M2M – come on, catch the ‘crystal ball’
Here in the UK we’ve had an unseasonably warm start to Autumn, but the first winter chill can now be felt and it provides me with a good example of how M2M data can give certain industries their very own crystal ball. In areas where there’s no mains gas both oil and LPG are used for heating, and stored in tanks. As the weather gets colder the demand for these fuels increases and the suppliers get pretty busy. Resources and supplies are stretched, some customers are let down and when things get really cold, as they did last winter, then the problems get worse. There’s a knock effect up the supply chain, and the cost of the fuels increase.
The use of M2M (or telemetry as I like to call it) can provide the heating fuel supplier with the tank level readings on a daily basis. Immediately they can start to plan their routes, replenishing customers who really need it, improving efficiencies and customer satisfaction. But we can all learn from history – by looking at what has happened in the past then it is possible to forecast the future tank level and make an educated decision as to when the tank will need a top up.
This can be taken one stage further when the fuel is used for heating. By knowing the temperature, as well as the fuel level on a daily basis, then it is possible to improve the accuracy of the forecast. Combine this historical data with a weather forecast and at this difficult time of year when the weather is changing it is possible to predict the future.
The headline benefits are happier customers and lower distribution costs, but it doesn’t end there. As the fuel price will fluctuate with the demand then suppliers could offer to ‘top’ up customers who would benefit most through the early part of autumn, so the customers get a lower price and the supplier gets to maximise the use of their fleet. It doesn’t have to end there – a common problem in fuel distribution is storage so suppliers could even consider the use of their customers’ tanks for their own storage.
The benefits of the data are greater the change is embraced and the data integrated. In industries where the cost of distribution then there can be no better way to improve efficiency and bring down costs. As well as the heating fuel and LPG markets, tank level telemetry is used extensively in the distribution of cryo-gases, chemicals, animal feeds.
Solutions are now well proven with data integrated into ERP systems and delivering benefits every day of the year, but never more so than at this time of year for some.