Sutton Hoo Produce of Suffolk – a leading supplier of fresh vegetables to British supermarkets, has implemented the Merridale web-based fuel management service to help improve its fuel purchasing procedures.

“We are part of a group fuel purchasing scheme which enables members to secure a better price by advance ordering,” explains farm manager, Peter Milne. “To use this facility effectively however, we need to be able to accurately forecast our forward requirements.”

The main advantage of the Merridale service is that we now have real time visibility of our fuel status, presented as a simple dash board on the office computer.

Sutton Hoo operations cover 600 hectares of arable land, divided between three farms, each of which is equipped with a fuel storage tank. Prior to installing the Merridale service, fuel was drawn on trust and the only means the company had for tracking usage, was from the actual fuel deliveries.

Peter Milne, Farm Manager, Sutton Hoo Produce

Peter Milne, Farm Manager, Sutton Hoo Produce

“Stock levels were checked by physically dipping the tanks every week. Even this procedure could drift, especially during busy times,” says Peter Milne. “On occasions we could empty a tank within a day and end up chasing around for fresh supplies, rather than take advantage of an advance purchasing scheme.”

Real time visibility of our fuel status.

“The main advantage of the Merridale service is that we now have real time visibility of our fuel status, presented as a simple dash board on the office computer. The information includes a tank contents graphic for each of three fuelling points with itemised usage figures together with anticipated demand and forecast re-order requirements. We can also set low level warnings and these are backed up by e-mail alerts.”

“After three months in operation, we are now taking full advantage of the group purchasing scheme. We have over thirty machines, mostly tractors and harvesters across all our operations and the annual fuel bill was up to £302,000 last year. Under the group purchasing scheme, we are achieving savings of up to 20p per litre. Quite significant, even on top of the fact that prices have been falling generally.

“Another important benefit is that our cost accounting is more accurate which means that we can ensure that our prices remain competitive. This is crucial because most of our produce, (sweet corn, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and swede) is sold to the leading supermarket chains, all of which are extremely price sensitive.

Peter Mine continues; “Security of fuel supplies has also been improved. Merridale has installed Auditor control units which ensure that fuel can only be accessed by authorised personnel. A key fob is allocated for each of the farm machines and each transaction must be validated by the operators PIN. The information together with the amount drawn is recorded and the data is uploaded to the Merridale database.”

He concludes by saying. “By capturing this information, we now have facilities to allocate costs against specific divisions of the business. And as time allows we can also use the reports to review productivity and the economic performance of different machines.”