The Numerous Benefits of Remote Forecourt Monitoring Technology
See printed article in SIGMA’s IGM Magazine, Jan/Feb 2024:
In today’s fuel forecourts, many things can go wrong, often without your knowledge. Or, at the very least, without your immediate knowledge. In most cases, a quick reaction could have been taken and lowered your eventual loss, fine, or repair cost. Fuel leaks, theft, meter drift, clogged fuel filters, broken dispensers, delivery shortages, and other issues can occur at any time. Unfortunately, often only after the 10th or 100th customer complaint, does the issue reach the ear of the store manager. In the meantime, your customers have gone to your competitors for fuel.
Today, manual effort and legacy processes consume an inordinate amount of time for store and corporate staff. While manual staff effort can be considered a soft cost for a company, the amount of labor used and the lack of true operational insight may be costing your business substantially more than you realize.
The largest risk to most operators is DELAY. Delay in becoming aware of the issue at hand and delay in addressing the problem. Delays can result in additional spending on cleanup, notices of violations, fines, and repair costs. Other costs, though hard to tabulate, can include lost customers, reduced gallon throughput, and inside sales when you lose a customer to the competition. As companies grow, existing staff will often take on the responsibility for additional locations without added manpower. This can result in less attention and time paid to compliance and maintenance issues. Fortunately, improved technology can make staff more efficient, allowing operators to maximize staff productivity while still getting the work done. And, in a cost-effective manner!
The primary benefits of remote forecourt monitoring technology can include:
- More insight into your forecourt operation, improving performance, customer satisfaction, and sales.
- Higher levels of regulatory compliance with the ability to react BEFORE a failure occurs.
- More-immediate notification of possible fuel leaks, losses, or theft, decreasing contamination potential.
- Higher staff efficiency with the use of automation, freeing up resources for additional tasks.
- Analyst support to assist with particularly lean companies is often available. 3rd-party analysts can help to monitor your systems daily for leaks, losses, theft, and other anomalies.
- Exception-based reporting can allow staff to focus on irregular activity immediately versus mining data from raw sources or in overwhelming amounts.
In a nutshell, any manual process you are performing today in the areas of environmental fuels compliance and forecourt maintenance diagnostics can be automated, freeing up store and corporate staff to focus on more important tasks related to the customer. The other benefits include more immediate control and insight into how your forecourts are performing, potentially leading to an improved overall operation and higher customer satisfaction. Here are several examples:
- 24/7 real-time dashboard reporting applications are common in the industry. Usually available via desktop, mobile, or tablet.
- Most applications allow for user access across your enterprise.
- Many solutions allow for advanced administrator-controlled user setup, allowing admins to customize the capabilities and access of standard users, restricting users to certain regions or stores as well as functionality.
- Many solutions require no changes to underground equipment or dispensers, extending the life of equipment, such as Veeder Root 300s, 350s, etc.
- A few applications do not need VPN access, operating in a data-securing fashion, outside of your customer and credit card networks. Other solutions may communicate in a virtual environment, requiring access to your VPN and security credentialling.
Automatic Tank Gauge (ATG) Alarm Management
- Many of today’s available services can capture all active and historical ATG alarms for each location. Alarm histories can often be retrieved and viewed between two date ranges for regulatory inquiries, directly from the dashboard.
- Automated ATG alarm capture can decrease the use of e-fax, centralized mailboxes, or emailed alarm reports, saving user time and paper, where used.
- Eliminates the excessive review of all ATG alarms to locate important priority alarms, saving user time.
- Users can often view both active and historical gauge alarms in real-time.
- Historical ATG alarms may be tracked by location going back several months or years, depending on the installation date.
- Filtering and sorting are often available by alarm category, location, type, city, state, and date range.
- Many ATG alarm reports can be exported to Excel spreadsheet, CSV, and PDF, making sharing during a regulatory inspection much easier.
- Users may be able to set up priority alarms to receive texts, emails, or voice-automated phone calls when these priority alarms occur.
- More-robust alarm notifications can be silenced during repairs or construction within the application’s alarm notification setup.
- Daily active alarm reports may also be mailed to enterprise or regional users for review within some applications.
Inventory Level and ATG Delivery Reporting
- Tank Inventory levels and ATG deliveries can usually be reported in real-time via spreadsheet by email or loaded to FTP.
- APIs are often available to retrieve real-time tank levels, ATG deliveries, and dispenser sales upon request.
- Tank inventories and deliveries may also be directed to internal supply desks, 3rd party haulers, and others via email, FTP, or API.
- More-robust applications can also allow for real-time access to tank inventory levels. Users may include drivers, 3rd party haulers, Supply department personnel, and more.
Leak Detection Compliance tracking, report generation, and collection
- A forecourt monitoring application may also track ATG-based leak detection testing from your locations’ tank monitors. Solutions may also report locations where testing has not yet-passed the 30-day requirement, allowing users to address the exceptions easily for cause, often with quick access to active alarms and sensor status.
- Solutions can also track and report upon CSLD, SCALD, PLLD, sensor and interstitial testing in Veeder Root and Franklin consoles, for example. This process can save corporate staff from manually collecting these reports via email, fax, or filing reports at store level.
- Regulatory reports are then generated automatically and may be stored in cloud-based directories for easy access by approved users.
Tank Configuration Capture and Status Tracking
- More-robust solutions can allow users to view ATG configurations and electronic sensor status in real-time.
- PLLDs, where present, can possibly be reset via the online dashboard, eliminating the need to send a mechanic to a store to reset fuel lines following a fuel runout or power outage.
- Users can also access the top tank monitor reports within many applications using terminal emulator functionality.
Water In Tank Reporting
- Users can often view a report showing all tanks or compartments with water detection across the enterprise.
- Additional Changes in Water reports may be available as a standard service and can be emailed to critical personnel daily for their review.
- High Water Priority ATG alarms can also be set to notify users in real-time should water reach a certain preset threshold in many solutions.
Flow Rate Detection
- Curated flow rates are often displayed for every dispensing position across the enterprise in many forecourt monitoring applications.
- Filtered reports may display those dispensing points in need of investigation or repair.
- The primary benefits of flow rate reporting include targeted filter changes and faster forecourts.
- Filters can then be targeted for change based on specific dispenser and eliminate the need to change filters on all dispensers when slow flow has been reported.
- Operators may become less dependent on store managers to report flow rate complaints, allowing them to address slowing flow well before it gets to a noticeable level for store customers.
Dormant Dispenser Detection
- Today, dispensers that are no longer functioning may have to be reported manually by store managers or store personnel. This process is fraught with delay, erroneous reporting, and may not be reported until numerous customer complaints occur, or sales drop off dramatically.
- More-robust applications can track all dispensers in real-time and reports on dispensers no longer transacting after a preset amount of time.
- Users may be able to see dispensers that are no longer operating along with the calculated daily average gallons sold for that dispensing point.
- Prioritization of repair can then be based on the impact to the location, aiding in faster repair to those dispensers most critical to your customers and profits.
- Dormant or broken dispensers can cost a site 10-15% or more of sales volume when delays occur in making repairs.
There is no better time than the present to investigate better ways to manage the above areas. Reach out to several remote forecourt monitoring providers to discuss how the use of new technology could make your company or department more effective, improving the customer experience in the forecourt and lowering overall operating costs.
And, what improves the forecourt performance benefits your customers!