Wholesalers and fuel retailers want to know that the technology companies they choose to partner with are creating platforms that are easy to integrate with and are highly scalable. The use of advanced technologies and innovation is critical for the industry as organizations look to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives by moving processes towards more digital methods — increasing accuracy, efficiency, and reliability for customers.
Other industries have leveraged new technologies and innovations to provide better support for their customers. Take a look at the quick service fast food industry. If that industry can track a pizza from order to delivery, we should be able to do the same with a load of fuel – right?
Just take a look at the difference. An average load of fuel in the U.S. is about 8500 gallons, worth over $25,000; Compare this with the average cost of a pizza order – $20.00. If they can innovate then isn’t it time for the wholesale and retail fuel industry to have software solutions and platforms built on an open and modern architecture that can deliver on these kinds of innovations too? We think so.
When we think about a modern open architecture, it includes all of these things, but more! It includes utilizing new and advanced technologies, creating real-time visibility into data and providing insights. Below are four specific tenets of a successful and modern open architecture and the ways they are enabling innovation in the fuel supply chain.
Open architectures based on open standards enable developers and IT teams to innovate, or add, change, replace and integrate with new software components. On the other hand, closed architectures are fully proprietary, and can be complex and expensive to integrate with and maintain. Closed systems also often require specialized support and training only available from the system’s provider.
- API Integration: An API-driven architecture that is open and easy to plug into allows for innovation. Do you remember the old days of Apple versus Microsoft? Historically, everything was built by Apple; only a few close partners existed. Whereas Microsoft operating system was always more open to any kind of hardware, and any kind of software. Developers and IT leaders could write anything on top of it. Like operating systems, successful modern cloud platforms today are API driven because that is what consumers and businesses alike expect. It allows companies such as fuel retailers and wholesalers to leverage technology partnerships, create flexibility, drive integration, and innovate across many different vendors. In short, APIs foster innovation where established vendors, but also startups can innovate on top of an open platform.
- Cloud Based: According to Flexera, 2020 will go down in history as the year most companies transformed their operations almost overnight. Last year, six out of 10 businesses moved their operations to the cloud. This trend is likely to continue in the coming years, as companies are moving away from on-premise and are taking advantage of cloud infrastructure. That not only enables organizations to essentially outsource hardware procurement, deployment, and support, but also empowers them to leverage cloud based services to accelerate the pace of innovation. Cloud based solutions also enable organizations to focus on their core business instead of managing and maintaining largescale infrastructure and home-grown solutions. Since COVID and largely thanks to cloud-based solutions, workforce around the world managed to to shift to work remotely. For example, cloud-based logistics solutions enable dispatchers to be located anywhere without the need to be in the office or in the same location as drivers. At the same time, both still have access to all of the order and dispatch information they need to do their jobs.
- Data driven: Data is truly a main driver today for all organizations. Data, information, and real-time analytics help companies with visibility into their businesses in order to act. A successful open architecture will allow access to real-time data and help pull the data out of silos to capture it all in one place. For instance, data allows fuel wholesalers and retailers to make better, more well-informed decisions including what is the most optimal in-store product mix to drive best financial outcomes, what are the most optimal pricing strategies, or when fuel delivery should be made to minimize run outs.
- AI and Machine Learning: Once organizations embrace collecting data in the cloud, they have an opportunity to not just glean insights from the data, but also create predictions. Using Machine Learning, organizations can train models that find patterns in the data and predict a probability of certain outcomes. Some of those predictions could result in more personalized and better offer recommendations in loyalty apps at the pump, better pricing strategies that increase margins, or higher customer satisfaction by predicting forecourt equipment failures. In fact, machine learning and AI can profoundly impact the way technology shapes the entire industry.
Organizations should consider moving to an open and modern architecture in order to drive positive business outcomes and continue to innovate. These four tenets are just the start. As open architectures that support reporting, business intelligence, and analytics have evolved dramatically over the past decade, it is time to consider the fundamental ways that the fuel supply chain can take advantage of all these advancements.
This content originally appeared in “ERP News Issue 20.”
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