The importance of reliable communications

Paul Boughton
The need for operational simplicity has become critically important as today’s forecourt is no longer just a place to buy fuel, but offers a competitive alternative to supermarkets and other convenience outlets. The network now sits at the heart of a more complex and customer-focused environment where management control, flexibility and responsiveness are key to trading success.   

The use of network communications within petrol retail has not only helped to improve business effectiveness in terms of processing payments, managing stock control and even maintenance of on-site car washes, it has now become an essential part of being a successful forecourt retailer today.

Viable networks are crucial as they have helped move the business on from manual payment transactions to point of sale applications, ensuring quick and efficient payment processes.  [Page Break]

Increasingly petrol retailers, from rural petrol stations to large motorway service stations, are relying on the network not only to support vital card transactions, but maintain loyalty programmes and manage stock control for fuel and their on-site convenience stores. Most significantly, if the network fails, for most there is no way of accepting card payment from customers.

Network design is crucial to maximising reliability and resilience: terrestrial, wireless and satellite should all be considered as availability of each is highly location-dependent. Rapid switch-over from primary to back-up network capability is key to effective resiliency.

Using network communication has helped petrol retailers in evolving their business to cope with a wider range of commercial opportunities and is now being used to enhance revenues by hosting applications such as advertising screens and traffic reports. [Page Break]

However, forecourt operators work on very tight margins, so to minimise costs they should consider increasing the use of integrated applications that improve efficiency.

A solution delivering in branch training enables staff to make efficient use of quiet time, rather than having to travel to a training centre. A local branch cloud capability delivers cost effective local application hosting, reducing the number of onsite computers and optimising network use. Having a local media service further optimises network use, keeping costs to a minimum.

To support their business, retailers should select a single supplier who can deliver both the value added applications and a true unified network. This will deliver operational efficiency benefits of managing one rather than several suppliers, as well as getting the best in terms of performance, security and cost.

Nick George is head of service development, Hughes Europe. For more information, visit