Fuel Management – twenty years of development
Before 1994, commercial fuel management was principally a stock control / security activity mainly concerned with the prevention of theft. There was a separate strand of development using on-board computers to measure vehicle / driver performance.
Merridale was one of the first depot systems to combine these requirements by providing the functionality required to capture and analyse fuel usage and therefore create mpg performance reports, which could be used to help manage operating costs.
This arrived in the form of the ground-breaking Merridale Auditor fuel management system, together with original FuelFX reporting software, which was leaps and bounds ahead of its contemporaries in terms of build quality and flexibility of use.
The situation today is still much the same in that fleet operators want to know that fuel is secure and that tools are in place that will give them the ability to ensure that not a drop of fuel is wasted.
Merridale has remained at the forefront, throughout this period, not just in terms of developing what fleet operators actually want, but also ensuring that there is almost always a route to upgrade earlier systems.
This is in contrast to some other providers which were forced to withdraw support for their systems in order to push a new ‘improved’ version onto their existing customers.
Stephen Hannan and Merridale Sales Director, Stephen Hannan can also trace his involvement with commercial fuelling systems back to his contacts with Springfield Controls.
At the time MIS Fuel Monitoring was formed, Stephen, was working for a pump supplier, Avery Berkel Forecourt Services (ABFS), where he was involved in the search for a more advanced fuel management system.
By the end of 1994 ABFS wanted a system that would provide their customers with PC based reporting and other advanced features. The result of this search led to a development whereby the Merridale equipment was incorporated into Avery Berkel pumps as part of a badged product. The programme included the supply of stand-alone Merridale Auditor units.
The integrated design was continued and improved by Gilbarco, following its acquisition of ABFS in 1999.
By 2006 there were over 500 installations badged as either ABFS or Gilbarco as well as a further 1,000 systems, sold directly as Merridale products.
Stephen joined Merridale in the autumn of 2006 following the Gilbarco UK group’s decision to focus its activities on the retail forecourt marketplace.
We asked Stephen to comment on the current status of commercial depot fuelling systems.
Standard or Bespoke solutions? I don’t support the concept of bespoke solutions because in my experience they rarely achieve their objectives and they just add complications to both the suppliers and customers alike.
Ideally the best solution, and one adopted at Merridale is to use a standard pattern of hardware that can be configured to the fleet operators requirements together with a software package that can also be tailored to provide the reports and data needed.
This delivers on three levels; support is efficient, service costs are minimal and maximum life expectancy is achieved.
Smart Customers Fleet operators are now getting the basics right. They know that sophisticated fuel management is pointless if the fuel pumps and tank metering equipment at the heart of the system are not up to scratch.
Customers are demanding better build qualities and especially tolerances. A return to positive displacement metering with air separation is now seen as a big advantage and fleet operators are expecting accuracies commensurate with weights and measure tolerances which are approximately +/- 0.25 percent. Merridale uses Bennett meters in all of its fuel pumps, including the basic level Eco units.
This also applies to tank gauges where fleet operators and accountants no longer accept that their gauging and reconciliation records may be several percentages adrift. This is why Merridale specifies top quality pressure sensors for its tank management systems to ensure that stock control data is as good as it can be.