Internet of Things – Tank Monitoring Solution

Increase Revenue by 30%.

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The Challenge

The client operates a 100,000 square foot waste oil processing plant. The company has three waste oil trucks that operate on several different pick-up routes in a large 500 mile radius from the plant.

More often than not, the truck would arrive at the pick-up location and find that the container was at a less than optimal level. The lack of information to identify which locations would yield the greatest amount of product for the least amount of costs was causing inefficiencies in the current system as trucks would drive to local and remote locations only to find that the tank was less than half full. This cost the operator in both time and money including the salary of the driver, fuel costs, un-needed wear and tear on the pick-up vehicle as well as the lost opportunity cost.

As with many businesses in this industry, often times “rush” and emergency pick-up requests would come in from the client to pick up waste oil when the container was full or close to full. These un-planned and inefficient trips would also eat up time time and cost money to the Plant Operator.

The vision of the Plant Operator was to find and implement a solution that would help him understand the real-time levels of all the tanks in the field. In addition, any new system would need to be able to automatically create efficient route plans based on the product levels in the field as well as to automatically calculate volumes picked up at each location. As an optional feature, any solution that could help prevent theft or that could warn operators when sudden un-planned drops in waste oil levels occurred would be an added bonus.

In the waste oil business, where buyers all pay about the same for raw materials, these issues can make or break companies forced to operate on razor thin margins and having an automated solution in place would give the operator the additional differentiator and therefore a competitive advantage over his competitors.

For all these reasons, our client decided that his company needed to make a change. The change that the company made was to adopt a tank monitoring telemetry solution that enables the remote access of tank data.

The remainder of this case study will show how the solution implemented by using the Bolero Wireless Tank Monitoring solution helped solve these various problems and how now with the new system the Plant is is now operating in a more proactive and efficient state.

The Solution

After thorough research by the Plant Operator, he determined that the Bolero Wireless Tank Monitoring solution offered the best system that met his business requirements at a competitive hardware, software and monitoring cost. It included all the features in the solution he was looking for including the wireless M2M Telemetry hardware, easy to install tank level sensors as well as an easy- to-use Web portal that could be used by various staff responsible for these functions.

Since the solution is integrated with an analog tank level sensors, the real-time tank level is automatically transmitted back to the Bolero Live! website every four hours. This allows the dispatcher to easily schedule which locations are to be visited by each truck driver on any given day of the week.

The solution was also configured to send out automatic email alerts to the truck driver in the field when tank levels at a location was at or over 90% capacity. These email alerts are automatically sent to the truck driver as an SMS message and includes the pickup location address information.

The system also has been configured to alert the operator if there a sudden drop in the tank level that indicates large leakage or theft.

The following diagram provides a high level overview of the overall technical architecture of the solution. The selected technical architecture has proven to be highly reliable and consistent in reporting the value of all tank level events anywhere the solution was installed in geographic region services by our client. The communication backbone incorporated into the solution includes a high speed GPRS/GPS network.

Tank Monitoring

The Components

The Bolero Wireless automated M2M modem and tank level sensor was developed to be installed easily by anyone with limited electrical knowledge. The Bolero Wireless M2M tank level solution is a four wire installation that uses an easy to find 12V AC/DC power supply. The installer only needs to install the tank level sensor, connect the black to black the white to white and a signal wire from the tank level sensor. The Bolero Wireless Tank Monitor is on the GSM network in minutes and reporting back to the cloud updating the client data base.

Once installed the tank level solution reports their current tank level 6 times per day. This was believed to be the best balance between data reporting costs and real time information.

In this solution, all waste oil tanks in the field have been installed with the Bolero Wireless Tank Monitoring solution and is made up of the following components:

  • Bolero Wireless GPRS/GPS Wireless Modem configured as a Tank Level Monitor;
  • Unit sends GPRS message every 6 hours and reports in the HQ the current level of the tank in volume;
  • A cellular GPRS message is sent to the cellular Network and lands in the Bolero back-end;
  • The Event is logged real-time in the Bolero database and Bolero Live! Web Portal.

The Results

The solution has been in operation on 50 of the Plant Operator’s pick-up locations. The locations vary from remote locations that produce little volume to his best customers that produce the most volume. The benefits to the Plant Operator have been many and the cost to pick-up product has been reduced by 30%. In the past, trucks were returning to the plant half full. Now, with the new solution in place, trucks are leaving the plant empty, and are returning back full. Some additional benefits of the new system as are follows:

  • Real-time inventory levels. Since each tank reports back its tank level throughout the day, the system automatically calculates the total volume available to be collected in the field. This helps the organization with their cash flow projections.

  • Rush Order and Emergency pick-ups virtually eliminated. Since the solution has been implemented, rush orders and emergency pick-ups are virtually a thing of the past. The software automatically plans and predicts the schedule for high volume locations.
  • Ability to detect leaks or theft. The system monitors the data and automatically alerts the operator and location manager when un-planned sudden drop in volume occurs. An automatic SMS message is sent to the responsible parties when these events arise.

  • Automatic recording of amount picked-up per location. With the new system, volumes drained from the tank are automatically tallied and used for billing purposes. This has optimized what used to be manually recording by the truck driver and has reduced the error rate in the previous cumbersome manual process.

  • More Efficient Route planning. With the new system, the operator can automatically generate a suggested route plan by the system based on the current product levels in the field. These route plans can be saved and adjusted based on new metric information gathered by the system in the field

Based on feedback from the Plant Operator, they are very pleased with the new system. Now that the plant has 50 of these tank monitoring solutions in the field, they are planning to roll-out and automate additional locations over the coming year.