Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service has implemented a rolling programme to upgrade its station bulk fuelling facilities. The £300,000 investment will strengthen operational resilience and flexibility by updating and equipping the stations with larger capacity diesel storage tanks. Centralised stock monitoring is based on the Merridale FuelFX software developed by MIS Fuel Monitoring of Wolverhampton.

According to Fleet Maintenance Manager, Rob Clarke, the programme has achieved immediate benefits by enabling the Service to take advantage of favourable discounts for bulk purchasing. The fuel has two purposes, he explains.

“Primarily it is for day to day operational use. Since fuel is essential to our operations it also has a strategic resilience value. Should there be any threat to fuel supplies, we would top up all our fuel tanks and then hold that stock as a reserve and draw fuel from alternative providers.”

[quote]The Merridale system has transformed fuel management procurement from a painstaking clerical effort, into a more effective management facility which has freed up staff to do other tasks.[/quote]

“We are also saving time by centralising fuel administration. This information is needed to reconcile fuel deliveries against usage. Previously the stations would maintain daily logs. Weekly reports were then submitted to the transport department who would key the details into a computer spread-sheet for central records and accounts. With people involved, queries were inevitable and as a result valuable time was taken up in trying to balance the books.

Fuel Management Systems - Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue

Karen Hollis Fuel Administrator and Rob Clarke, Fleet Maintenance Manager.

“By automating the process we have taken out the possibilities for human error and streamlined our administration. Details of fuel drawn are now keyed directly into the system whenever a vehicle is filled up. Tank contents are also monitored electronically. The information is immediately available to managers giving them a clear overview of status on which to make better informed fuel procurement decisions.”

Merridale software was selected following evaluation under a competitive tender process. According to Rob Clarke, the deciding factor for Merridale was “its flexibility to cover different operational requirements.”

“Rather than committing to fixed installations, all the new tanks are self-bunded moveable units, allowing more flexibility and in effect, future proofing the stations,” he says.

The Nottinghamshire FRS territory stretches from south of Doncaster down to the borders of Leicestershire. This area is served by 24 fire stations plus a number of auxiliary depots. Each of these has two or three appliances, service vans and specialist 4 x 4 vehicles.

Currently the total fleet size is around 150 vehicles. All NFRS vehicles are allocated keys to access fuelling points at all the stations. Additionally as a backup measure, each vehicle has a corporate fuel card, enabling crews to draw fuel from retail forecourts if necessary.

Details of external fuelling are imported directly into the Merridale database which ensures that managers have a total overview of all fuelling transactions by date, value and individual vehicle.
Training was provided during the commissioning and technical assistance was provided by Merridale for setting up the vehicle database.

“The training went smoothly and we found Merridale an easy system to use,” says NFRS Transport Co-ordinator, Karen Hollis.

“Building the vehicle database and other set up tasks such as getting the keys coded provided the opportunity to become familiar with the way it worked.”

“We did have had some issues with individuals getting locked out after inputting the incorrect odometer reading but these have stopped now that the crews are more familiar with how the system works.

“On a day to day basis, I run the low stock report to monitor stock levels, but more importantly the Merridale system also enables us to analyse fuel usage. We can look at individual vehicles and drill down into the detail of exactly how many litres a vehicle is using and how this compares within our fleet and across other Services.

Fuel Management Systems - Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue

Fuel Management System - Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue

“Since we are an emergency service, we are still focussed on fuel economy, but our priorities are availability and the efficiencies we can achieve by bulk purchasing, and the need to be fully transparent with our fuel audit was one of the cardinal points for the operational user requirement.

“The Merridale system has enabled transport department staff to take on responsibility for fuel ordering which we didn’t do previously. We now have a continuous readout of stock and can see the broad picture across all the stations. This visibility is an advantage, as it allows us to plan more effectively. I can look at stock levels and make a decision on when to order.”

Rob Clarke concludes by saying. “The Merridale system has transformed fuel management procurement from a painstaking clerical effort, into a more effective management facility which has freed up staff to do other tasks.

“As a manager and as a Service, we have had no regrets in moving across to the Merridale system and I am sure that it is paying for itself on a daily basis.”