Pulsa puts speed in the distributor’s toolkit

As featured in Gasworld: Sep 2023

Speed has always been the difference-maker in customer service, but today its benefits extend into operations as well. The capability to rapidly effect changes in processes, installations, or routes as needed has become a competitive necessity. As a result, the strategic use of time has become an essential new consideration for distributors. With this imperative front of mind, San Francisco- based telemetry provider Pulsa has positioned time savings and speed to action as central components of its value proposition

New equipment enables immediacy

In the past decade, advanced digital technologies have enabled previously unachievable business speeds and opened new operational efficiencies for distributors. For example, Pulsa’s high-frequency telemetry system today delivers continual inventory readings in real-time. This not only provides instant intelligence regarding customer fill needs but also alerts of any problems in the field as soon as they occur. A carbon dioxide (CO2) leak detected hours too late, or perhaps the next day, can mean worse trouble than just the fact of the inventory loss. It can pose substantial danger to staff.

The speed that’s enabled by real-time data also helps overcome both predictable and unpredictable market disruptions. With truck and driver shortages an ongoing concern for many businesses, not to mention fuel costs and intermittent gas shortages, efficiency has become imperative. Reducing truck rolls, even in small ways, throughout the enterprise can yield substantial cost savings. In this context, time and efficiency savings can be a profit center.

The proof is out there, and comes from the customers utilizing telemetry solutions themselves. Bill Markle, Operations for Maryland-based Roberts Oxygen, says, “Because of Pulsa’s telemetry we can dial in and cut a visit. We’re saving 50% to 55% of stops per year.”

Andy Castiglione, President of California-based WestAir, agrees that small economies add up to a big impact.

“Let’s say you do this across a thousand locations,” he says. “You’re talking about a million dollars coming to WestAir’s bottom line every year.”

A speedy upgrade

Many distributors that have previously made investments in what are now legacy telemetry systems compared with today’s technology may find themselves in a quandary. While the advantages of real-time data are obvious, there may be functional gauges and technology that are already in place and doing a job up to a point, perhaps at scale. Wholesale changes in hardware throughout the enterprise may not be practical from the standpoints of cost and business interruption.

But the situation isn’t necessarily all that problematic. Pulsa has made it easier for distributors to migrate their systems with the Pulsa Link, which works with any tank measurement device with a 0-5V or 4-20mA output, and the recent release of its Mediator Board that connects popular sensors from Cyl-Tel and Anova into the Pulsa platform. These plug- and-play retrofits take minutes and can be performed without the need for professional installation – and even the plumbing remains untouched. With this solution now ready and waiting, Pulsa provides an upgrade path that can deliver the benefits of high-frequency telemetry with minimal business interruption.

Speed to ROI

One of the considerations that gives distributors pause for thought about introducing the latest digital technologies is the time and cost of equipment installation or retrofit. Assigning internal staff to the job of installation has two potential drawbacks: it takes personnel away from other important tasks, and it assumes installation experience that can be counted on. Without specific training, and the right fittings, installations can move slowly, and outfitting tanks at scale can seem like a job that’s too big to take on immediately or even further out.

Happily, the reality is less complicated. Pulsa has addressed this concern by offering installation services to the distributor. The team carefully plans the installations, which is the key to success. Then trained, vetted installation professionals arrive at the distributor and offload the job away from internal resources. Due to their training on Pulsa equipment, and showing up with the right equipment that ensures success, these installers can generally move through the process much more quickly than internal staff.

WestAir’s Vice-President of Operations, Austin Romesberg, shares his experience with Pulsa. “We decided to switch hundreds of tanks with competitive sensors to Pulsa,” he says. “The Pulsa Installation service was affordable and fast. Our technicians were freed to focus on other priorities.”

Technology as the key to growth

The gas distribution business has changed dramatically over the years and continues its shift even today. The changes aren’t just centered on technologies; they extend all the way through to the customer and to inventory type. Twenty years ago, who would have predicted today’s opportunities for CO2 in the cannabis industry? Or for oxygen supply, considering that now 15 million Americans live with COPD?

Many distributors began as family businesses and remain so, but in today’s landscape every company of every stripe needs to work ever-smarter to stay competitive. As the next generation of leadership takes over, the key question is how to take the argon and welding business that grandfather started and move it into the age of data. Advanced offerings, such as Pulsa’s telemetry platform, retrofitting, and installation services are providing the tools, that deliver dramatic new efficiencies and services based on speed of information.