Why automated, smart fuel stations will rule future forecourts

By Prabhakar Bhandarkar , April 22, 2021

Long gone are the days when forecourts meant only for fuel refilling. Now, fuel and gas stations have become destination pit-stops, where people stop to buy snacks, use clean washrooms, to relax and even grab a meal, before they hit the road again.

Customer experience was never a focus area in the traditional fuel retail industry, but sooner or later, this is going to be central to everything a brand does, going forward. The pandemic has urged all businesses to create a safe environment through contactless transactions and also deliver a seamless digital experience—fuel retailing is no exception to this.

FuelTrans | FuelStation Automation

Fuel stations are transforming into one-stop-shops

Fuel retailers are transforming fuel stations into one-stop-shops to meet the changing needs of customers. They want to make fuel filling easier, accessible and contactless. This growing trend is forcing retailers to look for innovative solutions that offer more perks to users and progress toward becoming a smart fuel station.

To meet customer expectations and their need for convenience, the modern fuel station is being redesigned to accommodate multiple services and facilities like fuel dispensing, EV charging, convenience stores, food courts, garages, washrooms, parking, customer waiting lobby, kids play area and car wash. With such an excess of services, the c-store forecourts hold the key to footfall in a fuel station—hence, there is an imminent need to automate fuel station operations with customer experience as the primary focus.

Traditional vs. Smart fuel stations

Smart fuel stations enable retailers to innovate and digitize their forecourt operations, adding new services and revenue streams to increase profit margins compared to existing or traditional business models. Smart fuel stations leverage technology such as automation, mobility, IoT, data mining, ML and AI, predictive analytics, Cloud, social media, customer sentiment analysis, and robotics to meet the desired expectations.

Building digital fuel stations with FuelTrans

Automating fuel station operations across geographies demands a thorough understanding of the entire fuel distribution operations. With over 20+ years in digital supply chain management and logistics solutions, we at Bahwan CyberTek have drilled down the mechanics of fuel retail and delivered an automation solution—FuelTrans’ FuelStation Automation technology.

FuelStation Automation is an IoT-enabled IP technology and automation solution that facilitates digitalization of fuel services and improves customer experience at fuel stations. Let me explain on how we drive automation into the fuel retail industry to provide a seamless and technology-driven fuel marketing ecosystem to customers.

Why FuelTrans creates the best-in-class smart fuel station

FuelTrans comes with a host of built-in features that empower a traditional fuel station to emerge into a smart, automated forecourt.

  • IoT-enabled ecosystem – FuelTrans comes enabled with smart sensors (IoT technology) within fuel dispensers and underground tanks to capture fuel sales and gauge wet-stock volumes, temperatures, and water levels of existing inventory and new shipments. The sensors allow fuel retailers to optimize operations and maximize efficiency.
  • Full visibility over operations and automated fuel transportation – FuelTrans brings full visibility and automation to the fuel transportation process, from request to planning and fulfilment. The system also provides a Secondary Distribution Information Hub that gives a 360° view of oil distribution, logistics, and operations across teams of a fuel marketing company through hyper-personalized dashboards.
  • Smart sensors for fuelling automation and control – The system deploys sensors to monitor and control fuelling operations, attendant tagging, method of payments, and integration to Outdoor Payment Terminals (OPT/EFTs). The sensors collect and transmit data to a controller connected to the Central Monitoring System (CMS) that processes data and allows FMCs to monitor multiple stations on a single dashboard.
  • C-Store for retail experience – The C-Store solution provides customers an in-store shopping experience combined with online options like an e-commerce store. This allows them to do their shopping on mobile payment apps and earn or redeem points through a loyalty app.
  • Cashless/card-less refill with customer and vehicle identification – Customer and vehicle identification solution is an NFC/RFID-based B2B or B2C Solution, allowing automated fuelling with card-less / cashless filling operations. This allows fuel marketing companies to cater quickly to fleet customers and track fillers/agents at filling stations.
  • Central Monitoring System (CMS) is a head office system used for centralized monitoring and management of retail operations. The application collects and synchronizes with pump automation, wet stock monitoring, and RFID (information like fleet, prices, pumps, and tanks) and stores the data in a central data bank. This information is also available at service stations within offline limits/restrictions for avoiding business disruptions due to errors in communication links.

Harness the power of data with advanced analytics

“The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.” Data captured by FuelTrans’ IoT sensors provide the trends and status of fuel stations in real-time through the integrated monitoring of all stations in the network through the CMS. The combination of IoT sensors and applications allows FMCs to optimize operations and maximize the touchpoints and knowledge about their fuel stations.

Explore data for sales trends, spend patterns, customer sentiments. When the data is professionally analysed and processed, it enables a fuel marketing company to find new discoveries in data through immersive and personalized dashboards. It can be utilized to assess sales trends, spend patterns, time spent at a particular station/store, and user sentiments. This in turn can help with the optimization of marketing campaigns and promotions and forecasting of staff and inventory requirements—all these can add tremendous value to the overall customer experience.

“Data are just summaries of thousands of stories” With FuelTrans, you can read as many stories you want to understand and cater to your customer better.

Smart fuel stations as a trend are here to stay and rule forecourts. It is high-time we leverage technology to transform traditional models to meet customer expectations.

Want to know more on how FuelTrans can automate fuel retailing at your service stations? Drop a note to Prabhakar for an introductory call or demo.

Prabhakar Bhandarkar

Prabhakar Bhandarkar is Manager – Pre-Sales for DSCM Unit at Bahwan CyberTek. He has more than 12 years’ experience in the IT and Oil & Gas Downstream industry, covering Fuel Automation and Secondary Distribution Logistics Solutions enabling the entire order-to-cash cycle and logistics process of Oil Marketing Companies. He has expertise in solution development and digital transformation initiatives for downstream businesses in the Middle East, Africa and Asia regions.