Take two former oil company executives with time on their hands, add in a chance meeting, and the opportunities presented by a rapidly changing oil industry, and what do you get? A new management and consulting company called Fuel Supply Solutions Ltd. Patrick Hudson most recently retail marketing manager at ConocoPhillips; and Keith Guppy holder of many senior management positions at Elf and Amoco, and founder of Big Oil can muster a mighty 60-years industry experience between them.

There are lots of consultancies and lots of people being thrown out of oil companies, admits Hudson. "But the whole ethos behind our operation is that we aim to have a visionary approach for our clients through consultancy, products and services, that reflect where the industry is going, not where it has been," he says. "We want to put industry insight at the forefront of the service."

They are targeting a broad client base including retailers, distributors, wholesalers and end users.

The veteran team has looked at where the wholesale and retail market is heading over the next three to five years: "There’s little margin in fuel, and volumes are falling off, while competition has increased," says Hudson. "People can’t afford to continue selling petroleum products without knowing what’s happening in their businesses, and without cutting costs.

"To do that you need new systems pricing and margin management systems. You need to know what your stock value is, and how you purchase effectively. And then you need to look at how you can cut costs. Distribution is a good example you may have to think away from the traditional model."

Guppy agrees: "Increasingly oil companies will back away from distribution, and retailers need to think about gearing themselves up for that. I’m not saying it will happen tomorrow or next week, but we believe the UK market is heading towards the American ’jobber’ system, where dealers collect their own fuel. There are already signs of it happening here, and retailers should be prepared for the day when oil companies decide not to include delivery in the supply contract, because they want to cut another level of cost our of their business.

"We have spent several months carefully looking at key industry indicators and matching potential business partners that share our vision. For example, we are agents for Inform Information Systems Ltd, which has worked in both the upstream and downstream sectors alongside oil majors and independent oil companies providing operational expertise for 20 years. Our expertise can ensure our customers are aware of the products and services available to optimise the best solution for their business."