Roncol Services Ltd was established in 1973 to design, manufacture
and service a range of commercial and retail fuel pump systems to a
broad range of customers. Employing 24 staff, the sector in which the
company operates is Transportation Services. Major customers of Roncol
Services include oil companies, local authorities, public utilities,
the emergency services, public transport and large haulage companies.
Roncol's skill is the ability to react to customer demand and develop,
install and maintain custom-built fuelling systems for the small to
medium sized operator.
The Fuel Scout is a fuel dispensing control and monitoring system
designed to allow haulage companies and fleet vehicle users to control
the issue of fuel to their vehicles, and to record the amount of fuel
consumed by individual vehicles and drivers. The Fuel Scout system design
is based on the use of a purchased low cost personal computer (PC) board
with company designed plug in cards to interface to the pump sensors,
operator displays and the keypad. These dedicated plug-in cards use
discrete device technology, and the use of this device technology introduces
cost and space limitations on the features offered by the product.
The objective of this Application Experiment was to improve the Fuel
Scout system by the use of FPGA technology to realise the following
a) Improved competitiveness as a result of extra product functionality,
- The ability to meet customer requirements for alternative access
security methods, such as magnetic stripe card and radio frequency
(RF) key ring access methods.
- Improved metering accuracy by the provision of digital counter prescaling
circuits for each pump sensor channel. This allows the use of the
Fuel Scout system in monitoring bulk fuel transfers in oil terminals,
opening up a new market area for the Fuel Scout.
- The use of the fuel pump sensor input prescalers to allow the Fuel
Scout to interface to existing pump installations without the need
to replace existing fuel pump transmitters.
- The ability to implement a 2-wire current loop interface to allow
connection to retail trade pumps often used in commercial applications.
- The implementation of a master / slave hardware interface to allow
two or more Fuel Scout systems to control fuel transfer on the same
site when pumps are far apart.
b) A manufacturing cost reduction of 35% for the controller board which
forms an integral part of the Fuel Scout system. This cost reduction
was achieved via the much higher levels of integration that are available
through the use of FPGA technology when compared to discrete digital
logic chips. In addition, the number of circuit boards required for
the implementation of the improved Fuel Scout system has been reduced
from 3 to 2. A future 'replication exercise' to redesign a 386-based
control card will further reduce the board count down from 2 to 1.
The addition of these features has substantially improved the Fuel
Scout product and is scheduled to generate increased sales and profits
for the company. The development of a FPGA device design capability
within the company will also enable Roncol to incorporate this technology
into other products in the future, with further commercial benefits
to the company. The development of the improved product supported by
the FUSE programme cost 51kEUR. The duration of the application experiment
was 10 months. An 11-week period of industrialisation followed the prototype
development phase at an additional cost an additional 18kEUR.
The return on investment on the FUSE-funded development work (51kEUR)
is calculated at 28 months. The return on this investment over the product's
five year lifecycle is estimated at 440%. This clearly demonstrates
the commercial advantages of FPGA technology for small companies such
as Roncol Services.