Huber Supply Company is a leading welding supply company headquartered in Mason City, Iowa, with branches in Ames and Owatonna, Minnesota. Since 1939, the family-owned multi-generational business has provided welding tools and accessories to the gas industry, offering services including equipment repair, delivery, and training.
“Before TrackAbout, Huber Supply wasn’t really focused on cylinder tracking,” said Nicole Smith, VP of Administration. “We were running two different systems but they weren't talking to one another. We’d be billing our customers and at the end of the day, we’d have to run through all the invoices to match up every single order, which took a lot of time and effort. We ended up liking TrackAbout so much that we switched our ERP to one that could integrate it into its system through an API.”
In 2018, after seeing TrackAbout in action at an industry event, Huber Supply requested a demo. Its team was so impressed that it decided to roll the asset tracking software out across the business, integrating it with its existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.
Huber Supply now uses TrackAbout tracking software including its POD and Rental, Dynamic Workflows, and Palletization modules to manage and monitor around 30,000 cylinders – resulting in significant time and cost savings.
The asset management software was introduced in phases, starting with its smaller branch in Ames and focusing first on the more expensive cryogenic cylinders. After the software’s successful implementation, it was then expanded to track its higher volume industrial-sized assets as well.
Although the initial set-up required a lot of asset tagging with barcodes, said Smith, TrackAbout proved intuitive and easy to use. Training and onboarding was simple, although everyone did have to factor a few additional steps into their workflow – scanning at each stage of the delivery process, from order fulfillment through to loading, unloading, and proof of delivery.
“It was a lot of work doing all that initial tagging and getting everything up and running but I would totally redo it all again. From where we've come from to now, everything’s improved so much,” added Smith. Whenever an asset is delivered, moved, or collected, its information is captured by the system. There’s no keying required, no paperwork, and no need to cross check everything. The whole process is so much quicker, said Smith. “On the office side of things, it went from taking about two hours to key in every single gas return to just 30 minutes.”
Simple errors were now being spotted – from misread handwriting on delivery documentation to accounting issues where customers were receiving cylinders but not being billed correctly. It was really surprising in the first couple of months of using TrackAbout to see just how many mistakes we would catch.”
Even a few cylinders slipping through the system would quickly mount up in terms of lost revenue, she said. “TrackAbout started showing us these issues and the whole thing was really eye opening. If you're not billing people correctly, that's when customers could start to lose their trust in you.”
Within a few weeks, TrackAbout had flagged up inefficiencies within the business and helped identify tasks that were slow or unnecessary, as well as bottlenecks that were causing delays.
“We had been truck reconciling before but it wasn't catching everything. We’d be bringing tickets in and someone would be manually putting the returns into an excel spreadsheet,” added Smith. “Often, a cylinder would be unloaded and returned but it wouldn't get added to the paperwork properly – customers would then still be charged for the cylinder because its return hadn’t been entered into the system.”
TrackAbout provided the reassurances that all deliveries and returns were being accurately tracked and billed, and that nothing was overlooked.
“Within the first year of using TrackAbout we were able to bring back $30,000 worth of assets,” she said. “We could run a sales report and carry out tank audits so we could see who was overstocked and bring cylinders that were not being used back in house. Some customers hadn’t returned them and they were just sitting there idle. It was insane the money we were able to save.”
Now, all documentation is digitized and always accessible, increasing transparency and accountability, and helping with compliance. That means that rather than dealing with multiple physical paper copies, which can easily be lost or mislaid, users can immediately check where an asset is and who signed for it – avoiding mistakes or customer disputes.
Throughout the process, TrackAbout has always been on hand for support – not only during those early stages but even now, several years later.
“We’ve had amazing support from TrackAbout’s consultants and even now we’re able to reach out with questions and talk things through,” commented Smith. “It’s been a really successful project and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.”