2020 is just different. COVID-19 has changed the way we live and work. Especially the aviation industry is going true very tough times, and nobody can be certain if we will ever get back to normal. Maybe we will have to get used to a new normal. No matter how this situation will develop in the future, airlines have to become more efficient immediately. Today, I want to tell you how you can jumpstart those efforts by implementing a fully digital fuel management system.

The State Of The Industry

In our world today, it is pretty rare that all people can agree on something. However, you can probably agree with me when I say that we are living in unprecedented times at the moment. The global COVID-19 pandemic has flipped all our lives upside down. Nothing is the same anymore.
You could say that globalization is on hold for a while. Worldwide industries came to a standstill and are just slowly getting back up on their feet. Due to the global travel restriction, the aviation industry got hit with full force by that.

Airlines around the globe had to switch their operations to standby mode. As this cannot be done at the switch of a button, airlines struggle mightily with that. Excessive capacities generate sunk costs that are bringing many airlines to the brink of bankruptcy.

It Is The Right Time For Digital Fuel Management

As a reaction, most airlines have stopped every single project that does not have operational relevance to save money wherever possible. From experience, we all know that airlines have many projects running that are rather nice-to-have than operationally necessary when everything is running smoothly. Those times are over, at least for now.

New project proposals are being triple-checked today to agree on their operational relevance. Unfortunately, at many airlines, the implementation of a digital fuel management system is one of these projects that did not make the cut.

Today, I want to tell you why that is the wrong approach. In my opinion, a digital fuel management is precisely the project you need to initiate. I will give you just two simple reasons why I think that way, and I am sure that they will convince you to at least think about the topic again.

1 – Digital Fuel Management Enables Diverse Cost-Cuttings Opportunities

Not flying at the usual capacity cost airlines millions of dollars every day. Therefore, their number one priority at the moment is to cut costs wherever possible. Some measures they are taking are more efficient than others. Laying off thousands of staff members works but do you want to do that? I believe that you could take many more effortless measures to improve your processes and save money as a result.

We always talk about inefficient processes, but they never bother you enough when everything is running smoothly. Suddenly, this has changed, and we have to take a closer look at where to invest our time and money to save money in the end. I believe that the fueling process has a massive potential here as it is an integral part of the operational process.

Of course, we cannot merely save fuel costs by putting less kerosine in a plane, but as fueling is such a central aspect of the turnaround process, a more standardized and digital process offers the chance to minimize fueling-related delays. Centralizing the communication between the airline and the fueling companies is a top priority for that.

One of our European clients has conducted a study after the implementation of our digital communication hub. Before operating an electronic fuel process, fuel-related delays accounted for 2% of all delays at AMS. After switching to a fully digitalized fueling process, the airline observed a constant reduction of these delays, and the number dropped to 0%.

Even more critical, the airline was able to maintain this level consistently. Cutting delays means saving costs, and for our client, this accumulated to 7-digit savings per year since the implementation.

Reduce fuel provider costs

However, that is just the first and maybe the most obvious source of cost savings. By streamlining the communication process with the fuel providers, a digital fuel management system enable more efficient operations as well. Better communication means eliminating mistakes and redundant efforts.

Typically, fueling providers charge an airline for being available at the on-block/gate position. Because of the poor communication in the past, they did that no matter if fueling is needed or not—more than reasonable as they had the effort to send a fuel truck to the position. With a digitalized communication solution between the airline and the fueling provider, the pilot could inform the fueler in advance that no fueling is required. This would cut costs for the airline and enable the fueling provider to manage its truck fleet more efficiently. A win-win for both sides!

I know that those savings are relatively marginal for both sides. Still, you have to keep in mind that the implementation efforts needed to install a centralized communication hub and therefore complete the fueling process’s digitalization are marginal as well – and only occur once.

Improve fuel data quality

Finally, as the transaction between the airline and the fueler moves into the digital world, it allows for a massively improved data quality. Currently, receipts still have to be handed over to the fueling department, which handles the manual input into the database. As you can imagine, manually inputting a handwritten receipt into a database is a nightmare for data analysts as the data quality is far from acceptable.

