Right Sizing Electronic Ways of Refuelling

Information Technology

Right Sizing Electronic Ways of Refuelling

By Christine Grötzbach

June/July 2002

Many airlines have been struggling in the recent years. The terrible attack on the 11th September 2001 revealed their financial crisis and led to big economic cuts. The ground-handling service companies are seeking ways out of the crisis trying to eliminate ineffective cost elements.

Christine GrötzbachSurveys and analysis show that a majority of the total cost of ground handling services can be connected to time and personnel cost for administrative tasks. Reducing these costs offers service providers to be competitive in an increasingly narrow market.

IT-systems often promise to be the unique solution for every organizational problem. But a cool, deciding calculator assesses that the money invested for a solution has to return as soon as possible and with the highest possible factor. While automation is state-of-the-art, he knows that some tasks can be done quicker and easier with a sheet of paper and a pen. He knows that the efficiency of an electronic solution depends on the right-sized choice. And, with the complexity of the system, the necessity of in-depth training increases.

Dr. Andreas Goldschmidt-Rokita, managing director of DCo DVConvent Informationsmanagement of Hamburg, Germany, recommends to correlate the degree of automation to the number of repetitive administrative actions: "We grow with our customers. When you spend your budget for items that actually don't bring you forward, you won't keep your market strength, fall back and worse - go bust. Consequently, it is our target to find the most effective solution to ease your work. For ground-handling service companies, criteria for the selection are the number of operations respective to outgoing flights per day."

AFS Aviation Fuel Services & Management GmbH of Hamburg, Germany was founded in 1986 and is now owned by Lufthansa and representatives of the mineral oil industry. Approximately 320 persons with a fleet of more than 120 vehicles (fuelers and dispensers) are involved at aviation service stations and tank depots. Jürgen Grötzbach is responsible for IT and marketing with AFS Aviation Fuel Services & Management and categorizes the airports into three groups:

  1. Less than 50 operations per day
  2. 50 to 150 operations per day
  3. Greater than 150 operations per day

"As one of the German market leaders in aviation refuelling with service stations all over Germany," explains Grötzbach, "we are faced with the different needs regarding traffic and operation intensity. We manage service stations at small airports with up to 50 operations per day. They have requirements and constraints different from service stations between about 50 and 150 operations per day. The service stations with more then 150 ops — these are Frankfurt and Munich — manage their high administrative workload with a highly automated IT-solution."

To suit each need best, DVConvent has developed the FHSfamily for the fuel handling sector. Dr. Jens Hartmann, project manager DCo, explains the product structure: "We offer a range of FHS-modules, which fit perfectly together. This strategy enables an easy adjustment to the business size. Thus, our customers never work with products which have to be installed oversized in the beginning in the hope to fit in the future. Our IT-solutions grow with the needs."

With one of their customers, AFS has arranged the electronic fuel order. A data connection to the airline computer system had been established to replace the voice communication between Crew and Fuel Truck Agent. The fuel order is placed by the captain or a ground station. The order is received and processed by FHS and DispoWin into an operational order. The fuel milestones: Arrival of fuel truck, Start of fueling, and End of fueling are recorded together with the fuel data. An electronic delivery ticket is generated and sent to the aircraft. It can be signed electronically by the captain. Invoicing and accounting is realized by DCo Data Clearing Center.

Staff in the administration department can profit from invoicing and accounting on electronic ways. Dr. Goldschmidt-Rokita reports about the DCo-Data Clearing Center: "The registered figures are collated in IT-evaluation tools. Bills are automatically produced, checked by the service company and sent to the addressee. We can manage all this without any paper, by interfacing to external systems wholly on electronic means."

The introduction of a new Itsolution is usually very critical regarding acceptance of the users, installation and transition phase, introduction and training.

In March 2002, at Washington Dulles Airport, the FHS technology receives live airport information for optimized dispatching procedures. Now, the installed FHS-modules handle fuel inventory and billing procedures, dispatching and the automated generation of delivery tickets as fueling is in progress.

The FHS-up product has just been launched at Charles de Gaulle, Paris. A key player in the refueling service is FAS, a joint venture of AirBP, TFE and Agip. Guy Lambert, operations manager assistant with AirBP at Charles de Gaulle experienced three steps in the acceptance of IT among the users: "Before introduction of the new system, users showed skepticism and rejection. After kick-off, they critically tested some functions. About 8 days later they already had gained confidence in the system and were positively confronted with an ease at work. Keys for the smooth and fast transition were both the well-organized installation and the user-oriented introduction with support and training." Thomas Gemes, Airport station manager of AFS Munich, confirms this experience of the FHS-installation some years ago, introduction of up-dates and new modules at the location Munich. The first skepticism has been replaced meanwhile by an enthusiasm among his staff expressing proposals to further improve the system.

Businesses can be driven high effectively with a suitable IT-system, that is tailor-made to its requirements. The use of information technology is no end in itself. It must be user-friendly and personnel must not be overcharged with numerous functions they will never use. A system has to be of clear structure showing the information and options people actually need. A system expansion has to conserve the familiar philosophy to be easily accepted and transferred into business success. Having the right-sized IT program is crucial to improving efficiencies in your operations.

About the author: Dr. Christine Grötzbach is managing partner of Hamburg, Germanybased CJG Business Development, a marketing consultant in the ground aviation industry.