Expert opinions, TECHNOLOGY

Fuel businesses need to automate operation to survive

Industry 4.0 quickly drawing upon us is automating every sector. To survive in a competitive market, companies needs to catch on tech trends as fast as possible. The use of smart devices, artificial intelligence, and the most recent software can optimize processes for fuel companies and gas station dealers. Businesses that went digital on time stand to gain customer loyalty for the future.

Credit: Konstantin Mikhalchevskiy | RIAN

Addressing personnel crisis

Despite the popular idea of replacing people with robots, the fuel industry will face a shortage of workers even before we see rebellions of machines. Rigzone analysts say that in the next 10 years, most of those who work there now, will retire. And generation Y and millennials, unlike generation X and baby boomers, are not at all keen on working in the oil and gas sector.

The automation of processes eliminates the problem by replacing future workers with algorithms. Companies that adapt to industry 4.0 will simply skip the personnel crisis. Businesses that digitize production faster than others will be the best off. Self-learning algorithms are capable of streamlining processes and reducing troubleshooting time. The sooner smart devices are put into operation, the faster the business adapts to modern market requirements.


Fraud is quite common in the fuel business. Drivers steal from gas stations, while the latter never stop short of keeping hundreds of liters of gasoline. Every fifth filling station in Russia sells short, and every tenth, offers low-quality product. However, fraud is not only common with gas stations. Engineering, agriculture, logging and other businesses incur significant losses due to theft. Automated metering systems can immediately spot the difference between the amount of fuel pumped in and actually used.

Another problem pipeline leaks that lead to financial losses and harm the environment. Technology algorithms can control pipeline systems, pumps and filters by themselves. While reducing the time spent on regular check-ups, smart devices increase production capacity of the company staff and allow for using valuable hours for other processes. Monitoring systems oversee the production operations in real time and immediately notice any mistake, leakage or malfunction.

Reducing risks

Despite the existence of advanced models of fuel production and transportation, the safety issue in the fuel industry remains a challenge. AOL Jobs analytics note a high number of occupational fatalities among oil and gas industry workers. Automation and remote control almost completely reduce the threat for personnel. Thus, Rockwell Automation by Microsoft suggests that the entire cycle of work with fuel to be done by smart algorithms. The integration of IoT will reduce the risks of potential malfunctions and leakages.

Algorithms will also be used in fuel transportation. Tesla, Uber Technologies, Volvo and other large companies are working on creating automated cars for cargo transportation. In the next 10 years, there might be no need to make people do dangerous work.

Improving customer service

Just like in other b2b business, algorithms help automate customer service. Online bots tell the clients about products, recommend components and even give consultations. For instance, Shell has a virtual assistant that processes over 100K folios for 3K products. In addition to online chat, the bot also deals with routine task to collect and monitor data.

With an increasing number of smart devices and algorithms in the fuel sector, the servers will require spacious storage facilities. Cloud platforms are used for remote control a company’s operations. The current trends allow for regulating the processes of fuel production and delivery using specialized software.

Increasing profits

Cutting expenses on personnel, leak detection, quick dealing with production-related problems will increase the total profits of fuel enterprises. However, this relates not only to private companies, but to the global economy in general. Analysts from Oxford Economics believe that in the next decade, the all-industry use of smart devices will increase the global GDP by 0.8%, or $816 bln.

The transformation of the fuel sector and its automation will happen inevitably in the next decades. The current use of IoT in the oil and gas market is not limited to operations at a plant or a drilling rig, but covers most of a company’s operations.

By Mikhail Kolesnikov, Founder of Penzaspetsavtomash (owner of Benza Brand)

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