When you consider the mechanical system behind a pump’s main function transferring fuel from a tank into a customer’s car the basics have remained the same for many years, and yet there is a vibrant market for new pumps with manufacturers constantly introducing new features to improve the customer experience and help retailers drive sales.
Soren Powell-Holse, technology sales director for Europe at Wayne Fueling, says: "The key is quality and reliability. The longer you have been working on this as a manufacturer, the more experience you have and the more likely it is that you have a reliable product."
When making an expensive capital investment such as in new pumps, he says, retailers need to know the "total cost of ownership". If they are buying a product of proven quality then they can factor in the cost of maintaining it as it gets older. Retailers also need to consider whether they are buying a brand where spare parts are readily available and where there is a good support system outside the manufacturer.
Another important consideration is ’future proofing’ will the pumps be capable of handling future changes during their lifetime, such as the proposed increase in the proportion of biofuels in unleaded petrol and diesel. Allied to this is flexibility, so if a retailer wants to introduce a media solution or add temperature compensation at a later date is it easy or very expensive to do?
Powell-Holse says: "We have a good reputation for having a reliable product. There are Wayne pumps out there that have had many birthdays and are still going strong. Future proofing comes from us being a global manufacturer and seeing different demands across the globe and we always build that into our products."
He says Wayne has been working in countries which have much higher levels of ethanol in their petrol and far more bio content in their diesel. "For instance, in Sweden it is very common to sell E85 85% ethanol so our product is capable of handling that. If you buy a pump from Wayne, and higher levels of ethanol come in, your pump will still be fine."
Wayne also designs its pumps with a modular approach so if the retailer wants to retrofit features, it is quite easy to do. Its latest range of pumps, the Helix family, is designed with this in mind. For instance, if a retailer decides they want to add a media solution, it is accommodated with a simple change in the panelling. "We have a media solution, and with the new Helix model it looks really good integrated. It looks smart and aesthetic compared with the more boxy look where you put a box under the pump to have media."
He adds: "A trend we are seeing is customer demand for something that looks more modern, less boxy and more curvy and with a design that has been updated, and we are meeting that demand with our new Helix range. One of our selling points with Helix is that it is a full range covering all prices and needs across a forecourt, so we have something for a high-flow commercial site and we have LPG and AdBlue and even CNG dispensers and we have all the different number of nozzles and functionality."
Less than a year after its launch, Powell-Holse says Helix is present on dealer sites under all the major oil company brands, including the Top 50 Indie Brookfield Group’s £2m investment in its flagship site at Pocklington in East Yorkshire, and Topaz’s flagship site at Dublin Airport. Wayne also recently won the contract to replace all the dispensers in Autogas’s 225-strong LPG network.
Another trend in the market is a growing popularity for pay-at-pump capability. Powell-Holse says there is resistance among some retailers because they fear the loss of sales of higher-margin shop products to customers who just fill up and pay at the pump. However, he is supported by Tokheim UK sales director, Adrian Beeby, when he suggests that in some cases the opposite has occurred.
Beeby says: "We’ve got evidence that shows fitting pay-at-pump actually increases shop sales. You have less queuing at the pumps, because people who just want to be in and out are gassing and going, and that means you have less queuing in the shop. Therefore anyone who is in the shop feels they have more time to browse because they don’t feel they have to jump in the queue."
He says fuel sales also increase because motorists who just want to fill up and go find it more convenient, and sites can move from being open for hours such as 6am-10pm to 24-hour operation for fuel. Pay at pump can also be installed to deter drive-offs at any vulnerable parts of the forecourt.
One of the biggest trends in the market is for installation of media at the pumps. Beeby says: "At the moment we have a cloud-based solution, so the client can upload their advertisements to the cloud, they tell the system what dispenser, what nozzle, what time that advertisement is to play and the system does it for them automatically. So, for instance, they can have a 9am offer on a Monday that’s different to the offer on a Friday. Or they can have a different offer on super unleaded to unleaded, so if someone is using super unleaded and it’s a performance vehicle they can tailor the offer to that type of consumer.
