Oil-dispensing unit to solve workshop management challenges

31st May 2013 By: Sashnee Moodley - Deputy Editor Polity and Multimedia

Oil-on-Tap, the oil-dispensing unit from refined petroleum company Engen Petroleum, will be launched for the benefit of small- and medium-sized automotive and engineering companies next month to address the daily inventory control and cash flow challenges that workshop management experiences from time to time.

The unit is a storage and dispensing cabinet that uses mobile data technology and sensor equipment to remotely monitor oil use and transactions. When oil levels drop below a certain point, an automatic alert is sent to Engen Lubricants to pro- actively arrange for replenishment of lubricant stock.
Engen Petroleum lubricants business manager Sydney Brückner says the Oil-on-Tap dispensing unit will help companies not only implement effective lubricant inventory management and enhance their cash flow but also increase productivity and quality assurance. Lubricant is dispensed into a reusable jug and eliminates the use of a packaged product and the disposal of used packaging.

He states that there are a combination of 12 000 registered automotive and engineering businesses operating in South Africa that require a range of lubricant products.

“The concept is a petroleum industry first, designed to revolutionise the way in which lubricants are stored, handled and dispensed in any workshop. The unit will be placed on a free loaned-to-trade basis in workshops that use a minimum of 250 /m of lubricant product. It contains Engen lubricant products and displays Engen branding. Workshop management can obtain its oil requirements, as required, using the user interface on the unit,” Brückner explains.

The dispensing unit consists of a metal chassis containing oil products in mini bulk quantities. Once a purchase is made, the oil is dispensed into a jug with a digital display.

A touch-screen display makes purchasing and report viewing easy, while custom-designed electronic software or firmware controls the pumping and dispensing of lubricants from the unit. The supplier keeps track of the fluid levels in the unit container and replenishes the stock when preset cutoff levels are reached, thereby delivering the product to the customer without the customer having to order products.

These devices ensure that the amount of oil dispensed and the stock level of the unit are accurate at all times. As a result, stock is bought only when required, elimi- nating inventory holding costs, which Brückner says is great for cash flow. This also prevents pilferage. The unit is also fitted with the latest global system for mobile communications that interacts with a main server and provides a buying facility in the form of an online account.

For security and identification pur- poses, an operator tag specific to each unit initiates each transaction. The jug is digitally linked to the specific unit to prevent cross-contamination of lubricant products. The unit will not dispense if the incorrect jug is placed on the platter.

The jug also provides a digital read-out, indicating the quantity of oil it contains.

Brückner says the unit has the benefit of control and traceability, as managers can account for all lubricants used and view transactions remotely using the Internet.

An itemised billing system and trans- action history is also available on the user interface.

The unit will be available in two configurations – a single storage capacity of 230 or two 230 storage tanks. The 260 kg unit, powered by a 220 V power plug, is fitted with a backup battery system that has sufficient capacity to dispense the unit’s entire stockholding in the event of a power failure.

The Oil-on-Tap unit has five separate metering devices – load cells under the tank and under the jug, a fluid probe, a flow-control pump and the digital metering jug.

Therefore, risk of inventory ownership and management of inventory reside with the supplier, not with the workshop.

Lubricant is also dispensed at a competitive cost for each litre as required.

Only Engen-branded and appropriate original-equipment manufacturers’ specification products are stored in the dispensing units.

Brückner says, traditionally, the auto- motive maintenance and service sector or smaller workshops have not had access to bulk lubricant buying, owing to cash flow challenges and limited on-site storage space.

“We are confident that the Oil-on-Tap unit will be an overwhelming success and that it will deal with the challenges of a competitive landscape. “It offers Engen a point of differentiation in the lubricants business that will not be easily replicated.

“The unit offers further value for our customers – a new era of service and convenience of fluid buying,” Brückner asserts.