Fuel Inventory Variance Part 2: The Significance of Fine Grain Tank Charts 

Reading Time : 5min read
fuel retail location at night

In the first post in our 3-part series, we explored the domino effect of fuel variance throughout the supply chain, and the factors that can introduce its costly inaccuracies. But how can fuel retailers get ahead of such disruptions? One vital tool in the effort to avoid fuel inventory variance is the fine grain tank chart.  

Along the intricate path of the fuel supply chain, efficiency and accuracy are paramount. Fuel retailers rely heavily on precise monitoring of their inventory to ensure seamless operations and to prevent discrepancies that can cost time and money. In fact, variances can spark revenue loss from the retail site all the way up the corporate chain in the form of excessive write-offs. 

And yet, many operators are still using traditional tank charts that depend on manual measurements and periodic automated ATG readings, only capturing fuel levels at specific, limited points in the supply chain. Manufacturer charts can also vary by losing accuracy during installation. Finally, some operators continue to engage tank strapping technology to calculate volume, which can require over-purchasing of inventory.  

In a market where success is dependent on fewer gallons and competition is increasing year after year today’s fuel retailers need more. Outdated methods simply don’t keep up when inherent variance in tank charts can reach 7% or greater. The fine grain tank chart is a sophisticated tool that offers several advantages over traditional manufacturer tank charts.  

What is a fine grain tank chart?  

A fine grain tank chart provides a highly detailed and granular view of fuel levels within storage tanks using advanced algorithms and near real-time polling data to track levels and detect anomalies. While traditional tank charts typically provide measurements at fixed intervals, fine grain tank charts go further by providing high frequency data capture to detect minute fuel inventory changes within a tank system.  

This unprecedented granularity enables a system view that quickly surfaces anomalies such as Bill of Lading (BOL) reconciliation errors, theft events, and meter drift, providing operators with a precise, real-time understanding of their fuel inventory. As a result, fuel retailers are provided with critical data to detect sudden fluctuations or adverse events promptly, enhancing their ability to respond to potential issues in a timely manner. Responding to problems quickly means minimizing fuel loss, ensuring regulatory compliance and reducing revenue deficit.  

Under the hood: What are the specifics of a fine grain tank chart?   

At its core, a tank chart provides a method for determining the volume of liquid in a tank based on its height. While this sounds straightforward, the devil lies in the details. Tanks come in various shapes and sizes, including cylindrical or capsule-like models with hemispherical end caps. As such, each presents unique challenges for volume calculation. Traditional tank charts that rely on geometric formulas assume a uniform cylindrical shape. But fuel tanks often deviate from this ideal due to irregularities, structural components, deformations, and environmental conditions.  

Fine grain tank charts continuously monitor fluid inflow and outflow over time while recording corresponding height measurements. As an example, Titan Cloud’s fine grain technology has pioneered micro-level accuracy, leveraging high frequency data capture and fractional measurement points, far and away surpassing the level of accuracy of traditional tank charts and tank strapping capabilities. Consider: 

  • Traditional tank charts measure using 1/8-inch increments 
  • ATG charts rely on 4 – 20 input points to extrapolate a chart   
  • Fine grain tank charts use 40,000 – 50,000 points of measurement for unsurpassed granularity 

Given its pinpoint accuracy, fine grain technology accounts for factors like evaporation and temperature variations to track precise height volume. The technology also facilitates pinpoint calibration of dispenser meters and provides analytically calculated meter drift. Additionally, fine grain tank charts offer enhanced security measures, providing visibility to help to deter theft and drive additional operational efficiencies across teams.  

How does this impact fuel variance tracking?  

The accuracy of volume calculations directly impacts various aspects of fuel retail operations. Traditional tank charts that approximate calculations may suffice for general bookkeeping, but they fall short when it comes to critical tasks such as fuel delivery measurement, leak detection, and environmental compliance. In the fuel industry, every discrepancy matters, as even minor errors can translate into significant fuel and revenue losses over time.  

By providing near real-time data and automated monitoring, fine grain tank charts: 

  • Streamline the inventory reconciliation processes and reduce the need for manual intervention  
  • Improve operational efficiency, lowering instances of meter drift 
  • Automate outdated, siloed systems, saving fuel retailers time and money 

As demonstrated, fine grain tank charts extend beyond inventory management, enabling c-store owners to minimize fuel variances, achieve near-perfect delivery measurements, and detect even the smallest leaks in a fraction of the time previously required.   

Adopting this modern technology is a strategic investment in operational excellence and profitability. To speak with a Titan Cloud expert on how our fine grain tank chart innovation can help you decrease fuel loss and increase revenue, visit us here.  

In our third and final blog post in this series, we’ll take a deeper dive into anomaly detection, root cause analysis, and how data-informed business decisions can reduce write-offs.  

Brent Puzak

VP of Solutions Consulting

Brent brings 25 years' industry experience to Titan Cloud as the Vice President of Solutions Consulting. He led environmental shared services for a global retail chain with over 9,000 locations, moving through numerous leadership positions. Brent's diverse background and knowledge allows him to take a strategic approach to addressing complex industry challenges.

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