For fuel retailers, regulatory compliance has traditionally been a significant burden. From paperwork to inspections, audits to fines, compliance represents a seemingly always-growing list of expensive demands. This has been particularly true in the last several years. Changes to regulations increased the frequency and intensity of regulatory requirements while EMV add yet another item to the compliance docket.
Compliance, however, doesn’t need to be a headache. With the right systems and strategies, fuel retailers can increase revenue, reduce the risk of fines and breaches, control maintenance costs, and more - all by optimizing compliance.
Three big rocks: Fuel retailers’ biggest compliance challenges
Today’s fuel retailers face three primary compliance challenges:
Increased regulatory compliance
The first began in 2015 when the government updated regulations for the first time since the 1980s. The frequency and scope of inspections and release detection results increased significantly, which meant the amount of paperwork required to prove compliance did as well.
The number of resources that each retailer could dedicate to meeting these requirements, on the other hand, did not increase. Facilities teams suddenly had to schedule and manage far more inspections, while compliance teams had to jump through more hoops to prove that equipment met regulations, all with the same amount of resources.
The shift to EMV payment systems introduced another issue. In addition to meeting a new set of compliance requirements, fuel retailers needed to make massive capital expenditures in payment systems and dispensers.
Aging underground infrastructure
These expenses are particularly troublesome because they coincided with another serious liability: aging tanks. Most fuel tanks were put into service in the 90s to meet the compliance requirements of the time. With an average UST life of 30 years, the majority of tanks are now due for replacement. Fuel retailers need to know which tanks are compliant, which are leaking, which need replaced, and which have a few years left. Many find themselves between the proverbial rock and hard place: you can’t afford to replace them, but you can’t afford to let them fail.
These are just a few examples of how challenges compound the financial pressure on the business.
The problem with Compliance and Facilities siloes
These challenges are not new; they have simply grown in scale in the last five-to-ten years. Fuel retailers have attempted to solve them using a number of disparate strategies. Facilities teams usually work with regional companies to handle onsite maintenance activities. This approach, often reactionary, is a scramble to remain compliant with new regulations.
For their part, Compliance teams typically use point solutions, ranging from Excel spreadsheets to more sophisticated software, to remotely track compliance. This does the job; however, it lacks visibility or collaboration with Facilities. As a result, both teams work in operational and budgetary siloes.
Siloes are never good for business. With Compliance and Facilities operating separately, neither team has the information or context to make appropriate financial decisions. Capital expenditure allocations happen in a vacuum, based on one team’s opinions and perspective, instead of using empirical data from across the business to assess risk. No one can see the overall picture of what’s spent and why.
This fragmented approach can lead to additional financial drawbacks. Fuel retailers may need to hold a larger environmental reserve or hold or pay hefty insurance premiums due to the lack of visibility into business risk. If you can’t accurately quantify your risk, you can’t take proactive steps to lower it. This means you can’t lower your reserve fund or insurance rates resulting in more money remaining locked up.
The solution: Unifying Compliance and Facilities, culturally and technologically
What does it take to unite Compliance and Facilities under a single umbrella?
The first step is cultural. Teams must work together to approach their challenges holistically, with a view toward the future. Both teams working together to identify shared problems, then focusing on how to fix them strategically instead of continuing to fight one-off fires.
The next step is technological. Fuel retailers need a solution that empowers Compliance and Facilities to collaborate. To gain a holistic view, the system must be able to link work orders and facilities/maintenance activities to compliance activities, release detection, and alarms onsite. It should provide visibility across spend and equipment, offering insight into the infrastructure’s age and probability of failure. Leading systems can look across networks to score risk and calculate where the business needs to invest in lowering their risk and serving up information in an actionable way to users on both teams.
In short, the system should be able to bring all of the relevant data together. Bringing together data on parts, equipment spend, warranty, facilities activities, compliance, remote work, etc., into a cohesive dashboard enables smarter operational and capital expenditures.
What happens when you break down compliance siloes and achieve that holistic view? Instead of a burden, compliance becomes a benefit to your business.
- More efficient operations leading to higher throughput, improving facility uptime, and increasing fuel margins
- Optimizing compliance rates lowering the risk of fines, breaches, and leaks
- Facilities controlling costs with technology to resolve issues remotely, ultimately directing maintenance dollars to pressing issues while minimizing onsite maintenance spend
Compliance isn’t going away, but it doesn’t have to be a barrier to strategic decision-making and better financial outcomes. With a shift in workflows and a system that unites the right data in the right way, Compliance and Facilities teams can get more done, more effectively, with less time and fewer resources.
Greg Salverson is a cloud software executive who has a passion for business development, managing high performance teams and growing companies into industry leaders. Greg has spent nearly 20 years in software development, support, implementations, quality assurance, solution engineering (Pre-Sales), business development and management with PnL responsibilities. He enjoys aligning people, processes and technology to deliver tangible value to our clients and partners while also exceeding year over year top line growth & operating profit targets.