To some people, SKS, Inc., Escondido, Calif., is one of the last of a vanishing breed. The company is a bulk lubes and fuels distributor; operator of commercial fueling stations in the Pacific Pride network; and an installer and servicer of fuel equipment for end-users. Simply put, there are not too many firms that offer their clients a list of services that varied anymore.
“Basically, we’re a full-line jobber, including maintenance and equipment service, and there’s not too many of us left; a lot of people have chopped those maintenance and equipment services,” said Newell Bowden, operations manager for SKS Inc. “We’ve maintained our technicians in the equipment department because we need the manpower for our own use, as well.”
Ironically, while SKS is one of the last A-to-Z fuel, lube, equipment, maintenance and service providers left, at least in the southern California market, the company has had great success in inventory management for its lubes business by turning to a tank-gauging and -monitoring system called the SiteSentinel iSite.
A key component in SKS’ operations is its bulk-lube storage facility, an operation that features a mix of 32 horizontal and vertical aboveground storage tanks, some of which are as tall as 15 feet, at a tank farm in the Miramar area of San Diego, located near the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, and about 25 miles due South of SKS’ Escondido headquarters. SKS purchased this site a number of years ago, but it was only in late 2007 that it began experiencing some problems with the tank-gauging system at the facility.
“The tanks had commercial gauges in them and our operation continued using those tape-style or refinery-style gauges, but over the years, some of them failed or we just lost faith in their accuracy,” said Bowden. “Beyond that, as lube products became more and more expensive, we started looking harder at more accurately monitoring and controlling our inventory. Any writeoffs of losses of inventory we might have were becoming more and more unacceptable, so inventory management and reconciliation was more and more critical.”
Turning to Paul Nelson, regional manager for OPW Fuel Management Systems, Bowden was introduced to the iSite Automatic Tank-Gauging System. The iSite is built on Windows technology that provides the operational advantages that site operators need to ensure their sites are being managed as efficiently and effectively as possible. The iSite has been developed to offer easy, low-cost installation; easy-to-manage user interfaces; highly-accurate and precise tank-monitoring peripherals; easy reconciliation of inventories and deliveries; a variety of probe and sensor options; tracking of regulatory-compliance reporting; an easy-to-read LCD touch-screen with an icon-based menu structure; and the latest in communications technology that allows access to the system from anywhere in the world.
For SKS’ specific application, the iSite can handle a facility with 32 tanks, as well as offer 15-foot probes. In his search for a solution, Bowden had found that some other systems can manage locations with no more than 12 tanks equipped with 10-foot probes. The iSite is also more robust in its information gathering and configuration options than competitive systems.
“We had the iSite installed in early 2008 and it’s exceeded our expectations,” said Bowden. “Once we got it configured to the way we needed it to be, it’s been trouble-free ever since. The data management and configuration are super easy, maintenance is super easy, it’s super flexible in the amount and type of information you can push out of it, it’s highly customizable, and the alarm capabilities are far better than others.”
Bowden is also continuously discovering new applications for the iSite that can improve SKS’ business, as well as the safety of its employees and the environment.
“We’re continuing to develop it as time goes on,” he said. “The latest thing we’re doing is to provide pump shutdown in case of an overfill, or near-overfill. Overfills in ASTs are a very costly proposition and we want to use it for overfill protection because it will alert us right away when we might be approaching an overfill event.”
With three bulk lube and fuel storage locations also in the SKS system, Bowden easily foresees a day when the iSite will be utilized at those sites, as well.
“Should we find a need at another location for automatic tank gauging, there wouldn’t be any question that the iSite would be my choice,” he said. “We’re a direct-line dealer and service center for lube and fuel products, and we’re also an end-user. As an end-user, it’s a very simple piece of equipment to operate and manage. It’s very, very user-friendly, and because it’s a Web-application type of device, you can do it from anywhere.”
For more information on the SiteSentinel iSite Automatic Tank-Gauging System, contact OPW Fuel Management Systems at (708) 485-4200 or go to www.OPWglobal.com.