As news of the American Dover corporation’s third acquisition in a month the purchase of Tokheim ProGauge by its subsidiary OPW was being announced, the second UNITI expo was opening its doors in Stuttgart (June 14-16). According to the organisers, up to 15,000 attendees from 110 countries made their way to this growing, biennial exhibition, which featured some 420 exhibitors from 37 countries, and an increase in floor space from the inaugural event in 2014 of 40%.

It certainly felt like it, with a considerably larger and more sophisticated convenience and food-to-go area than two years before although many of the exhibitors in this area were more relevant to the local German market.

However, for those aiming to get a feel for the latest developments in the petroleum and car wash sector, there was plenty to see and learn.

There was also a broad range of lectures and presentations going on although not all of them useful unless you speak German.

American Dover’s new acquisitions Wayne Fueling Systems, Fairbanks and Tokheim ProGauge, were out in force. Wayne Fueling Systems celebrating its 125th anniversary was showcasing its complete suite of products and solutions, including its new ClearView solution a combination of wet-stock products including wet-stock management services; compliance and asset management; construction and forecourt services; and margin management administered by BigOil.

Also on display was its iXPay secure payment terminal, designed as a one-size-fits-all retrofit kit, which the company claims enables legacy fuel dispensers in the field, regardless of original equipment manufacturer, to be EMV-compliant using the highest security standards and latest technologies. As an indication of its claims to be a forward-looking company, its conceptual fuel dispenser, the Helix 6000, was the focus of much interest. It features a hugemedia screen; and as you approach the dispenser it springs into life with a welcome message. The customer authorises it with their hand over a palm reader, and it recognises you. Your preferred choice what you had last time is immediately shown. Lots of different media options then come into view, enabling the customer to check the weather, the traffic, the latest news, choose some entertainment.

"These are some of the technologies already out there, so we’re just adapting it into a conceptual feature," said Robert Asbrink, the company’s marketing communications manager.

Fuel pump manufacturer Sheidt & Bachmann, was pushing the news that it is changing its emphasis to forecourt solutions. "We’ve had great success doing what we call true, unmanned stations in the UK, with Harvest Energy," explained Paul Watson, the company’s sales manager for the UK. "We’ve been involved with Harvest Energy on two forecourt sites attached to traditional garages which without the unmanned capability would have been shut down. Our solutions have helped to restored the profitability for Harvest Energy, and also kept the community’s petrol station alive."

The big story for Sheidt & Bachmann at the show was the launch of Siqma forecourt solutions, bringing together several elements including mobile payment; point of sale; loyalty; mobile point of sale; back office systems; and head office. Watson hinted that Fuel & Go the Shell mobile payment facility could soon be introduced on other sites in the UK, apart from its deal with Shell.

"Primarily our drive is about improving the experience of the shopper. Someone described fuel stations as the last ’dirty’ place of point-of-sale retailing. So we’re looking at things like Fuel & Go, which can be linked to our loyalty package," he said. "All our solutions are cloud-based and can bring great benefits to forecourt retailers in the form of cost-saving efficiencies. The benefit to an independent, for example, who has maybe 16 sites, and would traditionally need a PC in every site, is that using Siqma products and the cloud-based solutions, means all those PCs disappear. Therefore it reduces the cost of ownership, maintenance, training and support. We’re offering ’software as a service, (SAAS), which means retailers pay a monthly fee for all these various applications. We host it and manage it for them. It is already in place in parts of Europe, and is now available in the UK, having being launched here.

"We know customers might like these solutions but have Wayne or Gilbarco pumps, so they don’t want to have to take out the pumps just to use the Sheidt and Bachmann solutions. All these solutions are based on international standards IFSF International Forecourt Solutions so they don’t have to have our pumps to use our solutions."

Leading fuel software and field technologies company Leighton O’Brien was showcasing its suite of wetstock management, lead detection and tank cleaning technologies. CEO Reed Leighton said its partnership with the Suresite Group was a successful gateway into the UK market: "We’re actively seeking to accelerate the growth of our business into Europe. We believe we have the smartest wet-stock management platform on the market. We’ve made substantial IP and IT investments and are now scaled for even faster grou through our enhanced software and service partnering model."

Also positive about the future as Martin Steggles, managing director of Global-MSI, which specialises in the design, manufacture and construction of petrol station forecourts. Having integrated branding company Petrol Sign into the group, Steggles says the company is expanding fairly quickly in lots of different countries. "Our alliance with Petrol Sign makes it easier for the retailer because they can potentially use one company, one supplier, in our integrated service, rather than having to split it, into two different companies, and then maybe things don’t quite fit on the site together. We can ensure that it does."

In terms of innovation, there was plenty on offer. In particular from Slovakian company Ecotank, which displayed a washing fluid dispenser, described as an ecological solution for refilling windshield washer fluid tanks. It’s ecological because it reduces the amount of plastic packaging required when sold in individual plastic bottles; and it means that motorists can fill up their washer fluid at the same time as they fill up their fuel tank and then make a single payment.

Elsewhere at the show, the concept robot refuelling has re-emerged!