heading in the right direction,” he says.

Hamilton’s Propane customers might not pick up on the improvements in deliveries, but Kratt says the company can tell the delivery process has gotten smoother because of the updated technology. He says he will consider selling the technology to other companies in the propane industry when all of its bugs are fixed.

Although the system wasn’t cheap to make, Kratt adds it was worth the investment, as it simplifies the business, saves time and reduces overhead costs. He says the new system also detected dormant accounts that have not received propane in more than a year.

“For some reason, the older software system wasn’t picking up data on some of those dormant accounts,” Kratt says. “I’m talking a bunch of them, so we have a much more accurate program. It’s really hard to complain about the cost of [developing] it since the company took good care of us on this project. The end product is exactly what we were after.” 

Around town
Outside of day-to-day business, Hamilton’s Propane stays busy in its community. Kratt says the company painted one of its trucks pink for the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, where some of the truck’s proceeds go back to the nonprofit. He adds the company also donates to the American Cancer Society, local high schools and local churches.

In addition, the retailer sponsors the Balloons Over Bavaria festival almost every spring in Frankenmuth, Mich. Hamilton’s Propane supplies propane to the 25 to 30 balloons featured in the festival.

“[Balloons Over Bavaria] approached us five years ago to see if we were interested in helping, and it sounded like a fun thing to do,” Kratt says. “It’s an adrenaline rush when you’re there.”

COMPANY: Hamilton’s Propane Inc.

HEADQUARTERS: Ortonville, Mich.

FOUNDED: 1988

OWNER: Bob Kratt

PROPANE SALES: 6.5 million annual gallons

CUSTOMERS: 8,900

EMPLOYEES: 30

BoBTAILS: 14

ONLINE: www.hamiltonspropane.com

Megan Smalley

About the Author:

Megan Smalley is the associate editor of LP Gas magazine. Contact her at msmalley@northcoastmedia.net or 216-363-7930.

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