Fueling the Future

Posted on Aug 1, 2011 :: Green Business
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Breakthrough Fuels

The setting couldn’t be more retro: Breakthrough Fuel’s new corporate offices are in Green Bay’s 113-year-old Milwaukee Road train station.

Breakthrough Fuel helps other companies track and manage their truck, train and air transportation to save money and fuel while helping to save the environment in the process. Their business model recently gained attention when the company received the Entrepreneurial Award from the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce in mid-June.

“Typically 30 to 35 percent of a company’s cost is energy,” says Craig Dickman, founder, chief executive officer and chief innovation officer of Breakthrough Fuel. “And unless fuel is actively managed, it’s like putting money in a black hole. So we’ve created a customized, collaborative and strategic approach to helping our customers manage the energy it takes to move their products.”
Breakthrough Fuel has helped its customers – including Procter & Gamble, Georgia Pacific, Whirlpool, SCA Tissue, Shopko and more – save more than $175 million since 2004.

“We manage more than 6 million individual movements for about 25 clients,” explains Dickman. “In order to understand their energy requirements, we need to connect with all of their transportation providers, which may be 100 to 150 per company.”

That takes sophisticated software and processes. So Breakthrough developed and patented a fuel-purchasing system that helps put the savings in the pockets of its customers.

Here’s how it works: Let’s say a Green Bay company wants to ship a truckload of auto parts to St. Louis. Typically, the trucking company would buy the diesel and charge the shipper not only for moving the load, but for the fuel – which would include “fuel surcharges,” based on U.S. Department of Energy average diesel prices issued every Monday. Breakthrough works differently. It collects diesel prices from 7,500 fuel retailers every day, in many cases negotiating specific discounts at various retailers which can be accessed through transaction cards. It then calculates the specific cost for the specific trip, factoring in distance, fuel economy of the truck and the tax owed in the different states across the route. The shipper pays the truck carrier the actual cost of the fuel, and pays Breakthrough for its service.

Everyone wins: the shipper pays less, the carrier gets its money sooner and Breakthrough gets paid.

This process, known as Breakthrough Fuel Recovery, helps the company determine the most cost-effective route between two points, as well as the right combination of truck, rail, water or air transportation. It also factors in fuel usage and impact on the environment.

“The strategies of our clients differ,” says Dickman. “Some focus on economics and reducing cost as their primary driver. Others are more concerned about sustainability.”

For the latter, Breakthrough provides ways to predict fuel efficiency improvement, determination of the best modes (truck, train, air) for each leg of the journey and analyses about alternate and renewable fuels. Their clients are responsible for reducing more than 29 metric tons of carbon emissions to date by using the most effective modes of transportation.

Breakthrough Fuel also offers market intelligence tools that help customers better understand energy markets and their impact on transportation fuel spent. The Breakthrough Advisor monthly newsletter and the Advisor Pulse Mobile App are a couple of examples.

“We focus on our customer’s product, and how to move it to the shelf cost-effectively and with fewer emissions, and be more sustainable,” says Dickman. “We offer our clients the capability to manage their mobile energy.”