Embrace and Fully Utilize New Technology

As a nation, we’ve always embraced the latest technology. While touring Mt. Vernon, the home of President George Washington, during NATSO’s Day on Capitol Hill in May, we were told, “President Washington was always most interested in what new farming techniques were being implemented whenever he returned to Mt. Vernon.”

Historians cite U.S. war production as a key advantage that led to victory in World >War II. Author James Bessen’s book, “Learn by Doing—The Real Connection between Innovations, Wages and Wealth” [a recommend read] reminds us that if Hitler’s estimate of American ship production had been right, Germany would likely have won the Battle of the Atlantic, Britain might have fallen, and the outcome of World War II would have been different. Glaringly, much of the output of war production was only realized through the substantial acquisition of technology-specific skills.

It seems as though new technology is presenting itself faster than ever, and so much of that technology holds great promise and amazing opportunities. However, technology can also bring challenges. John Maynard Keynes described a “phase of maladjustment” as businesses and their employees work to catch up to technological changes.

For those of us in the fueling industry, we may watch nervously as a good portion of what Americans do each day moves online—shopping, working, socializing—and cuts down on the number of miles they drive. There is also talk of autonomous trucks where technology will drive the vehicle, and the concept of vehicle platooning whereby smart vehicles utilize special lanes on freeways and create a train-like system is gaining traction.

If those changes take place, they will certainly affect the fuel portion of our businesses. We will likely need to tap into our entrepreneurial thinking as we alter our businesses to meet the emerging needs of our customers.

While some technology, such as self-driving cars, may not gain traction until well in the future, there are several new technologies we can adopt today. Technology will most likely affect how we staff our locations, not only in how we fill our front-facing positions but also in who we hire to deploy the latest systems.

We will need managers who understand what today’s technology is capable of and how we can use it to remain competitive while providing increased customer value. We will also need employees who can think strategically and find the greater value technology provides, such as freeing up our team players to take on other roles. A kiosk may replace the counter worker who took a sandwich order, but now that employee might head outside to deliver orders right to the cab of a truck.

We’re told that the typical user of information technology today uses 5 to 10 percent of the capability made available by today’s hardware and software, not surprising given most of us use less than 10 percent of our brain cognitive functions according to Doug Elliott Founder, D. Elliott & Associates.

Technology doesn’t work on its own. It’s simply another tool for our toolkit. We are the ones who need to embrace and fully utilize new technology. That won’t happen overnight, but when it does, we can expect productivity and, ultimately, customer service to soar. Thinking creatively, I’m certain we can use technology to enhance our customer interaction.

Tom Heinz's photo

Tom Heinz

Tom Heinz is President of Heinz, Inc. and Coffee Cup Fuel Stops & Convenience Stores, Inc. Tom’s thirty-seven year business career has been in different segments of the petroleum industry. Tom’s primary business and day job began 31 years ago as co-founder/owner of Coffee Cup Fuel Stops www.coffeecupfuelstops.com. Tom received the following degrees: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Master of Science in Human Resources, and Master of Business Administration from Beacom School of Business at the University of South Dakota. Presently, Tom serves on the University of South Dakota Foundation Board of Directors, Vermillion, South Dakota, NATSO Foundation Board of Directors, Alexandria, VA, Dakota Hospital Board of Directors, Vermillion, SD., and is a member of David Nelson Petroleum Marketers 300 Study Group.More
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