Dating from 1996, one of the earliest Merridale implementations can be found at the Wynnstay Group head office in Llansantffraid, Powys.  The initial installation is still in service as part of a multi-depot network, incorporating the group’s feed mills at Astley and Carmarthen in Wales and the fertiliser distribution centre in Frodsham, Cheshire.  The entire network is managed from head office by financial administrator, Darren Evans.

Operating throughout mid Wales and the Midlands border counties, the Wynstay Group is the pre-eminent agricultural merchants for the region. Its mainstream operations cover the production and distribution of animal feed and fertilisers. The group also has a chain of 30 retail stores supplying a comprehensive range of products for farmers and rural communities. Other activities include the Just for Pets retail outlets. These are located throughout the West Midlands, east to Cambridge and south to Bristol. A number of joint ventures includes an interest in Wynnstay Fuels, a bulk oil distribution company based in Chester.

[quote]The Merridale software is easy enough to use. After the reports have been set up – according to requirements of the transport and logistics manager, the system more or less runs itself. We have wireless communications to all the fuelling facilities. Whenever a manager needs a report all they need to do is log in to Merridale and update. Fuel usage for all vehicles is collected automatically, using smart keys and the system provides the information we need for day-to-day stock control and re-ordering.[/quote]

Logistics support comprises a road transport fleet of 75 HGVs including specialist trucks used for collection of grain and delivery of feed stock. Fuelling facilities are also provided for 30 vans and a number of company cars.

“A typical month’s fuel consumption is around 178K litres a month, and that accounts for some £2 million of our operational costs a year,”  explains Darren Evans.  “The Merridale fuel management system helps us control this overhead.”

Darren has been involved with the Merridale facilities since he joined the group 16 years ago. Fuel management was one of his first duties and this responsibility has stayed with him as he progressed through sales ledger and now credit control.

“The Merridale software is easy enough to use. After the reports have been set up – according to requirements of the transport and logistics manager, the system more or less runs itself. We have wireless communications to all the fuelling facilities. Whenever a manager needs a report all they need to do is log in to Merridale and update. Fuel usage for all vehicles is collected automatically, using smart keys and the system provides the information we need for day-to-day stock control and re-ordering.”

The two head office installations are assigned respectively for HGVs and Cars and Vans. The latter is due to be upgraded with new Merridale commercial pump dispensers which will be linked to the existing Auditor control unit. This initial fuelling point is based on two underground tanks. Access is also being re-planned to provide a separate entrance for cars and vans.

The HGV fuelling facilities are based on a conventional above-ground bunded tank providing storage capacity for up to 36K litres.  This fuelling point uses a Merridale commercial pump linked to a separate Auditor control unit. This configuration is typical of the older installations, before the introduction of the combined pump/auditor units.

Fuelling transactions are authenticated by using a coded key which enables the software to identify the vehicle being fuelled.  Wynnstay also uses driver PINs for additional security.

Another interesting feature of this service point is the use of a Merridale controller to access the vehicle wash. So in addition to fuelling data this also uses the fuelling key to record that the vehicle has also been washed – in accordance with Wynnstay operational standards.

Merridale reports are used to monitor mpg economy performance. This allows managers to make better informed decisions on the procurement of vehicles to suit Wynnstay operations. In particular, the suitability for different routes and traffic conditions – whether rural or motorways.

Accurate stock control is an important benefit of the fuel management system enabling Wynnstay to take advantage of best market prices when re-ordering fuel supplies.  The group’s  interest in fuel distribution is another advantage on bulk prices. Wynnstay Fuels normally supplies the Frodsham and Shrewsbury depots, whilst Carmarthan has arrangements with a local third party supplier.

Darren Evans concludes by praising the reliability of the Merridale equipment. In his experience there have only been minimal unscheduled repairs, amounting to the replacement of a single electronics board and a couple of key readers.

“The equipment is very well designed for the operational environment and since we are relatively close to the Merridale head office and factory in Wolverhampton, we know that help is close at hand should we have any problems.”

[box]Depot fuel management systems have been on the scene in various formats for over twenty years. When the Merridale solution from MIS Fuel Monitoring was introduced during the mid-1990s, it was one of the first to use Windows based software for analysis and management reports. Its early success has supported continuing development and the MIS solution has since prevailed as a market leader. Unlike its contemporaries, Merridale has continued to support its early customers and many of these pioneering implementations remain in daily service. “This is testament not only to the integrity of the original design concept, but also proof of the company’s commitment for continuous – but joined up – software development,” say sales director Stephen Hannan, adding: “There is no such thing as obsolescence for the Merridale fuel management solution.”[/box]