Founded in 1948, CN Brown Company is a full-service energy provider specializing in electricity, heating fuels, gasoline, diesel, wood pellets, and natural gas. Proudly operating 76 Big Apple convenience stores, 26 heating oil offices, 11 service stations, and more than 100 gasoline dealers, this family-owned company serves more than 65,000 customers across four states, including residential, wholesale, and commercial accounts. Based in South Paris, Maine, CN Brown has positioned itself as a major player in the competitive petroleum market throughout Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts.
CN Brown strives for customer loyalty and continued growth in a competitive market, so they believe in investing in the right tools for success.
CN Brown last invested in a back-office software solution 20-some years ago, and while the system had served them well, it was quickly becoming out of date and had some functionality gaps that required extra effort from the CN Brown team to fill.
Two areas where CN Brown noticed the software’s limitations the most were truck routing and reporting. Their legacy system had no comprehensive routing capabilities, so much of the process was done manually. Routes were assigned to each customer. Tickets were generated and printed weekly, with the customer zone printed on each ticket. The office team manually sorted the tickets according to zone and then into daily routes for the drivers, but the drivers often re-sorted the tickets to optimize the routes according to their needs.
“They probably spent a good half day on creating [the routes] and then they spent probably an hour every morning before getting the trucks on the road,” explained Lori Smallwood, Administrative Office Manager. “It was a lot of manual work. After the deliveries were completed each day, they had to be keyed manually into the customer accounts. There was a lot of time that went into the paperwork.”
When it came to reporting, the CN Brown team knew their software housed all the data they needed, but getting information out of the system was challenging. Because the software lacked reporting capabilities, a programmer needed to manually pull the desired information from the software’s underlying database.
CN Brown realized the limitations of their software were quickly becoming limitations on their business as a whole.
“I think it kept the managers from trying to grow and obtain new customers,” said Smallwood. “And I think that the lack of the routing caused us to not deliver efficiently, and we couldn’t even take on new customers in harsher than normal Maine winters because we couldn’t make enough deliveries in a day.”
A Solution to Support Growth
With the future in mind, CN Brown began exploring their options for a new back-office solution. A round of research and demonstrations brought three applications to the forefront, including Cargas Energy. CN Brown liked Cargas Energy’s capabilities and functionality, and they liked even more that it was recommended by several partner vendors, as well as existing Cargas Energy customers. There were also benefits that went beyond the software.
“We were impressed with the online training program and the documentation,” said Jeannine Doucette, IT Assistant Manager and Project Manager.
In the end, the final decision was easy.
“It was pretty much unanimous, I believe, when we decided,” said Smallwood. “We felt it was really the most cutting-edge technology.”
Taking The Plunge
While CN Brown was excited by the possibilities of their chosen solution, they were not without reservations about the implementation process. The implementation of their legacy heating oil software took a year to complete and a recent conversion of their Wholesale/Transport system took two years to complete. With their Cargas Energy go-live date scheduled for June, they were dreading the impact of such a drastic change on their busy winter season. With this implementation, it was the partnership with the Cargas team that made all the difference.
“I think they really changed our perspective on a new conversion because they’re so laid back and were always there to help us. We trained as we went along, and it was just awesome,” said Kris Cannell, Accounts Receivable Manager.
“They just came in and managed it and kept us on task,” added Smallwood. “And we felt confident in them and here we are, it was successful. And the ongoing support is great.”
Doucette added that Cargas made managing the conversion easier than she expected.
With Cargas Energy’s reporting capabilities, now anyone in the company can run a report or write a query and have instant access to information rather than relying on a programmer to compile it from the software’s database.
The software has also helped CN Brown provide a better experience for their customers. For customer service reps, customer information is available from one screen within Cargas Energy, allowing them easy access to account information without having to search through layers of screens as with their legacy software.
“Another key thing is the delivery tickets are already priced and printed and legible,” said Cannell. “Whereas before our drivers were hand writing pricing, and they had to know each specific customer’s terms. This has been a big timesaver for the drivers and improved the accuracy and look of the delivery tickets.”
But the biggest change has come from Cargas Energy’s routing capabilities, which have enhanced CN Brown’s growth potential by improving delivery efficiency. With Cargas Energy optimizing delivery routes and delivery forecasting, as well as allowing for real-time changes and updates, CN Brown’s drivers have increased their daily average of deliveries. In their first heating oil season with Cargas Energy, C. N. Brown delivered 5% more gallons in 2% fewer driver hours and 3% fewer truck miles. There was a 2% increase in deliveries per hour and an 8% increase in deliveries per mile.
By improving delivery efficiency, CN Brown has opened the door to growing their customer base and their company successfully. With the right technology in place, and the support of a great partner, CN Brown is ready to take on the future.