In our experience taking a proactive approach to forecourt maintenance is the most cost-effective way of managing and enhancing our assets, according to Scott Harris, head of COCO at Certas Energy. "Whether over-ground or underground, we monitor everything from canopies and chillers, to tanks and lines," he says. "The range of facilities and equipment varies greatly across the Certas Energy COCO estate and age is an important factor within our maintenance programme. Canopies, for example, are tested and refreshed every five years and our approach to a 20-year-old tank is different to one that is less than 10 years old."
One example of Certas Energy’s preventative approach is the adding of a second skin to all of its underground tanks and the implementation of wet-stock monitoring systems across every forecourt, working with Fairbanks or Suresite.
"Of course, there will be the odd situation where we have to be reactive, such as a pump going on the blink," explains Harris, "but the anticipatory approach helps to eliminate costly surprises or, in the case of a leaking tank, a potential catastrophe."
Certas Energy’s Stuart Norrie has day-to-day responsibility for forecourt maintenance across the entire network and he works with, and alongside, pump suppliers such as Tokheim, specialist cleaning contractors, and tank and line testers, to ensure that forecourt equipment is operational, fit for purpose and in compliance with the Blue Book.
"I operate to a strict regime," he says. "This keeps costs to a minimum, improves flow rates and reduces downtime. Of course, when we see a clear trend of repairs or call outs we will replace a pump but generally by managing our forecourt assets properly we are able to minimise the unforeseen."
Harris provides another example of how maintenance plays its part in the revenue potential of a forecourt: "At Carronvale Service Station in Larbert we were frustrated that forecourt congestion was impacting upon the customer experience and affecting throughput and shop sales.
"When we undertook planned maintenance to tanks and lines, we also reconfigured the pumps so that all four islands could offer all four grades. This has reduced congestion and increased revenues, presenting a return on investment within weeks. We plan to implement a similar course of action on the recently purchased David Taylor forecourts that we anticipate will significantly increase sales of Endurance, Gulf’s premium fuel. "It’s about ensuring that each forecourt is proficiently maintained, enabling it to operate to its optimum and, in doing so, we ensure that the asset value is protected and strengthened," he says.
The first things people notice when they drive onto a forecourt are usually the pole sign and the canopy which are typically decked out in an oil company’s colours. But, as the years go by the canopies in particular can take a battering from bad weather and bad driving in the case of high vehicles hitting them.
Andy Kennedy, business development director at Global-MSI, recounts the story when BP Oil contacted his company in January this year to ask if they could assist one of their dealers.
"The dealer’s canopy had been severely damaged after a strike by a high vehicle trying to enter the site. The site was closed for safety reasons, so the dealer contacted BP for assistance, who in turn asked us to assist," says Kennedy.
The engineer’s survey report and photos arrived at Global-MSI so the team could determine the level of work and materials required to complete the repairs.
"Part of the survey included a full canopy condition report for the client," explains Kennedy. "This investigation identified that the existing gutters were corroded through and several of the roof sheets had issues with corrosion. It was agreed that we would replace the gutters, roof sheets and underlining sheets at the same time as we were repairing the canopy damage. The quote for the full repair including the additional works was quickly produced and with the dealer within one week of the accident taking place."
Once it was approved by the client’s insurance, structural and signware teams were dispatched to the site. Once the signware was removed, the Global-MSI structural engineers started stripping down the damaged structure. "Using a crane and specialist skills gained from decades of experience in this kind of repair, the engineers soon had the damaged parts removed and new steelwork in place. Care was taken to make sure the customer’s trade was affected as little as possible while ensuring the safety of the public and operatives. Once the main structure was back to how it should be, they quickly moved on to replacing the roof sheets and gutters. Finally they finished off the under-sheeting to complete the project."
