The Business Dictionary describes the downtime definition as: “Period during which an equipment or machine is not functional or cannot work. It may be due to technical failure, machine adjustment, maintenance, or non-availability of inputs such as materials, labor, power.”
When it comes to the forecourt, there are many ways that downtime can negatively impact your sales, profits, and most-importantly, customer satisfaction. As we all know, paying $2.50-$3.00 a gallon for fuel is not a favorite past-time for most. And, having an additional poor experience while purchasing fuel can be detrimental to your brand. While some customers who encounter a down lane may try to look for an open fueling lane, a high percentage may drive down the road to your competition…..and never return.
Some examples of common failures that lead to downtime include:
*Point Of Sale failures
*Credit card network disconnects
*Fuel nozzle or hose leaks
*and, many more.
However, there are some circumstances that are controllable with the right tools, applications, and consistent monitoring in place. But, most-importantly and paramount to success, there must exist a company’s strong dedication to improve uptime, customer satisfaction, throughput and profits from the top of the company down, and vice-versa:
*Dormant fueling position detection: Many operators count on manual processes related to the reporting of non-functioning fueling positions. A dependence on store managers or associates to report such issues can be risky given human nature and how busy your store personnel may be. Often, a down dispenser can go weeks without repair. Common causes can be related to defective nozzles, leaking hoses, leaking meters, malfunctioning credit card device issues, etc. Automating the detection of dormant dispensers can be done through the monitoring the dispenser transactions from each fueling point. This can be accomplished easily with the right tools and applications. When the application denotes that no transactions are occurring during a reasonable time or compared to normal activity, alerting can occur.
*Slowing flow at the dispenser: When tracked manually at store level, the detection of slowing flow at the dispenser or a need for a filter change can be difficult. Often, only after numerous customer complaints, will a store manager finally report the issue. With the right tools and applications in place, monitoring for slowing flow can help operators to avoid eventual downtime, including the total shutdown of the location.
*Meters out-of-variance detection: At store-level, this is almost impossible to detect. However, tools and applications exist that compare each transaction dispensed to movement from your underground fuel tanks to determine if the amount dispensed matches your sale. Of course, variances up to .05% can exist to insure customers are not cheated out of fuel. But, if a state inspector visits your location and finds a meter “holding” back fuel from the consumer, your dispensing position could be red-tagged, or shut down immediately. A fine could also be issued by the jurisdiction.
*Underground tank performance (manifolds, sumps, biodiesel systems): Underground at any fueling locations, there is a lot going on! In a perfect world, the delivery of fuel to the dispensers is a smooth and seamless operation. However, some equipment malfunctions can occur over time or immediately. You may see a deterioration in submersible (or fuel pump) performance, slowing down the flow of fuel to the dispensers. Or, in cases of manifolded tanks (multiple tanks of the same grade connected together underground), an obstruction between the connections can also slow down fuel flow, if not lead to other more-severe issues, shutting down the entire fuel system. Having the right tools and applications can lessen the likelihood of tank issues going undetected until it is too late.
*Close-to-fuel runout notifications: Many operators count on their tank gauges (ATGs), faxes, phone calls, or email alerts as their sole notification process when a fuel tank is in need of a delivery. Tools exist to help streamline such processes. Often, a fuel site may encounter a surge, or worse, a slow down in fuel sales. If a retailer price increase occurs in the area around the store and the store is slow to react, their fuel sales may increase dramatically compared to normal. Operators using “normal” sales expectations in their analytics may be surprised, resulting in a fuel runout, lost sales, and disappointed customers at the fuel location. Often, the ATG will cause a total shutdown of all grades when a fuel tank is allowed to run below the allowable Low Limit. On the other hand, if gallon sales slow too dramatically. a fuel tanker may arrive and not be able to unload all of their fuel into the store’s tanks, creating process issues for the fuel hauler. Tools and applications exist that will calculate a site’s daily throughput over time and estimate the Hours to Runout. As the site approaches 12 Hours before runout, customer alerts can be sent to the Supply department, 3rd-party haulers, and even the drivers responsible for the location.
*Addressing tank gauge alarms promptly: We will get to this tomorrow! If that is your company’s mantra, tomorrow will arrive way before you hoped! A site’s ATG may send or signal warning signs and alerts before a total shutdown of the fuel system may occur. Each “active” alarm should be reviewed, assessed, and repaired when necessary. Ignoring alarms can also jeopardize your compliance testing requirements and lead to more-costly repairs down the road. Tools and applications exist to capture your ATG alarms, prioritize, archive, and alert the specific parties that review
*Inventory control results out of variance: When operators depend solely on their ATG to determine if they received all of the fuel deliveries, shortages or losses could occur and go undetected. With Inventory Control or Reconciliation in place, a delivery can be properly-analyzed to insure that the entire fuel load was received and placed into the correct tank. Tools and applications exist to compute the “Gross” and “Net” of every fuel delivery, taking volume, temperature (of the load and product inside the tank already), the increase in movement inside of the tank during the delivery, as well as transactions during the delivery, to properly calculate what was received. Additional auditing is also available, comparing these results to your Bills of Lading, and alerting you to large variances. Without such processes in place, you could incur fuel shortages or not be able to detect fuel leaks and unknown losses within your fuel systems.
*Ignoring potential leak or loss notifications: Often, when unknown losses or leaks occur, they can go undetected. Some operators count on the manual reporting of ATG alarms and other issues by store personnel. Of course, that can be a risky process as busy as store personnel can be. Electronically tracking the ebb and flow of your fuel tanks, dispensers, and fuel delivery activity can minimize these risks, resulting in a much-earlier notifications, to the right parties, when issues occur.
At Warren Rogers, we focus on the above controllable issues as well as many others. With our online portal, fuelWRAp 3.0, and dedicated analyst support, operators can gain a 360 degree view of their forecourt performance. Our exception-based portal and reports are designed with the user in mind….cutting through the “data noise” and unnecessary graphics, report generation time, and page scrolls of other applications. We also provide you with the impact of dispenser downtime so that your maintenance department can prioritize their repairs based on revenue, profits, and impact to your customers.
fuelWRAp 3.0 is also available on mobile, desktop, and tablet. Each one of the issues noted above can be detected and reported upon with fuelWRAp 3.0. You can learn more at www.warrenrogers.com. Ask for a demo today!
About Warren Rogers Associates
Founded in 1979 by Dr. Warren Rogers, Warren Rogers Associates pioneered the development of Statistical Inventory Reconciliation Analysis (SIRA) as a means of monitoring underground fuel tanks and associated lines. SIRA was certified in accordance with EPA requirements and has been used by petroleum marketers for more than thirty years to provide UST leak detection compliance. Warren Rogers also invented Continual Inventory Reconciliation Analysis (CIRA) for fuel management, which has become the industry standard.
Today, Warren Rogers specializes in statistical analysis and precision fuel system diagnostics for the retail petroleum industry. The Warren Rogers system is fully deployed in the cloud to provide customers with real-time access to fueling data anytime and anyplace. Recent initiatives include the deployment of a secure procurement application for delivery forecasting and product dispatch, the development of KPI Measures of the financial impact of tank system maintenance activities, and advanced delivery audit. In addition, all Warren Rogers solutions are PCI compliant and eliminate any reliance upon the use of a customer’s VPN for access to store devices. Warren Rogers holds numerous U.S., European and Canadian patents for these applications. For more information, please visit www.warrenrogers.com