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Where’s My Stuff?

JobbersWorld recently had the opportunity to meet with Celeste Mastin, CEO and Krista Russell, Director of Distribution and Logistics, of PetroChoice to learn about the new PetroChoice Gold service platform we have been hearing about. What we learned was very interesting and something new to lubricant distribution. The reason for this article is to help shed some light on how much lubricant distribution has changed, and how technology can be used to enhance customer service and support, and improve operational efficiency in the lubricants business.  

According to Mastin, the PetroChoice Gold platform was built to address one of the leading questions on the minds of really any consumer, whether it’s in the B-to-C or B-to-B space. In the words of Mastin, after consumers order products what they often want to know is “where’s my stuff?”

Before getting into the details of how PetroChoice Gold answers these questions, think about Amazon. From the time an order is placed to the time product is at the front door, you know where your stuff is, when you are going to get it, and it’s fast. Further, if an item ordered is experiencing delays, you get an email letting you know.

In many respects, this describes the core of the PetroChoice Gold service platform. From the time an order is placed to the time it’s received, a PetroChoice Gold customer knows where the order is and when it will be delivered. The platform also provides electronic proof of delivery and updates regarding any routed order ETAs. This information and more are pushed to its customers by email and can be pulled up at anytime from anywhere via their mobile device or computer as the PetroChoice eCommerce platform goes live this Spring.

“At the heart of PetroChoice Gold is an integrated infrastructure comprising sophisticated technology, including custom software, real-time fleet tracking, tank monitoring, telematics devices, and cellular communications,” said Russell. Importantly, Russell adds, “The platform also incorporates artificial intelligence-based technology (AI) to predict and proactively anticipate and respond to customer behavior and purchasing patterns. The AI develops algorithms to optimize product delivery cycles and inventory management, improve and enhance customer service, increase driver safety, and more.”

As an example of how the AI advances inventory management and logistics, Mastin points to seasonal changes in demand and the business cycles around the location and vocation of accounts. “While lubricant marketers are generally aware of these changes and work to take them into account when stocking inventory, the AI builds time-series demand models that take into account the peaks and valleys in demand at an extraordinary granular level,” says Mastin. “These predictive models significantly enhance PetroChoice’s ability to manage inventory and assure they have the lubricant brands, types and grades on hand to service accounts when and where needed,” adds Mastin.

Another notable feature of PetroChoice Gold is its “Customer Tank Portal.” Beyond what has become standard fare where distributors remotely read data from electronic tank monitors and respond when levels are low, the PetroChoice Customer Tank Portal gathers and analyzes data on each lubricant product tank at the customer’s location(s). The data collected includes the number and size of tanks, average usage rates, fill intervals and efficiencies, and other tank metrics and activity.

With the use of AI, algorithms are then developed to optimize inventory management, and provide customers with an alternative or replacement for electronic tank monitors. In addition to customers benefiting from distributor-side enhancements in inventory management, the Customer Tank Portal provides customers with a real-time, centralized and local windows into their inventory, lubricant usage, and other important inventory metrics on their properties.

When you put all the parts and pieces together, the PetroChoice Gold platform provides a clear and highly sophisticated line of sight to customer’s needs and an optimized path to anticipate, plan for, and meet their needs. “Rather than waiting to hear a customer ask, ‘where’s my stuff,’ the platform keeps them informed and empowers customers with 24/7 answers not only to where it is, but when it will get there. This platform anticipates their need before they order. While this benefits customers, it also benefits PetroChoice in terms of operational efficiencies and the opportunity to differentiate its service offerings,” says Mastin.

In addition to providing insights on some of the key attributes of PetroChoice Gold, it’s also important to say a word or two in this article on visiting PetroChoice’s corporate office in King of Prussia, PA.

As typically seen with a leading lubricant distributor in the US, their offices are reflective of their size and resources, and PetroChoice is no exception. Its corporate office, departmental structure and staffing are reminiscent of what one might expect from a major oil company. It’s clear they have the resources and talent necessary to bring to life a project of the magnitude seen in the PetroChoice Gold platform and manage it centrally.

As important as technology has become, PetroChoice has not unplugged the phone. They still have plenty of feet on the street and rubber on the road. However, services like PetroChoice Gold show how lubricant distribution is changing and what it takes to rise above the crowd in this competitive market.

Note: PetroChoice Gold is a complementary service for customers of its proprietary branded products; however, it has the capability to expand across all brands.

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