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Thursday, February 22, 2024

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Real-Time Tank Data Drives Better Fuel Management

by Ed Burke and Kelly Burke, Dennis K. Burke Inc.


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A Tank Monitoring Case Study: Lower Costs, Higher Customer Satisfaction

Our business, like many fuel dealers, relies on remote tank monitoring systems in our daily operations. Our company has been monitoring fuel, lubricants and DEF for about ten years now. The monitoring equipment is installed and maintained by our own factory-trained service technicians.

We get a lot of “thumbs up” from our tank monitoring accounts. The big value for customers is that they don’t have to worry about ordering fuel or run outs anymore. It also eliminates manual tank gauging. For the guy who manages the fuel, tank monitoring is a real convenience. He can go online to check the usage from anywhere, with far more usage data than his own tank equipment provides. And he finally gets to relax when he goes away on vacation.

There is a big plus side for the fuel dealer too. With real-time data from the tanks, we can plan delivery schedules and routes more efficiently, we make fewer partial fills, and end up with fewer retains.


Real-Time Tank Insight

We typically have most of our tanks report twice a day, at 4 a.m. and 4 p.m. The morning dispatchers get a chance to review the tank levels, and they’re checked again when the night dispatchers come in. For us, that’s enough to get a good feeling for volume and how much product the customer is going through, or a spike in usage.

There are some tanks where the usage is much higher and require closer monitoring. We might have them report five or six times a day, depending on what the volume is, and how fast they’re going through product.

You can set a low-level alert and a critical low-level alert for the tank, which sends an email or text alert to your dispatchers that the tank needs attention. We try to set the alerts so that if the dispatcher gets a low-level alert, they have time to schedule and make the delivery before the critical low-level alert is triggered. Some systems can also provide leak detection capabilities with alerts that can that help flag abnormal level changes caused by leaks or theft.

The online screens are very user-friendly, and you get some great spreadsheets to work with. They tell you what product is in the tank, the product temperature, and other characteristics. It shows you how many gallons per day they’re using, as well as the daily usage for the seven-day period, and a 35-day period. You can also see if your deliveries are hitting the tank’s delivery size target.

One neat feature our monitoring system offers is worth mentioning: it can pull data from a Veeder Root system and transmit that data to the website.


Which Tanks To Monitor

So which accounts should you consider monitoring? Tanks with high usage are worth monitoring. You might also want to monitor accounts with irregular fueling patterns like a marina that typically does low volume during the week and heavy volume on the weekend. You might want to consider pushing data at more frequent intervals to get a more accurate view of volume levels during peak periods.

It would be great to have tank monitoring on all of our customers’ tanks, but the reality is that some customer sites don’t do the volume to justify the monthly fee and equipment expense.


More Timely Deliveries

With tank monitoring, we can deliver the same amount of gallons with fewer trips to the site. With time-based deliveries, we would typically be filling the tank about 50 percent of capacity. Using remote tank monitoring, we could average closer to 75 percent fills with fewer deliveries. That can translate into reduced overall delivery costs with less paperwork and fewer phone calls, too.


Fewer Retains

With tank monitoring, dispatchers can use accurate tank data to better schedule and optimize deliveries to the customer’s site. Our delivery vehicle brings the right amount of product at the right time.

Tank monitoring data gives dispatchers a much more accurate view of how much product to load up at the rack and avoid retains. It’s also a great tool when you’re trying to deal with product retains left on the truck. Our dispatchers can go on the screen, type in the product and vicinity, and it comes back with accounts in that area that can use that product.


Bad Weather Ahead

When storms are approaching, tank monitoring definitely helps us get an early jump on preparations. We can plan deliveries earlier, so we can handle the true emergencies on the day before the storm. It’s also worth noting that the unit continues to transmit data to the website during power outages.


Keeping Customers Happy

Once we get a monitor on an account, we’re able to blend into the background of their daily operation. They don’t have to worry about checking tanks or ordering fuel. We just show up with fuel, and they never run out.

Customers can access tank data through a secure, password-protected website that can be accessed from virtually anywhere. They can view data that would include tank level information, product usage, fill history, etc. At the end of the day, it’s all about improving our service and keeping our customers happy.

Ed and Kelly Burke are respectively Chairman of the Board and Senior Marketing Manager at fuel distributor Dennis K. Burke Inc. They can be reached at 617-884-7800 or ed.burke@burkeoil.com and kelly.burke@burkeoil.com.


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