With a digital fuel management system, you take away the human factor and improve the data quality massively. Consequently, this allows your data gurus to run more sophisticated analysis and find even more opportunities to cut costs overall.

As you can see, digitalizing your airline fuel management from end to end enables a massive load of process improvement opportunities from up- and downstream processes along the chain. The marginal investment it takes to implement a digital fuel management system opens up a whole array of opportunities to cut costs and improve your overall efficiency.

2 – Digital Fuel Management Reduces Personal Interactions

As Benjamin wrote in one of his latest blog posts, he recently talked to an IATA representative about how they try to support airlines in those testing times. After discussing several topics related to handling operations at reduced operational volume, they also talked about the needed measure to implement hygiene regulations for passengers and staff members. To solidify their recommendations, they started analyzing every single step along the process chain very thoroughly. Based on those results, IATA formulated detailed action plans for airlines to digitalize actions still centered around personal interactions as they pose a higher infection risk for everyone involved.

On the operational side of things, the fueling process is one that got highlighted. I was shocked when I realized that this process is still highly manual and paper-based, involving a personal interaction between the pilot and the fueler at different process steps. I thought that such days are over since 2000, but I was wrong. However, they have to be over now to protect all staff members that are part of the process. A digital fuel management system can help you achieve that easily.

Protect your staff

Reducing personal interactions in 2020 is a must-do, and significant advancements have been made in various areas to ensure just that. The same can be achieved with the airline fueling process by simply implementing a digital fuel management system.

Airlines and fueling companies are already using sophisticated IT systems, but they don’t communicate with each other, making personal interaction necessary. Everything up to that point of business handles digitally. Suddenly, we go back to screaming a fuel order out of the cockpit window and handing over handwritten receipts when everything is done.

The solution is digital!

This has to change now, and you already know the solution to the problem. The most appropriate and efficient option would be if both sides use a mobile application to communicate with each other. Unfortunately, the current IT and process landscape is very diverse and does not allow for a simple plug-and-play app every airline and fueler could use. Countless changes and implementation projects would be needed to finalize such an initiative.

As we don’t have the time nor the money, a faster and easier solution is required. An option that has been applied in many other industries to deal with similar situations is to establish a communicative middleware that facilitates the exchange between the different applications. With such a hub, airlines and fueler would need to connect their applications to the hub rather than to countless systems of their counterparts.

This reduction of complexity saves both sides a massive amount of money and needless efforts they would otherwise invest in old-fashioned IT projects. And we can all agree that those days should be over by now.

Act now – Implement Digital Fuel Management!

Furthermore, the urgency of the current pandemic situation does not allow for such lengthy processes. We have to act now, and we have to work quickly. Implementing a digital fuel management system to support the operational fueling process is necessary to protect all staff members involved. It is crazy to think that it needed a pandemic to put a spotlight on this issue. Therefore, it is the wrong time to freeze such a project. Use the momentum, act now, and revolutionize your digital fuel management process.

I hope I was able to get across the message that stopping for efforts around digitalizing your airline fuel management process is the wrong decision at the moment. By finally connecting airlines and fueling providers via a digital communication hub you can achieve precisely the results you need in those testing times.

How Airlines Around the Globe Can Ban COVID-19 From The Apron

Read The Story!

Ready to reduce your airline’s costs? Here’s how!

Yes, take me there!

How Airlines Around the Globe Can Ban COVID-19 From The Apron

Read The Story!

Ready to reduce your airline’s costs? Here’s how!

Yes, take me there!

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Robin is the young gun at Information Design already leaving his mark on aviation industry. After taking an educational hiatus, he rejoined Information Design and is prepared to help airlines around the world to capitalize on the advantages of digital fuel management. With his quite remarkable level of experience in the aviation industry for his young age, Robin is prepared to pick up right where he left off. Don’t hesitate to contact him – maybe he will invite you onto his web show “REFUEL”.