Kennedy says that from the accident taking place to the canopy being fully repaired and refurbished took just 10 working days for Global-MSI and sister signware company Petrol Sign (five days to attend and make safe/quote and another five days on site) to repair and refurbish the canopy. There was a delay to the full repair being done (from the January incident to the full repair in April) but that was because they were waiting for insurance company approval.
Accidents like the one at the BP site aside, Kennedy has concerns about the lack of preventative maintenance or regular inspections of canopies.
"Historically the only maintenance carried out is after the event, either when the roof leaks or the canopy is impacted. Worryingly we have seen instances of major structural failure due to corrosion luckily without injury to anyone so far.
"Corrosion is the biggest worry, as you would expect with a metal structure. This process quickens where either the paint coating is damaged or where trapped water is keeping the structure damp. One very common problem we find is dented roof sheets, caused by people walking on your canopy roof. You don’t know this has happened until you have a leak, as trapped water eventually causes corrosion holes in the roof sheets.
"Do you check that the people accessing your canopy know where the safe parts to walk on are?" he asks. Another problem is blocked drainage causing an overflow into the canopy legs, leading to corrosion from the inside. "As you can imagine, the legs are the main support and need to be structurally sound to keep the whole thing upright. Blocked water is not your canopy’s friend. This problem is greatly increased where trees are near the site."
Kennedy says impact damage to canopies is a mainstay of the industry. "You sometimes have to wonder if the large vehicle drivers ever take notice of height signs. When impacts happen it can often damage the internal parts of the canopy. That is why we would recommend a proper structural survey after the event."
Unfortunately another issue Kennedy says Global-MSI comes across regularly is poor quality remedial work. "It may be because the client doesn’t see what the repair looks like or cost restraint has driven the ’cheapest quote wins’ decision. However, the cheapest job in the short term, may not be the most cost-effective or in the best interest of your canopy’s life.
"We often get called back to survey canopies where a quick and cheap fix has been carried out but is short term.
"Examples are rubber liners fitted to gutters (which never last very long) or long runs of gutters that have been cut into short lengths to transport in a transit van to reduce cost. This can result in multiple leak points in your brand new gutter. Only use reputable canopy companies for repairs and don’t just opt for the cheapest quote. It is the cheapest for a reason. Look at longer-term investments to protect your canopy from damage. This can range from simple strategic placement of bollards to cutting back problem sections of the canopy or raising it to accommodate larger vehicles."
With all this in mind, it should come as no surprise that Kennedy advocates having regular planned maintenance inspections for two main reasons:
1) You will be aware at an early stage of any potential issues on your canopy. If this is done regularly then you can also keep a track of any problems and assess what repairs are required and when. Early intervention is always cheaper to rectify than waiting until something needs doing urgently.
"Don’t leave minor repairs until they become major or urgent incidents. That small leak means the canopy integrity is already breached and wherever water is getting in to, corrosion is taking place," he says.
2) Having records of maintenance and checks being carried out will also help with insurance claims if you do happen to suffer a canopy failure.
"Regular maintenance schedules can be far cheaper than you think. If your regular survey is carried out by a trained technical canopy engineer, they can often carry out small maintenance repairs at no additional cost on the survey attendance," says Kennedy.
Bredel hose pumps overcome sewerage challenges at fuel stations
The plethora of food outlets on forecourt sites nowadays think an adjacent McDonald’s or a standalone Starbucks, perhaps is great news for consumers, however it can provide a headache for operators because it means more effluent disposal. However, Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Group (WMFTG) is using Bredel pumps to solve a number of sewerage issues at service stations. As many sites are not connected directly to mains sewerage, Bredel pumps are proving to be a vital option for those seeking an effective way to empty septic tanks and keep toilets and washroom facilities in operation.
From a business perspective, a full septic tank means that toilets and washrooms have to close, along with any food outlets. As a result, customers are annoyed and revenue is lost.
WMFTG says regular external tank emptying is expensive, at around £600 a visit, so a more automated solution, based on the latest pump technology, provides a commercially attractive alternative.
