07 Nov 2018 By Russell Dupuy

The Seven Sins of Underutilised ATG systems

An Automated Tank Gauge (ATG) is a device installed at petrol stations to monitor and measure fuel movements. A probe in the tank automatically sends data to a display installed in an office or room on site, therefore negating the need to manually measure fuel using a dipstick, which is known to be a dirty and dangerous procedure.

Many organisations purchase ATG systems as they are a proven solution to the once arduous job of manual tank measuring – but they leave it at that.

In truth, ATG’s can be used for more than just recording fuel levels and are heavily underutilised by many who buy them. Harnessing the potential of your ATG isn’t hard – and can turn this device into an incredibly helpful and profitable investment.

The seven ATG sins

An audit conducted across seven clients and nearly 1,400 sites highlighted that a huge number weren’t utilising their systems correctly – don’t be one of them. Here are the seven sins you should be wary of committing when it comes to your ATG.

  1.      Using it as a glorified dipstick

It’s important to understand what you’re buying, and why. The primary reason fuel sites implement an ATG is to monitor the levels of wetstock in their fuel tanks. Traditionally, this is done with a dipstick, and manually measured every day. While ATG’s are a better solution than the dipstick – more accurate readings, measurement of water levels, temperature and no direct contact with fuel or fumes – if you don’t understand why you need an ATG and how to utilise it, you’ve just got yourself a really expensive dip stick.

  1.      Assuming it offers complete leak detection

During the aforementioned audit, it was discovered 70% of clients believed their ATG was a total leak detection solution. While the typical ATG is certified to detect leaks within a tank and pressure lines, it’s important to note that the ATG is blind to suction piping and remote fill leaks. This means it will not provide leak detection visibility for some of the most vulnerable parts of the system. However, when you compliment your ATG with SIRA, you establish comprehensive fuel system leak detection and also enhance detection of early onset fuel system losses.

  1.      Treating it as an expense, rather than an investment

ATG systems come at a cost – depending on the number of tanks you have onsite and the options selected, it could be anywhere between $10,000 and $25,000 for the system and installation. Many site owners see this either as a reason not to invest in an ATG, or as a cost they have to wear just to get a good reading on their fuel. But when you consider the cost of daily manual dips, water paste tests, and potential leaks or fuel theft, it’s quite obvious that in just a few years your ATG will pay for itself. Alternatively, many site owners pay out thinking they’re getting the best of the best, only to be disappointed with a subpar monitoring experience. Always do your research and know what you’re buying.

  1.      Trusting it less than your dipstick

It’s not unusual for site staff to notice an abnormal reading on the ATG (the audit found 85% of sites ATG’s were inconsistently programmed) especially on delivery days, and decide to manually dip the tank to check the levels. While it is proven that the ATG is more accurate in comparison with a dipstick – which is why sites implement them – in times of discrepancy it is not uncommon for people to trust the dipstick more. The logic behind this is flawed. The accuracy of a dipstick is dependent on many different factors – who is reading it, how well they have been trained, how much time and care has been taken, what process has been followed and what the dipstick increments are. Dipsticks usually only measure in 200-500 volume increments (with larger increments for larger tanks) so therefore will never give a spot-on reading (a dipstick should always be read to the nearest increment). This is especially true if each tank is only dipped once, rather than a number of times to find the average, which is a common occurrence. In comparison, the ATG is extremely repeatable to +/- 4 litres, and is not influenced by external factors such as how busy the forecourt is and poor lighting.

  1.      Thinking you know better than your ATG

Some people have a hard time trusting technology, but the fact is it doesn’t lie. The beauty of a fit for purpose ATG is that it significantly decreases the chances of mistakes being made during the fuel monitoring and management process. Unlike technology, humans are prone to mistakes. If you’re finding mistakes in your fuel data, make sure they aren’t branching from transcription errors or book stocking, and double check your ATG is installed and programmed correctly – 26% of sites audited featured the wrong hardware to software matching, meaning it would never perform the outcomes expected.

  1.      Believing it can do it all – by itself

While ATG’s eliminate the need for manual fuel tracking, the system is not – as many believe – something that you can ‘set and forget’. ATG’s need to be monitored not only for fuel movements, but for abnormalities, warning and alarms. The system won’t stop a problem, but simply alert you when one arises. Not monitoring your system – or listening to the alarms – means your ATG was a waste of money, and the risks you were aiming to mitigate are still very real. Working with the technology and implementing processes for ‘what if’ scenarios will greatly increase the benefits of your ATG.

  1.      Your ATG is not an Island

Maybe the worst sin of all, which ties together all the above points, is leaving your ATG as a standalone device. It’s capabilities alone are better than manual processes, but if you’re not using it to its full potential by linking it’s capability with other onsite systems you’re not leveraging your investment at an enterprise level. Integrated correctly, an ATG has the ability to improve your reporting, monitoring, inventory control, ordering, risk management, fraud and more.

Avoiding fuel management hell

Some of the above points might seem glaringly obvious – but the reality is, an alarming number of fuel sites are investing in ATG’s and then ignoring or misusing their vast capabilities. If you’re not willing to trust the potential of your ATG then you’re wasting your time and money – and not effectively conducting your fuel management.

The benefits of harnessing the incredibly modern technology ATG’s offer can mean increases across the scope of your operation, from profit, to safety, to compliance.

If your ATG’s utilisation is stuck in limbo, it’s time to take action. By ensuring your ATG has been correctly implemented and calibrated, you’ll start to see an improved return on investment.

As one of the leading providers of fuel management solutions, and experts in ATG implementation and integration technology, EMS can turn you from an ATG Sinner to Saint.

If you’re concerned that your ATG isn’t performing, or may not be the right solution for your fuel site, get in touch with EMS today to find the right solution for you.

See how your ATG stacks up against traditional fuel management methods. Read ATG vs Dipstick here.