COMPANY: U.S. Fleet Services Bordentown, NJ
OPERATION: Mobile fleet fueling services Howard Abrams Senior vp, finance
In 1998, U.S. Fleet Services began an aggressive growth strategy, acquiring a number of other fleet fuel-outsourcing services until it found itself running approximately 200 trucks out of 60 branch offices in 20 states. “We now provide 400,000 gal. of fuel a day for about 600 customers in 1,200 locations,” says Howard Abrams, senior vp-finance.
Along with the growth came the need to monitor financial reporting from the widespread operations and to keep field managers up to date on the company's business performance. Budgeting and forecasting also became more complex and the stakes higher as the company grew.
“With each acquisition, we acquired more and more information, and we quickly outgrew our simple spreadsheet system,” says Abrams. “It was extremely tedious, prone to errors and made us nervous about its accuracy.”
The company's CFO, Lesley Bachman, and Abrams began looking at management planning and control systems to help U.S. Fleet Services stay on top of its expanding operations, eventually settling on Comshare MPC.
The system they chose offered three key features for their particular business. First, it was compatible with U.S. Fleet Services' existing Microsoft IT tools, which include Microsoft SQL Server database and Microsoft Analysis Services.
The second key was the system's web-based architecture. Instead of someone at the company's headquarters e-mailing spreadsheets to district and regional managers, field personnel can access whatever financial information they need over the company's intranet. “Delivering information to our field users via the web is a much faster way to get them the information they need, with more detail available if they choose,” says Abrams. And the company's executives have desktop access “to monitor key metrics on the web on a day-to-day basis,” he adds.
Finally, the Comshare planning system offers extensive visual reporting to present key financial data and analysis. “It gives us the ability to create, through our own intranet, a visual dashboard on users' desktops that will help them focus on what is important to improve operations,” Abrams points out.
The company began installing the new MPC system last fall. This September, the company will begin its first budgeting process using the new tool.
The eventual goal is to use the system to move from annual budgeting to a rolling forecast. “We'll be able to look at the numbers and reforecast in real time with information supplied from our people in the field,” Abrams says. “We can push down delivery forecasts and other key financial drivers to branch managers using the information we gather from them.”
The end result, says Abrams, is that the new financial planning system “will take us to the next level by using key indicators to drive the company to increased profitability and market share.”