This article first appeared in the October issue of Bulk Transporter magazine.
Trimble introduced enhancements to its Fuel Dispatch module during the 2020 in.sight user conference and expo.
The Fuel Dispatch module is a special-purpose dispatch and order entry module within Trimble’s TMW transportation management system (TMS) that is designed for the unique needs of fuel haulers and petroleum marketers.
The module, which features embedded business logic specific to the fuel supply industry, streamlines common tasks, improves order and billing accuracy, and offers improved visibility for operations, management and customer service. Features include Call-On-Demand Order Entry, Commodity Profile management, Card Planner trip view and Driver Shift planning; and available add-ons include the Fuel Information Exchange (FIX) for carriers and distributors, Titan cloud integration for fuel retailers, and a tank strapping import tool.
During the virtual Fuel Dispatch update session, Joe Ezzo, a product manager in Trimble’s energy vertical, highlighted new and improved features Trimble added in the past year, including tank compartment forecasting, forecasting to multiple asset types, product color-coding, tank model imports, tank wagon workflow and a new subscription service.
Enhancements to compartment forecasting, which was added to Fuel Dispatch last year, include the abilities to build compartments that match the physical asset into the user interface, and to define light and heavy product limits for each compartment. The forecaster now can assign the exact amount of product for the number of compartments, and their sizes, on each trailer, while paying attention to the positioning of double bulkheads, so light and heavy products never are placed in compartments divided only by single bulkheads.
“When the forecaster runs, it’s going to optimize the product for that trailer,” Ezzo said. “So what we’ve done here is pretty much mirrored the trailer setup in the system, and we’re giving you the ability to tell the system how much of each product you want in each one of those compartments.”
The module now features improved configuration cloning, which saves time on setup when adding new trailers to a fleet. “We give you a broader way to look at the configurations to be able to clone them to other trailers,” Ezzo said. “So if you have a default trailer—say it’s a Heil 3123 trailer with double bulkheads between the first and last compartments—then you can actually build that trailer ahead of time in a configuration and give it a name, and then as you assign trailers in your fleet, you can say they’re the same trailers, so you don’t have to rebuild each one.
“You can select which ones you want and then clone that configuration to the other trailers.”
Users also can assign assets to companies for default forecasting to specific trailer types, and review order forecasts in Inventory Services, which enables tweaking of orders to see how they will fit on the trailer, or how the system is calculating window sizes, without needing to make major adjustments to the window.
“We want to keep the same window size,” Ezzo said. “What we’re trying to do is adjust the volumes. That way it fits on the trailer, and you don’t have a driver calling in and saying ‘Hey, this won’t fit on my trailer. What do I take?’ or them making a decision by themselves, and messing up your dispatch.”
Trimble Fuel now has the ability to add compartments to tractors, including tank wagons and small trucks with tanks pulling pup trailers, allowing them to be dispatched without a trailer. Compartments are in the tractor profile, so when the program runs, it’s looking for compartments, not whether the asset is a tractor or trailer.
Users can combine assets for order forecasting, and create multiple configuration that reflect the fleet, and the system will take all combinations of trailers and tractors and make a load match that asset or set of assets. As of update 2020.1, Tractor, Trailer and Trailer 2 now can be set up as a default asset combination.
“Last year, when we introduced trailer compartments, a lot of people were saying ‘Well, I have tractors with compartments on them,’ and ‘How can I configure the system for that?’” Ezzo said. “So, with this, this Truck and Trailer, Trailer 2, you can now set up your fleet exactly the way it is in the real world.”
Product color coding now is assignable by code or class, streamlining entry and helping catch costly product mixups before they occur. Users can go with standard industry colors or customized colors for unique purposes.
“Commodity colors make things a lot easier to see, because it’s easy to send the wrong product to the station, and then have it retained, or find out it’s not going to fit,” Ezzo said.
Tank model imports
Updates to the tank model imports feature introduced last year include a tank strapping chart that identifies the volume of liquid in a tank at any specific level, helping users quickly convert measurements into volumes with Trimble’s Fuel TMS.
“This is big for oilfield customers because above-ground tanks use what’s called tank strapping, which is taking a strap and going around the circumference of a tank and measuring that diameter,” Ezzo said. “And the reason why we have to do that is sometimes tanks get damaged, or they get run into or have had repairs done to them … so it doesn’t hold the full amount that you would think.”
Ezzo added that a safeguard built into the system ensures users can’t inadvertently override the tank chart, and make a mistake that could affect hundreds of tanks.
Tank wagon workflow
The tank wagon workflow feature is designed for carriers with multiple loading and delivery needs per order. It combines multiple stops into a single run for forecasted or manual orders, allowing smaller companies to take advantage of load forecasting.
“There are a lot of smaller companies out there that are still using spreadsheets,” Ezzo said. “There are currently over 6,000 carriers in the United States and Canada that are using spreadsheets to do their forecasting, where they’re making calls every day, and it’s cumbersome.”
Ezzo said Trimble still is working on improving the feature, but the imperfect, beta version is included with Fuel Dispatch. A new addition tracks the type and amount of product left in truck compartments, so when dispatch is scheduling the asset the next time, they will have a visual representation of the remaining product.
“We all know the industry is changing,” Ezzo said. “Everybody wants bigger, better, faster, stronger; they want everything at a click, and they want to know everything about every order they have dispatched. We hear you, and we are working toward that.”
One of the most recent updates is a Fuel Dispatch subscription service for fuel marketers and carriers that offers a standalone solution for improving planning and dispatch operations, streamlining in-ground inventory management and replenishment of products, and tracking fuel deliveries to ensure they’re made on time and in the right quantity.
The bundle is designed to help companies leverage cloud-hosting services that limit IT expenses and requirements, while also predictably managing their technology expenses through monthly payments without an upfront capital investment.
Users can access company data within Fuel Dispatch from remote locations, and yearly upgrades are provided at no additional cost. The service is ideal for small and mid-sized companies that don’t need a full-sized TMS and IT staff on the premises, Ezzo said. “The nice thing about that is it’s hosted on an individual server, so every client has their own individual server,” he added. “You’re not sharing your server with somebody else.”
And Trimble still is working on a full Fuel TMS revamp, Ezzo said, with the goal of making the system faster and easier to use, and adding more application programing interface (API) integrations, in a future release.
“Ease of use is the big thing for me to give our users, because I want to make sure when somebody sits down with our software for the first time, it’s easy for them to grasp what they’re doing, and how the flow goes throughout the system,” Ezzo concluded.