How Tas Petroleum measures success
For Tasmania-based transport company, Tas Petroleum, measurement is the key to quality management. By collecting and comparing data across the business, the fuel hauler can track its success.
Management manuals have long touted the importance of measurability in creating business success, many using Peter Drucker’s ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it’ mantra as a focal point. The key to the oft-quoted theory is that it is impossible to know if a growth target has been achieved if there is no data to create a comparison – a concept taken to heart by companies across industries worldwide.
The transport companies among them infuse Drucker’s theory into everyday business practices by tracking and comparing data such as kilometres travelled, fuel usage, driver speed and braking habits, using the information to facilitate continuous improvements or provide training where possible. Tasmania-based fuel haulage specialist, Tas Petroleum, is one of the many that embrace the philosophy in their daily transport task.
Specialising in the delivery of petroleum and lubricants across the Island State since 2005, Tas Petroleum’s fuel deliveries cover both large and small clients, from farming and agriculture customers to larger commercial operations like Coles Express. In his efforts to measure as much of the fleet’s movements as possible, Operations Manager, Jim Macbeth, uses Teletrac Navman on-board telematics systems to track Tas Petroleum’s ten prime movers and 12 tri-axle tankers. The data, he says, can indicate when his drivers require more training, or if they should be commended for their exceptionally safe driving.
Ensuring Tas Petroleum drivers have the highest driving standards is of the utmost importance to the Dangerous Goods carrier, which puts its staff through a low-risk driving course every two years with Smiths Training Services. “Keeping the drivers up-to-date with regular driver training is something we track closely,” Jim says. “Having a skilled staff of drivers sets us apart and is integral to meeting the requirements for tenders with blue chip clients.”
Before looking at the tender requirements, Jim says transporting Dangerous Goods around Tasmania introduces a rigorous set of regulations that are audited on a yearly basis. “All the prime movers and fuel tankers have to be wired specially so they’re flame proof. Every time we buy a new prime mover, we then have to invest further to get wiring fitted with secondary containment,” he explains – adding that there are also the standard roadworthiness and roller brake tests.
“Outside of the normal regulations, we also run under basic fatigue management and heavy mass compliance,” Jim says. “These systems are audited every two years and we have a number of compliance requirements in order to run heavy loads and longer hours. Each truck runs a 14-hour shift, predominantly in a one-truck, one-driver set up, and we don’t double-shift the trucks. “
The variations in Tas Petroleum’s delivery sizes and frequencies make it particularly difficult to compare fuel consumption on a day-to-day basis, Jim says, with the variation in jobs potentially seeing a truck idling anywhere from one to eight hours in a single shift whilst pumping fuel.
“Many transport companies have set deliveries that provide comparable fuel consumption based on kilometres travelled, but when you have a truck travel 50km and idle for 10 hours one day, then travel 500km and idle for one hour the next, the daily fuel figures go out the window,” Jim says. To make the most of the unpredictable delivery schedules, the Tas Petroleum Operations Manager says it is important to facilitate the best operating environment for the incomparable to play out in.
That way, though each day will return an incomparable result, the overall measurement will provide a positive return. To see what may provide those optimal operating conditions, Jim says Tas Petroleum investigates new technology across all areas of the business. “We’re always looking at the costs we can measure, and what we found is that many companies seem to overlook the cost of oil. But oil consumption is easily measured, and improvements there can actually make a significant difference to the bottom line,” Jim says.
When it came time to add brand-new prime movers to the fleet in September last year – Kenworth T404s – Tas Petroleum decided it would be the perfect time to trial a new type of synthetic oil, Mobil Delvac 1 ESP 5W-40. One prime mover would use AdBlue for emissions reduction, while the other had an EGR system, aiming to see how far they could increase the drain intervals while protecting the engines. “Through tracking data, we knew that a standard oil change takes place at 20,000km. That gave us a good starting point for the trial, beginning analysis and testing for signs of engine wear and oil status there. With consistently positive results coming back, we gradually increased the drain intervals,” Jim says, revealing that new data now shows the AdBlue model pulls out in front.
“The EGR system made it to 100,000km without an oil change and the AdBlue got to the point where we were testing the oil at 114,000km and it was still coming back from analysis as okay to use, which is quite incredible,” Jim says – adding that Tas Petroleum has decided to continue the trial, making oil changes for both prime movers at the 80,000km mark. “The EGR pushes the exhaust gas through the oil, so the oil is asked to do a lot more in the EGR system than in an AdBlue system, where the exhaust doesn’t go back through it.”
Comparing the cost savings of quadrupling the time between drain intervals is only the beginning of the savings, he explains, with the associated consumables also adding to the tally.
“When oil is changed, filters are changed too,” Jim says. “By running with the same oil four times longer than required with our previous, non-synthetic oil, we’re saving three lots of oil filters for each one replaced. An oil filter is around $150, so spending that once instead of four times adds up, especially when extrapolated across a fleet.”
On top of that is the major cost saving from the reduction in time the Kenworths spend in the workshop, with the maintenance schedule not just expanding, but also better able to be organised with other required servicing. “The longer drain interval gives us control over when we make our oil changes so we can align them with the other maintenance for the prime mover, significantly lowering the amount of time it spends off the road,” Jim adds.
Through applying the measurement model so succinctly summed up by Drucker’s mantra, Tas Petroleum continues to find areas ripe for improvement. After a new Scania was added to the trial, too, Tas Petroleum has now clocked up more than 730,000km using the new oil, providing Jim with ample data on the new product and how it can improve his business. “There are parts of every business that can’t be controlled, like the weather or in our case, fuel consumption,” says Jim. “But by focusing on the things that can be controlled, tracked and measured, we can ensure we find new ways to make improvements and continue to grow the business.”