"So at the moment they are creating their own advertisements or downloading them from YouTube or from their symbol group. But what we want is a partner who will say to sites, for so much a month, we do all your advertising for you. They will find the advertising and upload it and control the content so the site will have to do nothing, or they will find clients who want to advertise on a forecourt’s screens, so they earn them a revenue. We are in the early stages of talking with a possible partner and within six months we’d hope to have something available for customers."
Tokheim also offers a remote diagnostic service for customers so it can detect and remedy issues before they cause a breakdown. For instance, it monitors flow rate and if a filter is clogging up and slowing the flow of fuel then Tokheim can come and clean the filter, often before the site was aware of the problem.
There is also a facility for sites to remotely see what temperature compensation is doing for them. Beeby explains: "Everyone in the northern part of the country wants to have temperature compensation because it’s beneficial for them, but they need to monitor its effect.
"We have made a remote application so customers can log into the dispenser and it will tell them what temperature compensation has done today, yesterday or over the past three months. It’s very important for wet-stock reconciliation."
Certas Energy owns and operates 21 sites across the Scottish central belt and its recent refurbishment programme included the introduction of Tokheim pumps on some forecourts.
"It makes sense to ensure that pumps along with pipes and tanks are in the best working condition when you consider that after labour costs, stock loss is potentially the second largest overhead on a forecourt," explains Ramsay MacDonald, retail director, Certas Energy. "The introduction of new pumps means greater accuracy, reduced downtime and has ensured that dispensing fuel is a quicker process."
Certas subsequently introduced ATC (automatic temperature compensation) across its entire estate, now dispensing every litre at 15oC. "In a relatively short space of time we can see the benefits of this investment," continues Ramsay. "Stock losses have reduced and there is much greater confidence that fuels are dispensed with greater accuracy."
A feature that many consumers still do not understand, but which can help reduce queuing at busy sites is extended hose reach. On a busy forecourt when there are no available dispensers on the side of the driver’s fuel cap, they can still pull up and fill up because the extendable hose will easily reach around the car. Beeby says: "If you have dispensers with a good hose reach there will be less queuing, because every dispenser can be used, and smaller queues make a site more attractive."
He adds that gentle hose retraction is also important. He explains that the hose reach on Tokheim’s Quantium range is over four metres, and to get rid of that length you need a retraction system to wind the hose back in, but it needs to be as light as possible so anyone can use it.
Beeby says: "There are six models from the Quantium 110 one hose dispenser up to a Quantium 510, which can have 12 hoses handling six grades. Depending on whether you need a dispenser for just HGVs or you want a multi-product dispenser that serves all grades, we have a dispenser that fits into your budget and your business needs."
He says the pumps market is very active at present. "A lot of people are showing a lot of interest in dispensers. There is a lot of appetite in the dealer market for new equipment.
"I took over the site last September at that time it was a 2.2mlpa site and undertook a complete refurbishment.
"The forecourt had been with the same brand since the 1990s and had become a little tired, so it was clear that I needed to invest in new pumps and lighting.
"The existing pumps were around 23 years old and really didn’t fit in with the modern, sleek look of the site when the Jet re-imaging was complete. So, after a lot of research, I decided to replace them with four new Tokheim Quantium pumps with Automatic Temperature Compensation (ATC).
"My fuel supplier, Jet, helped me by introducing me to Tokheim and I was very impressed by them from the start. I’ve only been in this industry for five or so years so it was important for me to get a good, reliable supplier that would offer support during the installationprocess but also good after-sales support if required. Tokheim offered all of this and at a reasonable price.
"The pumps were installed in late January and the installation process was very smooth.
"It took three days in total as we re-lined one of the diesel tanks at the same time. Tokheim’s staff were very professional and I was impressed by their commitment to health and safety at all times.
"I was keen to ensure that the pumps I chose offered ATC and also decided to install one pump with an outside payment terminal, giving my customers a ’fast lane’ option 24 hours a day.
"Although the pumps have only been operational for a couple of months, I’m already very pleased with the results. As well as a small but noticeable increase in volumes we’re now up to 2.56mlpa we’re getting a lot of positive customer feedback on how smart the pumps look and how much quicker they are. The fact that they don’t ’click’ when filling up is welcomed by my customers, particularly the elderly ones.
"I also own two other forecourts and, based on my experience with Tokheim at Mostyn Broadway, I would certainly consider investing in their pumps there in the future."