Cloud computing – a new technology for efficient site management

Audio version
Posted / Last update: 01-12-2010
Publication: PetrolPlaza Technology Corner
Issued: November 2010
Author: Sandbach Adrian, CVRetail Limited
  • The decline in the number of forecourts in the UK 2000-2010

  • Fuel price breakdown in the UK market. Note that the Retailer/Delivery margin has remained static at around 5 pence per litre although the retail price has increase by around 33%. Fuel margin as a percentage has never been lower!

Over the last ten years wireless communication systems and internet technology have matured to provide information anywhere anytime. In an age where more and more data management is being handled using cloud computing many retailers are confused as to what benefits the new technologies can bring to their operations. In this article we look at the technology available for the management of forecourt businesses.

Changes in the market need changes in technology
Over the last ten years there have been many changes in the petrol retailing market with a strong move away from small independent garages with workshop facilities. In many cases the sites have simply closed down entirely or stopped selling fuel. The remaining sites are now generally mini supermarkets attached to a petrol forecourt. Although some of these still operate successfully as single site independent companies there has been a noticeable trend towards the formation of small to medium sized groups of sites being operated as a single company. This has happened in both the franchised sector and the independent sector. For example an oil major in the UK operates on a multi site licence and an increasing number of independent groups in both the UK and Germany operate with 25 to 100 sites. The growth of the independents has often been accelerated by oil company divestment in the retail sector although this may not be apparent to the customer as the newly independent sites may continue to trade under the oil company’s logo.

The decline in the number of forecourts in the UK 2000-2010
So from operating a single site in a stable market the typical forecourt operator is now running a business with multiple sites and perhaps a total turnover of well over €100 million. For the oil companies which still have franchise operations and for the new independent groups the same question arises, “How can I manage my network and have up to date, reliable, financial information available?” The days of sending your accountancy data to an accountant at the end of the month and then waiting several weeks for a financial report are over. With very low profit margins real time reporting is required to react quickly to changing conditions and prevent the business failing.

Fortunately at the same time these changes have been taking place in the forecourt market there have been equally dramatic changes in communication systems and internet technology. These developments can be used to provide the real time management tools needed by today’s forecourt operator. In the sections below we look at some of the technology now available.

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