Some pump types are simply not suited to handling the objects that some people flush away, namely non-degradable wet wipes and nappies. Such items cause submersible pumps, which historically have been deployed at many UK forecourts’ effluent treatment facilities, to suffer from ragging or blocking, which in turn leads to increased pump maintenance costs.
Engineers at Adler & Allan, which has long-standing maintenance contracts with the likes of Shell and BP, had seen Bredel pumps in action at a number of chemical processing sites. Following this, Bredel pumps from WMFTG became the first choice when Adler & Allan wanted to conduct trials involving the emptying of septic tanks at a number of motorway service stations for which the company has maintenance contracts.
The trials proved a success. Thanks to a suction lift of 3-to-4m for typical tank sizes of 3,000 to 5,000 litres, the Bredel 50 hose pumps fitted with abrasion resistant NR Endurance hoses make light work of a difficult job. With no rotor or diaphragm to obstruct, the ability to handle challenging solids and avoid issues such as ragging means Bredel pumps are ideal.
And, as the Bredel pumps are installed at ground level in kiosks/enclosures, access is easy with no confined spaces or safety issues.
Covering the forecourt’s life cycle
Leeds-based ID Maintenance Ltd specialises in forecourt branding from design to manufacture, installation and maintenance, covering the full life-cycle of forecourt requirements.
Business development director Sean Kearney, explains: "Along with the forecourt branding we undertake, the company provides a national reactive maintenance service to maintain damaged signage and faulty and defective forecourt lighting."
Kearney says clients benefit from the effective co-ordination and implementation of projects and maintenance by people who care. He explains that through their 24/7 helpdesk they receive and implement reactive service requests, which are attended to with an average reactive maintenance call cost of £175 including transport, labour, materials and access. Last year they had 1,500 such call-outs via the helpdesk.
Kearney explains that the company has seen an increase in retailers consulting at the early stage of brand development to maximise on design, manufacturing installation and maintenance efficiency of the brand.
"We are happy to be involved at this stage to influence design and enable a positive experience for the client and end user," he says.
As for specific problems, he adds: "Many retailers historically have run under-canopy lighting to failure stage before changing only the failed lamps, which is a false economy but they are now seeing the benefit of upgrading the under-canopy lighting units to LED, saving significantly on energy consumption and life cycle costs."
Park Garage Group chooses Gilbarco Veeder-Root
Top 50 Indie Park Garage Group has chosen Gilbarco Veeder-Root to maintain its 49 forecourts. Roger Bali, maintenance and repair manager for Park Garage Group since 2013, has the task of getting the right contractor for the right job. Park Garage Group had previously appointed another maintenance provider, however lack of a dedicated account manager and poor SLAs (service level agreements) were taking their toll on the business. Now, with his dedicated Gilbarco Veeder-Root dealer service account manager, Roger is pleased that he hardly ever needs to intervene.
"Having an account manager you know is going to pick up the phone and give you an answer is invaluable," he says.
For Roger, there is nothing worse than having a pump fixed only for it to break down five minutes later. Fortunately for him, Gilbarco Veeder-Root achieves 86% first-time fix because the company knows how important it is to minimise disruption to trade in order to maximise your profits and secure the future of your sites.
"Having a good service provider in place means we don’t have to worry about forecourt maintenance. We can focus on offering the best promotions and customer service," says Roger.
With a maintenance package from Gilbarco Veeder-Root, the company’s dedicated dealer service account manager is always on hand to ensure maximum equipment uptime, leaving dealers to focus on what matters: looking after their customers.
Some of the benefits of a maintenance contract with Gilbarco Veeder-Root include:
Easy access to status updates via a dealer service account manager
Helpdesk support with remote fix where possible
Someone at the end of the phone who knows your business
Unparalleled forecourt knowledge
Dealer support technicians with 25-plus years’ field experience
Industry-leading Health and Safety record
Ad hoc technical advice on request