Tracking Off-Site Fueling: Top 4 Issues Resolved for Industrial Fleets

Posted by SM2 Superfan on 1-Aug-2022 8:30:00 AM

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You can’t manage what you don’t measure, and what you don’t manage eventually comes back to bite you—and eat away at profits. Fleet managers know that you can’t save what you don’t measure. Accounting for every drop of fuel spent is essential for profitability and accurate reporting. It doesn’t matter how much or where the fuel is being dispensed––whether it’s to a truck at a local tank or jerrycans at remote sites, every drop matters.

In the first of this three-part blog series, we looked at the issues that arise with the manual reconciliation of primary storage tanks. This second part examines neglected assets further down the operations line and smaller assets.

Manual Fuel Tracking at Remote Sites—Issues

1- Fuel Shrinkage

Fuel shrinkage is a fact of fleet operations. Ideally, the target for remote operations is to keep shrinkage below 2%. Some types of fuel shrinkage are unavoidable due to ambient temperature fluctuations. There is a 1% change in the volume of gasoline for every 10 degrees C or 19 degrees F change in temperature. Fleet managers accept this and understand that it is impossible to have numbers match precisely.Man-in-Ski-Mask-Stealing-Fuel-from a system with no Coencorp-SM2-Fuel-Tracking

Shrinkage can also occur due to dispensing fuel to unauthorized equipment or outright theft. For remote construction and mining sites, fuel storage tanks and day tanks are scoped by thieves who will steal fuel at night or on the weekend, when your operations team is not around. Theft is easier to control at permanent fuel dispensing stations. The installation of a sound fuel management system restricts unauthorized dispensing of fuel and tracks all transactions for accurate reconciliation. In addition, you can install security lighting and cameras to monitor your yard 24/7.

However, such measures are often not an option for remote sites. Sometimes, no network is available, rendering traditional fuel management systems practically useless. And sometimes, the small size of storage tanks and/or slip tanks makes such systems cost prohibitive and unattractive to fleet operators.

So, fleets often rely on manual logs and data entry when it comes to tracking fuel at remote sites. Of course, in this scenario, missing data and entry errors are a constant thorn in the side of a fleet manager, and fuel shrinkage becomes a very costly part of the fleet's operational reality.

2- Operational Friction

Operational friction involves anything that slows down your company’s daily operations. When efficiently managing your fleet’s fuel, accurate and timely data is required from your field personnel. Here is where the friction occurs: manually capturing the needed information slows down daily refueling processes.

Accurate record-keeping is tedious, difficult to perform in harsh ambient conditions, and a nuisance to the operator. Any documented records must be forwarded to the office for review and analysis. This often involves re-entry of manually written records into either a spreadsheet or an application. This process requires an extensive investment of man-hours to track what is happening in the field with high accuracy and confidence. And this is when manual records are actually kept!Field Worker manually Entering Info on paper because they do not have -Coencorp's Fuel Tracking SM2 solution

Manual tank dips of your day tanks or remote fuel storage tanks is a procedure that can often be omitted. When project and delivery deadlines are paramount, the importance of good record-keeping and reporting decline. Sometimes, even the most basic manual tracking is set aside to eliminate perceived operational friction.

3- Fuel Supply

Nothing is more damaging to a company’s bottom line than having production or work come to a grinding halt because operations ran out of fuel. Fuel outages rob your company’s bottom line. Missed deadlines can result in late penalties and fines.Tanker-Delivering-Fuel-Sm2-Coencorp

Imagine a situation involving a construction company. What happens when a remote fuel storage tank runs dry? Stationary equipment, from cranes, loaders and bulldozers, to gas generators that power smaller equipment, will cease to operate. You must then cope with lost production time and pay your crew on site while you wait for the fuel to be delivered. Remote fueling operations often lack the sophistication of proper instrumentation and monitoring to alert low inventory situations, which increases the risk of fuel outages.

Why your operations may run out of fuel is often attributed to the lack of daily manual dips of the site’s storage or day tanks. The person responsible for the daily dips either forgets to perform the task or may be absent from work for a couple of days. It is therefore easy to understand how your operations can run out of fuel.

4- Safety

One area linked to fuel supply but often overlooked is safety. When heavy equipment or generators in remote work environments run out of fuel, personnel on-site can be left in a precarious position. Loss of fuel could mean loss of essential hydraulic lift capabilities or other functions, such as lighting. Injury resulting from such scenarios must be avoided at all costs.
Workers on Hydraulic Lift
Safety also becomes an issue when no automated system is in place to manage the pumps properly. This becomes an issue when a piece of equipment has a fill pipe for diesel and another close to it for a different product—hydraulic fluid, for instance. Imagine the danger of mistakenly adding diesel to the hydraulic system. Not only can this cause expensive damage to your equipment, but the failure of your hydraulics can also cause severe injury—or much worse. An automated fuel management system would prevent that type of costly and potentially tragic mistake. But when everything is done manually, that type of error becomes a real possibility.

Why is Diligent Fuel Tracking So Difficult?

