Automation in Refuelling Goes East
Careful consideration of customers needs as well as culture is important when entering new markets, writes Dr. Christine Grötzbach
By Dr. Christine Grötzbach
To quote a popular Chinese proverb, When drinking water, never forget its source, meaning, the roots of a business arrangement begin with the customer. This might seem like an international truism, but with specific restrictions and requirements for different market environments, solutions must be tailored with regard to particular features of the product and the target group.
The distinction of national characteristics should be considered within a global concept and any interested provider within the relevant aviation industry should be no exception. The foreign businessperson is well advised to take into account the overall political and economical situation when interacting with local companies as information technology solutions find their way more and more into the ground handling industry. The Chinese market can be regarded as a big challenge with a huge potential for an IT-service provider offering their products and services to the ground handling industry.
Reaching the Chinese Market
In China, the refuelling services at the airports are controlled by the national aircraft fuel company China Aviation Oil Supply Corporation (CAOSC). CAOSC handles the services either directly or as major shareholder in a consortium. Thus, currently an interested overseas businessman is faced with a limited number of customers.
The Chinese company, Mansrich Ltd. acts as a bridge between China and other overseas countries. Mansrich was founded in 1999 and is developing fast, introducing advanced products and IT solutions from abroad into the Chinese aviation fuel market. A German consortium has recently started to cooperate with Mansrich. The partners within the German consortium are the Hamburg-based global IT-solution supplier DCO DV-Convent-Informationsmanagement GmbH, the Germany-wide operating refuelling service company, AFS Aviation Fuel Services & Management GmbH and the BARTEC GmbH, which offers the system PETRODAT 3002 (integrated flow computer, data transfer, ATEX approved). Their object was to provide a complete computer controlled fuel transfer system.
DCO, having celebrated its 10th anniversary in September 2002, has developed on behalf of AFS an IT-solution for automating the administration in refuelling for Germany. FHS Fuel Handling System integrates the administrative procedures of the involved logistic partners from the refinery into the aircraft: the airline, the oil company, the transport agency, the fuel tank farm/hydrant operator and the into-plane operator. Due to the effectiveness of the system it has been installed all over the world.
"Mansrich decided to combine with the German consortium because of its well developed products and its successful performance worldwide," explains Mr.Qin Wensheng, Managing Director of Mansrich. "Mansrich is familiar with both international projects and the Chinese market. We are experienced in international trade and international bidding. Besides, we know well how to deal with our own Chinese customers. We act as independent local agents also providing the local technical support." Mr.Qin Wensheng adds, "Basic requirement in China is an improvement of the operator's efficiency to reduce ground time of the aircraft along with reducing service costs. The advantages of information technology are being realized by an ambitious Chinese management. Some of the systems in ground handling application have been developed by CAOSC, which strives for world-class IT-solutions."
Entering the Chinese market and the development of a Chinese product is a challenge for the German consortium. The structure and the workflows have to be tailored to the Chinese customers after a thorough evaluation of the basic needs. Mr. Qin is convinced of the Mansrich ability to close the deal. "We organize technical seminars to show functions and advantages of the system. We survey the feedback and provide the necessary support. Only when the customers realises the advantages, will he accept the system."
The airport Guilin (IATA-code: KWL) has been selected as a test site for the Chinese version of fuel automation. Guilin is located in the region Guangxi in southern China and features 60 to 80 operations with 200 to 320 tons of jet fuel per day. The refuelling is carried out via a hydrant system and dispensers or a fuel truck. Guilin houses the Blue Sky Guangxi Branch. Blue Sky is a joint venture of CAOSC, AirBP and Fortune with its central department located in Guangzhou (Canton). A subsidiary handles the refuelling services in Guilin. Information technology is considered to be a top management issue, and related projects are accordingly administered from the headquarters. As Blue Sky has installed a technologically up-to-date in-house system, the employees are becoming familiar with information technology.
Implementing the Plan
Jörg Sziegat, project manager of DCO, is responsible for specification and installation of fuel automation solutions in China. "The manual recording of delivery receipts is going to be automated. We will also automate the dispatching of personnel and equipment," he comments on the targets of the project and adds, "In order to get the current data from incoming and outgoing flights, we will establish a FIDS-connection in the airport."
An interface to the flight information display system will transmit up-to-date schedule information about an aircraft's registration number, ramp/position, on-block-time, and arrival or departure time. Any unforeseen changes, delays, or cancellations will be integrated into dispatching procedures. Trucks on the airfield will be able to receive the optimised instructions by wireless networking on a display in the driver's cabin. A future data link to the airline computer system will enable electronic fuel ordering. The BARTEC PETRODAT 3002 system records the refuelled quantity. It is planned to introduce the generation of electronic delivery tickets (e-ticketing). The system can also provide an interface that forwards the recorded data to the financial department for accounting and further evaluation.
Jörg Sziegat is very much impressed by the enthusiasm the project has motivated. "I perceived a warm welcome and high interest on every level of management," he says. "Users were very open-minded and very helpful. I got all support I needed." He emphasizes the good cooperation with Mansrich, "We have found a reliable and competent partner and work as a team. Our clients have decided in favour of good organization, good introduction, training and after-sales service."
Mr.Qin Wensheng adds, "We are wholly committed to our client. Our philosophy is to adopt responsibility and to keep our promises in a cooperation of fairness. This makes our customer feel comfortable to work with us and gives him the confidence to apply the products and services we offer."
The Guilin project looks promising and is making good progress. Other Chinese airports are looking very closely at the developments with interest.
AFS Aviation Fuel Services &
Sportallee 6, D-22335 Hamburg, Germany
Tel. +49-(0) 40-513092-31 (Jürgen Grötzbach),
Fax +49-(0) 40-513092-99
BARTEC Meßtechnik und Sensorik GmbH
Schulstraße 30, D-94239 Gotteszell, Germany
Tel. +49-(0) 9929-3 01-220 (Hans-Peter Amann)
Fax +49-(0) 9929-3 01-198
Room A3-1501,Sunshine Plaza, 68 Anli Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing,China 100101
Tel. +86 10 64812627-805 (Franny Wang)
Fax + 86 10 64899233
About the Author: Dr. Christine Grötzbach is managing partner of Hamburg, Germany-based CJG Business Development, a marketing consultant in the ground aviation industry.