A modern gas station broken fuel pump with a Sorry Out of Service sign and lock.

The events of the past year been challenging and have placed unexpected demands on retail petroleum operators and their maintenance divisions. There have been widespread outages due to the freeze in Texas, the Colonial Pipeline shutdown, and the general shortage of transport drivers. Additionally, there is a shortage of skilled maintenance technicians that can respond to outages or to emergent equipment problems.  Further, supply chain issues have affected the supply of replacement parts.

Because of these realities, maintenance can no longer be conducted in an ad hoc manner. The key to a structured and efficient maintenance program is the collection of forecourt data from pump controllers and automatic tank gauges and the curation of this data to eliminate noise.

Clearly there is a need to make field maintenance activities more efficient. Optimization is needed to reduce service costs, enhance the customer experience, and maximize fuel sales. The broader challenge is to use forecourt data to get insights across the enterprise. With such granular data the fuel retailer will be able to adapt quickly to new challenges, identify and track emerging trends, and to know what processes are functioning properly and to be alerted when they are not.

How is maintenance done in the absence of forecourt data?

Typically, these maintenance activities are either routine or impromptu. Routine maintenance is scheduled according to a calendar regardless of need. Routine activities can be annual meter calibrations regular filter replacements or environmental inspections. Additionally, there were other impromptu activities that can be classified as targeted responses.  Such activities could be prompted by reports from the store GM, customer complaints, regulatory inspections, loss control, and issues raised by logistics providers.

Considering these existing practices, one should ask whether there is room for improvement. What if the maintenance supervisor were able to know about issues as they are developing, not waiting for them to become full blown problems that you need to rely on someone else to report?  

Further, what if you could have more complete information about the issue, allowing you to run diagnostics before dispatch and enabling you to understand the triggers of intermittent issues? Finally, wouldn’t it be better to have tools that enable you to assess the potential impact of various competing issues that could confound any assessment during troubleshooting.

What if you could know about flow rate issues in real time end could detect flow rate issues before they frustrate customers? What if one could target meter calibrations to the dispenser positions which have deviated from strike and, further, what if one could know which dispensers are down and the impact of the associated dispenser on store sales?  The key to undertaking a more advanced approach to maintenance is to have more complete and granular information about the issues at hand.

Given that the cost of a service visit can tally up to several hundreds of dollars, it is useful to ask how many maintenance tickets take multiple visits to resolve an issue. 

Visual cloud-based tools can enable technicians to get to the root of the issue faster. Analytical tools can provide valuable clues as to the nature of intermittent issues and reduce time spent troubleshooting.  Remote diagnostics can be used to isolate the source of the problem before dispatching a technician.

An example of how such investigative tools may be used would be the issue of reduced flow rates at dispenser positions. A simple report of slow flow rates can be attributable to multiple causes. For example, a store may experience intermittent flow rate issues which are related to degraded STP performance. When a few dispensers are in use everything is operating normally. However, when multiple dispenser positions are in use, particularly during the busiest portions of the day, slow flow rates drop as increased load is put on the STP. Alternatively, filters may be clogged, the line leak detector may be tripping, or the tank has accumulated so much debris that a cleaning is in order.

If one could analyze flow patterns remotely using properly curated forecourt data, one could see common signatures of each of the problems outlined above. Additionally, if real time flow rate information is available, then the outcome of the maintenance can be verified in short order to clear a ticket.

Another common intermittent issue is improperly functioning siphons in manifolded tank systems.

Depending upon the nature of the siphoning issue, it may or may not be apparent when the service technician is on site.  If he could view the take level history for a manifold tax system, as shown below, he can isolate those events which caused defective siphoning and distinguish them from time periods when proper siphoning was occurring.

It is important to understand how such issues as flow rates impact sales at a store. For example, if a high usage position is restored to a normal flow rate the increase in daily transactions could range from 3 to 6 transactions per day.  A 4 gallons per minute increase in flow rates at a busy position can yield up to 180 transactions per month, translating to 60 to 90 additional visits into the store.

In fact, with extensive forecourt data, the impact of any maintenance activity can be looked at on the before and after basis to see if the maintenance house yielded increased sales which can be defined with the financial value attached. For example, tank cleaning for a particular product can have a measurable impact across all positions and yield up to a 10% increase in fuel throughputs before and after basis.

There is a valuable role for curated forecourt data to deliver insights across the enterprise. This will enable the operator to adapt quickly to new challenges, to identify and track emerging trends, to head off issues proactively, and to verify equipment and processes are functioning as you would like and generate alerts when they are not.

Underlying these processes is the collection and curation of real-time forecourt data and the preservation of appropriate data artifacts for more in-depth analysis of maintenance issues.  The key to such data preparation and analysis is to use statistical processes to denoise the data so that actionable insights can be developed. Several retailers, including SIGMA members, are using these tools to make their maintenance programs more efficient.

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!Info Graphic Chart Image

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