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Refueling Firm Sees 6-Month Payback from RFID

A New Zealand company called Mini-Tankers has published a compelling case study about how it deployed RFID to streamline its core business process of refuelling industrial equipment located in remote and constantly changing settings around the country. The solution reportedly yielded a payback in just six months.
Aug 13, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

August 13, 2007—A New Zealand company called Mini-Tankers has published a compelling case study about how it deployed RFID to streamline its core business process of refueling industrial equipment located in challenging field sites around the country. The solution was implemented using RFID technology from Tracient Technologies of Christchurch, New Zealand, and reportedly yielded a payback in just six months.

Mini-Tankers provides diesel refueling services for industrial machinery, equipment, and vehicles. A subsidiary of Shell New Zealand, the company has more than 45 fuel tankers around the country from which it delivers over 60 million liters annually. Its core business process is in the dispatch of Mini-Tankers refueling trucks to customer field sites, where the operator fills the fuel tanks of designated machine, equipment, and vehicle assets. With customers as varied as transport infrastructure companies, public works firms, and forestry corporations, the field sites are typically industrial or rugged environments like logging sites, quarries, construction sites, and airports.

Historically, the refueling process had been manual. The Mini-Tankers operator would visually identify the target asset, refuel it, then record the asset identification information and amount of fuel dispensed. There were a number of issues with this process. Identifying the asset could sometimes be a challenge, because the identification information might be scratched off, obscured by mud, or worn by exposure to chemicals. Correlating the asset ID to the quantity of fuel dispensed, then recording them together manually, was time consuming and error prone. Also, there existed the potential for fraud, theft, and other fuel shrinkage. Finally, customers were requesting fueling records to better understand fuel-per-asset charges, but because of Mini-Tankers' inefficient manual process, the company found itself spending an undesirable amount of time handling customer billing inquiries.

A number of technological solutions to these issues were considered, including bar codes. They were discounted because the harsh industrial environments often prevented the clean line-of-site necessary for acceptable read rates.

Ultimately, the chosen solution was based on RFID. Ruggedized, metal-on-metal high frequency tags were attached on or near the fuel cap of the assets. Each tag includes an identifier which correlates the asset to its record in Mini-Tankers' central database. When the operator refuels the asset, the tag data is read using a handheld Padl-R HF RFID reader from Tracient. That asset ID data is then wirelessly transferred from the handheld RFID reader to a Psion Teklogix WorkAbout Pro PDA that the operator keeps in the truck cab. The PDA is linked via serial cable to the electronic fuel meter on the truck tanker, so it pairs the tag asset ID with the quantity of fuel dispensed, and transmits it all via cellular link to the Mini-Tankers central database. The company is then able to print an invoice for the customer that includes accurate date, time, location, and fuel delivery information.

The solution worked. Operators save 30 minutes per 12-hour shift due to the new automation. Assets are identified more accurately. Office staff are able to respond to customer billing inquiries faster and more comprehensively, including fuel consumption records available on a per-asset basis. This allows customers to make asset utilization decisions based on fuel consumption levels. All told, return on investment was achieved in a mere six months.

This particular case study was based on deployment for motorway development group Northern Gateway Alliance, the first of Mini-Tankers' customers to trial the new service. Due to the success, Mini-Tankers plans on signing up all of its customers with more than 20 fleet assets.

Read the full case study from Tracient Technologies
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