Indoor Comfort Marketing 11.2023

Who’s Monitoring Your Monitoring?

Implementing, tracking and optimizing tank monitor solutions is important

We all know the basic reasons for getting tank monitors:

  • As a wake-up call after a bunch of run-outs
  • To avoid surprisingly small deliveries
  • Unpredictability of K-factors and baseloads for new customers
  • Customer demand for more information
  • “All the cool kids are doing it.”

Regardless of the reason, tank monitors are meant to take away the uncertainty of asking yourself, “How much will I deliver to this tank today?” Better put, tank monitors put an end to the challenge of relying on questionable K-factor consumption calculations. If you know how much you will deliver to a particular tank, you can achieve the two most important improvements imaginable: increased delivery size and optimal fleet management.

You’ve gone out and purchased monitors. Now what?

The decision to buy was likely a combination of economics and emotions. The economics pushed you towards the goals of delivering more efficiently and saving money, while emotion triggered the actual purchase. However, once that decision is made, there is still a lot of work ahead of you. How do you install the monitors? Who installs the monitors? What do you do with the information collected? How do you track value, savings, return on investment (ROI)? How do you know whether your decision was the right one?

We can start with some easy answers. If you don’t install monitors, you will simply have expensive inventory collecting dust on a shelf. If you don’t train your dispatchers and plan how the monitors will improve your results, the investment will not have been worth it. Lastly, if you don’t have an organization that can learn from the data, the purchase was not a good decision.

What should you do?

As with all desired improvements—weight loss, more income, better grades—you need to start with a baseline or a reference point. Do you know your numbers now, before you start with monitors? Knowing your average delivery size is better than not knowing it, but there is a lot more you must know:

  • Average delivery per tank size
    • Automatic Delivery
    • Will-call /On-demand
  • Percentage of runouts and when they occur
  • Delivery sizes for long-standing customers vs. new customers
  • Historical delivery deviation by tank (i.e., does tank “x” always get 160-gallon deliveries or are some 120 gallons and others 220 gallons?)
  • K-Factors by tank; Yes, they matter. You need to know how much is in the tank today and the anticipated consumption level in the future.

These are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself to successfully plan for the physical deployment (prioritization) of your monitors and the tracking your monitors’ benefits.

If you purchased monitors just to avoid runouts, it wasn’t worth the investment—you don’t really have that many runouts. If you purchased monitors just to avoid those frustrating 40-gallon deliveries… well, you don’t have too many of those either. However, if you bought monitors so that you can manage the optimal time to make deliveries for every tank and for every month of the year, then you have the right frame of mind.

Adding monitors without changing your mindset will not achieve your goals. You need to start thinking in terms of days instead of gallons. In addition to considering when a tank has room for a certain sized delivery you must also consider whether that delivery makes sense in the context of the time of year, staffing, overtime, and fleet capabilities.

My main point is that monitors are not the solution; they are part of the solution. Monitors are a tool. When coupled with historical data, ongoing reviews and a well-executed operational plan, monitors can (and do) yield fantastic results.

Want to know more? We are happy to share some of what we have learned during the past seven years of implementing, tracking and optimizing tank monitor solutions.

Written by Philip J. Baratz. This article was originally appeared in the November/December 2023 issue of Indoor Comfort Marketing.