Thinking about the Future of Heating OIL

What exactly is the future of heating OIL?  I know what was debated at the last Distributor Debate, but what about this for an idea…

Stop using up and wasting so much time, money, delivery miles, delivery fuel and carbon by streamlining an archaic delivery system. 

What are you looking at? This graph shows the level in millimetres of heating OIL in a tank. This information is produced via the most advanced Smart Meter available – one that is in a completely different league to all other gadgets the OIL industry has come up with. The peaks are of course the moments at which a delivery has been made into the tank and the period of time is one calendar month:

2014-01-30 18.05.20

What is completely obvious from this one tiny snapshot? Err, that even in just this one month there was one drop too many. Now if the tank was say 30,000 litres in size then it is likely that the deliveries may have been necessary due to the limited size of the tanker making the delivery. But this tank is only 2500 litres in size. Now you might also say that if the truck was just passing and had spare product then it was prudent to just go and top it up. The “just passing by” concept really does have to be killed off! This tank is a long way from the depot – no question of just passing by – also I have the benefit of seeing the delivery pattern. What that pattern highlights, across this and many other tanks we have fitted, is the extraordinary number of unnecessary trips that heating OIL takes around the countryside to keep “auto-fill” tanks from running out. That is the key point: the supplier is contracted NOT to allow this tank to run out. They have been doing so for a decade. The Smart Meter was fitted a few months ago, without the knowledge of the supplier. NOT so they could be bashed as one supplier, but so we could gain an insight into the delivery system. What we suspected has been clearly proven: the fear that drives the decision making to ensure tanks do not run out – particularly I am told just before the big bank holidays – means that millions of litres of heating OIL makes a trip around the countryside that was almost completely unnecessary. Sound familiar? If you don’t believe me then take a look at this one:

2014-01-30 18.06.19

This is the graph of a four thousand litre tank. Can you see how utterly pointless that 400 litre “top-up” trip was? As an aside, hundreds of thousands of OIL buyers that are told it is “impossible” to have a delivery below 500 litres might question the sanity of this.

These points are based on a single graph. But look at just some of what the Smart Meter gives us. More graphs showing the daily use and also the total monthly use. Then a host of extraordinary information that allows a supplier (and a user) to plan much more than the timing of deliveries. But let’s talk about just the deliveries for now. Using that information available: the current daily average, the totals for the month, the current depth, the days left, etc., leads to the complete eradication of wasted trips. This graph, like the one at the top, shows a 2500 litre tank and more wasted journeys. The monthly use shows a figure less than the tank capacity. Common sense says, therefore, at no point in that month would the tank need more than one top-up. The supplier did not know this, they were still using their guesswork. They made a journey they did not need to make because they were driven by fear of “what if” the tank is close to running out? The delivery in the first week was made when there was over 1600 litres remaining and at an average daily use of less than 40 litres, simple maths says they could have left it to the delivery in the third week of the month. Had usage gone up (it would show on the live information online) the supplier could have gone a few days earlier. If the forecast was terrible they could have gone at any time before that second date. But, either way the delivery would have been made as a result of assessing the live information and as a part of a Smart plan: 

2014-01-30 16.23.13

We all have a Smart phone in our pockets or a Smart tablet under our arm. There are a myriad of Smart ways for planning endless parts of our lives, but currently the vast majority of some 2 million OIL tanks are completely Dumb. So I have a pretty simple question: how can a massive supply industry be run on such an archaic level of guess work? 

Just seemed like an excellent way to start the debate on The Future of Heating OIL. What do you think? You know how to find me if you want to talk about turning your auto-fill tanks from Dumb to Smart: chris@community-buying.com