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Houston terminal chooses paperless system

WHEN Aspen Technology Inc partnered with Houston Fuel Oil Terminal Company to develop a paperless system, the terminal and tank storage company had 27 different software programs and a dependence on copies of documents.

Today, an new integrated system has a Web-based order program for customers that shows product movement among ships, barges, railcars, trucks, and pipelines. In addition, the system indicates product changes and status. An automated and integrated scheduling and reporting system is available for the management of loading and unloading facilities. Accounting software handles contracts, leases, thru-put, miscellaneous plant orders, and other revenue generating events, including integration to third-party accounting software.

“It gives Houston Fuel Oil Terminal the opportunity to see real-time operations,” said William Hoskins of Aspen Technology and team leader for the project. “Customers can go in anytime to see the status of their orders.” The result of the new system meant that the terminal increased revenue by improved capture of revenue-generating events, improved scheduling, and increased thru-put. It reduced costs by better utilization of operations staff, reduced demurrage, reduced administration costs, and improved data management. Return on capital was enhanced by better asset utilization and an improved billing cycle. The program also allowed the terminal some new competitive advantages.

Hoskins pointed out that when a company decides to make such a drastic change in its operation, it goes through a period of adjustment that requires cooperation within the company and with vendors, customers, and others who are involved.

He advised companies to do as Houston Fuel Oil Terminal did — assign a project manager early on who will be involved with the procedure from beginning to end.

Although the project requires intensive training for the company and its customers, both soon begin to see the benefits. “The toughest thing is to convince people that they don't need paper copies,” Hoskins said.

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