Many obstacles exist to diligent manual record-keeping. The first is the environment itself.  Working in remote areas often means working in harsh environments. Workers are subject to a variety of weather conditions that can change quickly. Rain, freezing rain, snow, excessive heat and high winds make the job of refueling and daily fuel tank reconciliation unpleasant and often dangerous. No one wants to slip off equipment or lose their footing during fueling operations. No one wants to be exposed to extremely harsh weather conditions. Routine manual tank measurements and fueling records often get fudged during severe weather conditions.

Imagine fueling a heavy piece of equipment where the operator and site foreman are voicing their displeasure over the time the fueling process takes when the equipment and other information need to be recorded. The fueler will tend to rush observed readings or fail to record them, creating inaccurateConstruction Worker Walking in the Rain to manually take fuel tank readings. information. A rushed job presents a greater risk of errors. This information needs to go somewhere. Usually, paper records are compiled at the local office, where someone needs to key this data into a spreadsheet or management software manually. Duplicate data entry is time-consuming and tedious and creates an opportunity for other data entry errors.

Many fleets are incorporating fuel management software to track fuel consumption. However, many software and hardware fuel management packages lack the sophistication needed to automate the record-keeping of fuel dispensed. Often, the operator must walk back and forth from the fuel truck to the asset to record information, creating additional frustration. They must key in information for each asset, their specific identification number, time, dates and other information. In reality, the frustrations and operational friction inherent with paper record-keeping are transferred to an electronic system that provides little relief.

Efficient Fuel Tracking: Coencorp’s Mobile Fuel System

When your remote project sites are equipped with Coencorp’s fuel management solution, you enjoy total accounting of every drop of fuel used by your operations. Remote fueling facilities are monitored 24/7 with electronic probes, the pump totalizer, and individual dispensing records. Tanker trucks automatically record all fuel dispensed to each asset, when it happened, and the volume delivered. Even smaller volumes dispensed by pickups equipped with slip tanks and even fuel distributed by jerrycans can all be accounted for and tracked. This information is uploaded to Coencorp’s cloud-based platform, where you customize the type of reports you need, the frequency of reporting, and who receives the reports. This is done seamlessly and automatically.

Fuel shrinkage from theft or fueling unauthorized vehicles is eliminated when you equip your assets with Coencorp's  passive identification tags. Using a pocket-sized RFID authorizer, the asset’s ID is sent to the SM2-FUEL Mobile system . When asset authorization and correct fuel type have been confirmed, the tanker’s pump is activated and the fuel is dispensed. If a vehicle is unauthorized, the pump is locked, fuel is not distributed, and theft is eliminated. SM2-FUEL Mobile knows how much fuel can be administered to any particular asset, so overfilling and spillage are also avoided.

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With Coencorp’s SM2-FUEL Inventory Management, tank levels are continuously monitored, and tank leaks can be detected quickly, thus avoiding expensive environmental cleanup.

Units can be identified using SM2's small disc-shaped RFID tags, which have clear benefits over other asset identification systems—bar codes that need scanning, for instance. Coencorp RFID discs are passive and require no battery; they have a virtually unlimited lifespan; they are easily read even when covered in mud, dust, ice, or snow; and they are small enough to attach to jerrycans, so you can also account for fuel used from these sources.

When fuel levels become dangerously low, SM2 will notify you to order more. Better yet, you can send the notification directly to the supplier for an even quicker dispatch of the delivery truck. Once the fuel drop occurs, the system also records the amount of fuel delivered so billing can be reconciled.

When your tanker trucks are outfitted with the SM2-FUEL MOBILE system and your assets are equipped with Coencorp’s Vehicle Data Units (VDUs), the system automatically captures essential data from your heavy equipment: mileage, engine hours, idling time, fault codes, and more. When the tanker returns to your home base, all this information is sent through a network-connected cradle to the SM2 cloud-based platform. Each asset’s operational data (meters, PTO, engine idling, etc.) and the fueling volumes are analyzed to predict the required frequency of refilling. This goes a long way to ensure your heavy equipment keeps operating and never runs out of fuel. It also alerts the fleet manager when a unit is due for maintenance.

Even More Advantages with Coencorp’s Mobile Fuel Management

End-to-end fuel reconciliation at remote sites is a breeze with Coencorp's fuel management systems. SM2-FUEL will monitor your storage tanks 24/7, and you can quickly and accurately detect the amount of fuel delivered by your supplier.

SM2-FUEL MOBILE accounts for every drop of fuel your tanker trucks dispense to each authorized asset. The budget-friendly SM2-FuelUp system accounts for fuel dispensed from small, pickup-mounted transfer tanks.

One additional benefit of the Coencorp fuel management solution is the ability to take this data and use it for future project cost estimations. The bidding process is highly competitive, and your estimations will be much more accurate and competitive with accurate fuel usage data.

Wrapping It All Up

When it comes to fueling operations at remote sites, no stone should be left unturned. Accounting for every drop of fuel and tracking where it is consumed is paramount in running a profitable business. When trying to manually keep consistent, frequent, and accurate records, operational friction becomes a significant obstacle to this crucial operations and accounting data capture.

We have listened to and worked with fleet managers for over 30 years. We have documented the friction points communicated to us and created automated solutions to streamline data collection, record keeping and reporting. We invite you to contact us to discuss your remote operations and the challenges you have experienced in tracking your fuel usage. Chances are we have encountered similar challenges before, and we would be pleased to offer you solutions to make your fleet life much easier.