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With the lingering pandemic, rising labor, delivery, fuel supply, credit card, and operational costs impacting fuel marketers and wholesalers today, cost-reduction is paramount until some form of normalization returns, if ever. The business environment has changed dramatically since the onset of the pandemic and operators who embrace technology and cost-reduction will more-likely achieve some sort of profit stabilization than those resistant to change.
Fortunately, there are many ways to lower your operational costs with the correct technology in place. Store automatic tank gauges (ATGs) and dispenser controllers can supply a wealth of information. This data can be safely-attained and curated to provide the insights needed to remove labor, maintenance, and repair costs from the business.
Many operators still rely on manual processes to manage their compliance, supply, auditing, and maintenance needs. These areas are only exacerbated by staff turnover, work overload, and reliance on manual-reporting processes. Below are just a few areas that can be better-managed with the right amount of attention.
Without a proper system in place, the collection of 30-day compliance records from store ATG’s can be a paperwork nightmare for compliance personnel. In older locations where ATG-based testing (CSLD, SCALD, PLLD) is not possible, then more manual effort has to be made through 3rd party suppliers of leak detection (SIR). We know that ATGs normally store up to 12 months of records, but obtaining those results via fax or other means, can require quite a bit of manual effort. Less-savvy operators may be reliant on store or general managers to collect this information directly from the ATG every 30 days, fax to corporate, and archive the records at the store level should a regulator show up. Occasionally, the results may indicate that your testing has failed for the prior 30 days, putting you at risk of a fine or notice of violation by local regulators. In a worse-case scenario, if the reports are not pulled in the proper manner or in the proper timeframe, paperwork cleanup before an inspection can be time-consuming and result in additional fines for missing or overlooked paperwork.
With the right technology in place, monitoring software applications can poll and track these testing results every day and archive passing results every 30 days for years to come. Monitoring software can also produce reporting to alert you to any sites that are in jeopardy of not passing their current ATG-based 30 day testing period. This allows compliance staff to address the issues at hand BEFORE the tanks, lines, or sensors fail the first 30 day result. Free up your compliance staff from manual tasks and provide them with the technology to better-manage your outcomes and costs.
Filtered Alarm Management
Compliance and maintenance departments can be overwhelmed with the amount of ATG alarms notifications that may be coming at them on a daily basis via fax, email, phone, or other reporting methods. In some cases, operators are reliant on store personnel to “hear the beep”, review the alarms, assess for importance, and communicate the alarms quickly and properly to corporate personnel/owner. Unfortunately, alarms can become repetitive nuisances and go ignored if not handled properly, resulting in fines or serious leaks, downtime, and costly equipment failures.
Remote monitoring software can collect these ATG alarms, filter to the most-serious ones, and communicate the alarms to the right personnel without store interaction. This process eliminates much of the “noise” and inattention that manual ATG alarm reporting processes may cause. Alarms can be electronically-tracked, including alarm clears, and archived for future regulatory visits, making an inspection an easier ordeal to manage.
With an electronic connection to the ATGs at your locations, inventory levels can be captured in real-time and reported upon at the supply department or hauler’s desired cadence. Inventory levels for several or all locations can easily be communicated via excel sheet, .csv, or API in your more-advanced companies. These are much-more efficient methods than reliance on time-consuming and risk-prone phone calls, faxes, emails, or other means. Real-time inventory levels can also be displayed on an online dashboard or fed to a runout alert notification service, decreasing the amount of runouts and downtime your sites may incur.
Slowing Flow Rates
With electronic connection to the dispenser controller(s) at a site, software can track and analyze the flow rate of fuel from every dispensing point over time and report upon dispensing positions that are flowing in a sub-par fashion. For example, for regular gasoline and auto diesel grades, the optimal flow per minute is in the 8-10 gallon range. For high-flow diesel, primarily at truckstops and travel centers, the desired range is in the 35-45 gallons per minute range. When fuel flow drops below those ranges, customer frustration can increase and throughput can decrease. When you manually-monitor for slowing flow, it is often the customer who is responsible to report the issue to store personnel. Unfortunately, it may be days or weeks before the complaints become noticeable enough to warrant a call to the service department or owner. In the meantime, throughput could have been reduced due to lost sales and back-ups at the fuel lanes.
Targeted Filter Changes
Using the flow rate reporting mentioned above, fuel filter changes can be targeted to only the dispensing points in need of maintenance. Often, a complaint that “unleaded is flowing slowly” results in filter changes to ALL fueling points where Unleaded is dispensed. Normally, flow rate will deteriorate at your higher-use dispensers first. With the right monitoring software in place, maintenance personnel can target the dispensing points in need of a filter change and leave the other ones alone, resulting in 50-75% savings on filter changes. Not to mention the benefits of less downtime and increased throughput by better-maintaining your dispensers from a flow standpoint.
Water In Tank Reporting
With the monitoring software in place, custom reporting can be put in place to inform and track water as it enters your stores’ fuel systems. An online dashboard can display the tanks of most-concern before the issue becomes a problem for your customers or fuel phase separation occurs. Interactive tank views can also help you to indicate the time and date when water entered the system or if a faulty water reading probe may be at play. Taking this approach can lower your costs by giving you the change to properly address water as soon as it enters your tanks.
Targeted Meter Calibrations
Today, operators may rely on state weights and measures or annual testing to ensure their meters are not holding back or giving away product. Annual meter testing is a great process to institute to insure all of your meters are dispensing properly. However, there are times that the meters may stray off track between meter testing and cost you quite a bit in fuel costs through over-dispensing. By comparing product leaving the tanks and being dispensed over time, software can assess and indicate when a wide variance may be taking place. Often, you can then correct the issue and reap the savings well before an inspector lets you know or red-tags the dispenser. An additional benefit is that you can target correction only to the meters in need and not incur the cost of recalibrating all meters.
These are just a few of the many ways that technology and remote monitoring software can cut your costs and give you more control over your operation.
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