Fuel operators are under constant pressure every day to make the right decisions related to the operation of their stores……Improve foodservice, build more and larger stores, upgrade equipment, remodel stores, add EV, and much more. However, there are some areas of the business where improvement can occur with minimal capital outlay while increasing the efficiency of your current fuel forecourts. These benefits also pay off in the areas of increased customer satisfaction and bottom-line profitability.

Often, fuel operators upgrade dispensers and tank monitors and build larger locations when increasing the efficiency at their current locations could be a more cost-effective solution. Optimizing the equipment at current locations can be both a short-term and long-term solution to overall company health.

Some areas to focus on for immediate benefit and ROI are:

  • Dispenser flow rate optimization
  • Targeted dispenser filter changes and maintenance
  • Dispenser downtime monitoring
  • Fuel system STP and manifold performance

Dispenser flow rates can only be improved if you have technology in place to accurately measure your transactions. The days of using stopwatches and once-a-year flow checks during meter calibrations should be far behind us. Many monitoring solutions today offer transactional flow rates; however, the key is the curation of the data before acting. Transactional flow rates can be all over-the-board when you review numerous single transactions in real-time. Curation is key and can be performed by more-robust monitoring solutions. The review of dozens or hundreds of transactions can truly indicate when slowing flow is occurring or a sub-par low maximum flow rate is taking place.

The customer and financial benefits come with targeted filter changes, discovering slowing flow before it becomes noticeable to the customer, and lowering your on-site maintenance and filter costs. Today, when a store manager reports a flow rate complaint, the customary response is for a maintenance mechanic to change all filters on all dispensers.  This takes additional time, interrupts customers, and runs up your maintenance costs for filters and labor, all for naught. If a dispenser is performing well, leave it alone!

A company can also eliminate the periodic changing of dispenser filters with a robust flow rate monitoring system in place. The savings can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

As shown below, the increase of dispenser flow rate can increase the number of transactions per dispenser per day by up to 2.7 with an improvement of 2-4 gallons per minute per transaction. With improvements above 4 gallons per minute, the improvement can be as high as 6.3 depending on the usage of the dispenser.  Do the math….10 dispensers with an increase of 6.3 can result in up to 63 additional transactions per day at 10 gallons per transaction.

Warren Rogers, 2018-2023, diagnostic metrics, anonymized

As shown in the graph below, and based on client performance over time, the increase in flow rate can also increase the “basket size” of every fuel transaction. With improved flow rate, the impact can be as high as 1.3 gallons per transaction. Why does this occur?  Quite simply, customers hate to wait and become infuriated with slow fuel dispensers! Who has not personally stopped a slow-flowing transaction at 3 gallons just to get to the next gas station, never to return to the underperforming location?

Warren Rogers, 2018-2023, diagnostic metrics, anonymized

Another area of opportunity is quick notification and repair of dormant or non-operational dispensers. The common thought is that a single down dispenser will not affect overall location gallon throughput and that is far from the truth. No matter how many dispensers are non-operational, the overall impact to average gallons will decrease up to 10% or more. As shown below, Dispenser 18 was non-operational, moving some fuel sales to other dispensers during the downtime event. However, the overall net loss to the location was more than 10% as many customers simply drive off in frustration when a dispenser malfunctions or is blocked or bagged off.

Today’s technology can detect dormant dispensers quickly, removing the reporting of down dispensers through manual methods, such as by store personnel. Often, that process is wrought with failure when the condition goes unreported or misreported to proper personnel. Reviewing the sales impact of down dispensers can also help to prioritize how quickly and in what order that you dispatch for service.

Warren Rogers, 2018-2023, diagnostic metrics, anonymized

Some final areas that can impact forecourt performance are related to STP and manifold performance. Improperly performing manifolds and siphoning between tanks can create havoc from a fuel system standpoint and lead to fuel runouts and delivery issues.

Technology exists to check the “heartbeat” of your fuel systems to make sure that they are reacting properly during and after deliveries as well as between deliveries. In the example below, taking 2 to 3 days for two tanks to balance the delivery can lead to overfills in one tank when a delivery is needed and a system shutdown if one of the tanks reaches a low level. Plenty of fuel is available, however, the manifolding issue has caused one of the tanks to reach very low levels, potentially creating a minimum level condition and costly fuel runout. Fuel runouts can also damage equipment.

Warren Rogers, diagnostic tank view activity

In the example below, STP performance can go undetected during normal manual flow rate checks at the location. Often, these checks are done with a single dispenser during a slow period at the location to avoid impacting customers. A great initiative, but the true STP performance may not be accurate at a single dispenser during a slow period of business. In the case below, the STP performance issue was taking place when more and more dispensers were in use. During the busiest times, when you need high performance, this location suffered dramatically! These issues cannot be detected manually, but technology exists to gauge performance over time and with numerous dispensers engaged.

Warren Rogers, diagnostic STP performance chart

In summary, building bigger and better is great! However, true ROI resides in maximizing the performance of your existing locations through the tips shown above. No capital outlay and the benefits for customers, store personnel, image, and the bottom-line are paramount!