Leading gases supplier Afrox has completed the national roll-out of its state-of-the-art digital cylinder tracking service. Cylinder deliveries are now being replaced with an advanced software solution to offer customers improved account management, accurate customer cylinder records, and the ability to track individual cylinder movements and recall cylinders accurately if required.
“This fully integrated solution will hugely benefit customers through greater reliability and accuracy of cylinder holding details, ensuring Afrox can handle customer enquiries more effectively,” says AJ Keith, Cylinder Tracking Programme Manager at Afrox. He explains that all industrial, special and medical gas cylinders now carry a unique barcode, which is scanned during delivery and return actions using a state-of-the-art hand-held device, creating an immediate electronic record of the transaction.
“The scans record on the cylinder tracking system that the individual cylinder is located at a specific customer. This system generates absolutely accurate customer cylinder records, something our customers have wanted for many years,” enthuses Keith. Every cylinder supplied by Afrox will be scanned and automatically allocated to a customer’s account, and conversely every cylinder returned to or collected by Afrox will be scanned and automatically removed from the customer’s account. A delivery advice note is created after all cylinders have been scanned, which lists the barcode numbers of all tracked gas cylinders supplied and returned.
“With this system, we can now provide our customers with a record of all individually tracked cylinders supplied and returned on their rental account,” says Keith. He notes that customers should be aware that if they have swapped or inadvertently changed cylinders with another Afrox customer, any returned cylinders will be deducted from the original customer account supplied, not from the returning account. Customers are therefore advised to notify Afrox of any such “off-system” movements to enable Afrox to correct the holdings before any potentially incorrect billing occurs.
Keith adds that all Afrox retail outlets, including official Afrox agents, will be scanning cylinders supplied to and returned from customers. The cylinder tracking system is fully integrated and, therefore, all transactions are updated and cylinder records adjusted automatically, irrespective of how and where the cylinder was supplied and returned. For smaller customers, Afrox cylinders can be returned to any Gas & Gear store or Afrox agent where they will be scanned and automatically removed from the account on which they were originally supplied.
“From a safety and quality perspective, the new cylinder tracking system adds immense value to our customers. We now have an electronic system that ensures only those cylinders that have passed their pre-fill inspection and are within their statutory test period can be refilled,” says Keith. He explains further that any reported faulty cylinders are also blocked in the system at collection and cannot be refilled until corrective action has been taken. Furthermore, in the unlikely event that a batch of cylinders needs to be recalled, the system is able to identify the current location of each and every cylinder in that batch by barcode and location, be it internally or at a customer. This is the first time any gas company in South Africa has been able to offer a recall at this level of detail and accuracy.
He emphasises that the introduction of the electronic cylinder tracking system at each customer has had minimal direct impact and there has been no significant difference in the time taken to complete deliveries.
“A special mention must go to the Afrox drivers, regional transport, inventory, retail staff and their respective supervisors, as well as the IS, Commercial and Sales teams that have all contributed to the successful roll-out of one of the biggest recent changes to the way we do business,” concludes Keith.