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Ford Fuels - investing in mobile computing technology to optimise delivery and boost customer service

About Ford Fuels

Ford Fuels is a family-driven fuel and lubricants distributor with a customer-focussed ethos at the heart of its operation.

Proudly supplying fuels and lubricants to the South West of England for more than 50 years, Ford Fuels provide a one-stop-shop for fuel distribution, heating, tank servicing and boiler maintenance across the domestic and agricultural sector.

Ford Fuels started with two tankers during its infancy in 1971 and initially focussed on the haulage of scrap coal. The company subsequently moved into domestic and agricultural fuel, an expansion that saw the opening of new depots and petrol stations across several locations.

The operation continues to grow from strength to strength through acquisition, with 180 employed staff across the workforce and a fleet of 65 tankers serving the South West region.

The relationship

Ford Fuels maintains a long-standing relationship with TouchStar. This established relationship, together with the recommendation from Ford Fuels’ software provider, Fuelsoft, led to an initial installation of TouchStar ‘Hawk’ units in six separate vehicles.

TouchStar is known for its pragmatic business solutions and mobile computing technology has eliminated handwritten paperwork, made vital time efficiencies, automated key processes, and helped make the entire Ford Fuels delivery operation far smoother.

The business challenge

Touchstar mobile computing devices have been installed across Ford Fuels’ depots and office sites as part of a gradual phased roll out since 2014.

As with any business operation, time is a critical resource. For Ford Fuels, the basing of several vehicles at terminals became problematic as employees needed to manually run paperwork between sites every day, including between two remote sites that were one-and-a-half hours away in opposite directions.

The slow submission of paperwork throughout the operation soon became a key business challenge.

“Rather than being a mere inconvenience, it ended up being a real business problem. We felt that the TouchStar solution could make things slicker,” explained John Ford, Director at Ford Fuels.

The TouchStar handheld solution negated the need to use valuable time and resource to travel to sites, offering a far superior streamlined solution which allows fleet drivers to print delivery notes on the spot. A customer’s signature is captured on screen for proof of delivery purposes, and a proof of delivery document is printed instantly.

Following the first roll out, the benefits and capabilities of the TouchStar system were evident. This led to Ford Fuels expanding handhelds into their fleet of vehicles based at terminals, which subsequently led to a further roll out of the technology in 45 - 50 vehicles based at their own offices.

By the end of 2021, Ford Fuels is aiming to have TouchStar technology within its entire fuel fleet, comprising of 65 oil tankers.

System benefits

Personnel across Ford Fuels have witnessed a wealth of benefits following the installation of the TouchStar systems:

  • Keeping operations COVID-19 safe - TouchStar technology negates the need for fleet drivers to enter the office, enabling Ford Fuels to adhere to COVID-19 social distancing measures while operating safely.
  • Improved company-wide communication - The interlinked computer system facilitates real-time two-way data between the front-end mobile terminals and the back-end fleet management and accounts packages. This streamlined communication provides a far more seamless operation for both Ford Fuels and its client base.
  • Better visibility – Improved visibility and tracking of order progress and status.
  • Greater flexibility – The TouchStar system enables an urgent delivery to be prioritised and scheduled, aiding workflow, boosting customer service and facilitating reactive flexibility.
  • Disaster recovery – Ford Fuels no longer relies on printers at depots, mitigating disaster recovery risk.
  • Reduced administrative resources – having multiple systems which communicate with each other has vastly improved daily business operations and reduced paperwork
  • User-friendly systems – The large display and user-friendly interface of the Touchstar mobile computers allows easy operation by drivers of varying ages and safeguards the investment for the future.

Big benefits have also been realised around proof of delivery and customer invoicing activities. Previous processes relied on manual delivery notes, which could be mislaid and used up significant time resource. The automated system now involves a full audit trail, removes previously hand-written paperwork and makes for significant time efficiencies to be made, massively boosting productivity.

The TouchStar technology has enabled Ford Fuels to be able to focus on customer service and continue to provide the seamless delivery of fuel within this service-based industry.

John Ford remarks: “We differentiate ourselves by moving vehicles to places where other people can’t. If someone needs fuel, they need fuel, and we’ll move heaven and earth to get it, and this just makes that process more efficient.”

A phased approach

TouchStar facilitated a phased approach of the technology roll out, beginning with installation of in-cab mobile computers across remote sites, followed by smaller depots.

“With such a big fleet, it’s difficult. If we did an all-or-nothing approach and rolled it out to 60 trucks overnight, the risk of doing that is enormous, so we needed to take it site-by-site,” added John.

The phased approach enabled the Ford Fuels fleet to gradually get used to the integration of the technology and familiarise themselves with the capabilities of the user-friendly systems.

Support

TouchStar helped and assisted through every phase of the project, starting in 2014, and continue to offer ongoing support to Ford Fuels.

Ford Fuels received expert training from TouchStar, who visited site several times to show the workforce the system, explain the specifications of the products and demonstrate how it worked and what the fleet can expect.

TouchStar have also assisted Ford Fuels’ back office when programming changes have been required, as well as being on-hand if drivers have a real-time issue or query.

Conclusion

The final word on the success, impact and sophistication of the Touchstar system comes from John Ford:

“I don’t get involved with TouchStar day-to-day, which shows that it works. It streamlines the office operation with the drivers and delivers them up-to-date information.”

The technical awareness and competency of staff, together with the quality and performance of the system is highly rated by Ford Fuels.

“TouchStar have always been a pleasure to deal with - the system works, the technology is what we need, and it has been tried and tested. We look forward to rolling out the technology to the rest of our fleet.”