Technology is a necessity for the propane and fuel oil delivery business. It is indispensable for the energy industry, period; as if drivers, dispatchers, owners and customers do not already use technology – the kind that fits in your pocket or rests on the palm of your hand, that increases productivity, streamlines operations and saves time and money.
That technology is a smartphone or tablet, available for as little as $99 (for the phone), plus an extra $10 for a durable case that will prevent the device from breaking because of a collision with a hard surface like concrete or asphalt.
What no one in this industry needs is so-called “ruggedized technology,” which is a glorified description of a battle-ready, heavily encased (with rubber or plastic) $1,500 tablet that is no more advanced than any off-the-shelf device referenced above.
Do, indeed, take my word for it because, as a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and as a veteran, I know the difference between equipment the military uses in combat and the technology the propane industry uses on a daily basis.
In fact, the quickest way to slow the progress of technology is for family-run businesses to exhaust their budgets by buying the equivalent of a soon-to-be-obsolete laptop that sports its own version of body armor.
A basic smartphone, outfitted with a simple case, can withstand a lot of wear and tear. There are plenty of drop videos that prove this assertion, and they do so without the aid of a case, which you can watch here and here and here.
The point is this: We do not need, and it would be a significant waste of money to buy, ruggedized technology.
The propane industry may be contentious, but the equipment we use is more than strong enough to, in the words of this former midshipman, “soldier on” to success.
Bill Stomp is vice president of Digital Dispatcher, a wireless dispatch solution for optimizing routes, real-time inventory tracking, point-of-sale invoicing, flat-rate billing and more.