Smart Series: Packaged gas tracking technologies


When Jack T. Butler was in his twenties and working the night shift at his Pittsburgh-based family business, Butler Gas Products, he was asked by a friendly competitor visiting the site, “Where are all your empties?” Butler didn’t know exactly, so he asked his father, Jack A. Butler, founder of Butler Gas Products, who said, “They are on our trucks being returned from customers.”

Rather than renting cylinders from gas suppliers, Butler Gas was spending cash resources to buy its own. Cylinders were expensive, so they bought just enough to turn around from one customer and deliver the next day to another, ensuring no empties were just sitting around. According to Jack T. Butler, CEO of Butler Gas, the philosophy of owning your own cylinders (your own assets) vs. renting them, is the same philosophy as owning your own house vs. renting it.

But with owning its own assets, Butler Gas needed to keep track of them. In 1986, the company made a significant investment in its cylinder assets, upgrading to a cylinder tracking system of using “brick-like” laser scanners to read barcodes. Printing barcode labels and labelling/initialising cylinders was a major project. Considering the time it took cylinders to return from the field, it took a couple of years to fully label and initialise all of Butler Gas cylinders at that time.

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