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PDI announces new software improvements, portal development at annual user conference

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Greg Gilkerson

FORT WORTH, Texas -- From the details of raising credit limits by customer type to the broader development of an industry portal, officials at technology provider PDI's user conference gave attendees an overview this week of what's been accomplished in the past year and what's on the map to do in the year ahead.

Many of the improvements were based on customer feedback so that data entry, delivery and analysis would be easier and more accessible. To that end, Greg Gilkerson, president of the Temple, Texas-based company, announced a strategic partnership with Burtonsville, Md.-based iControl, to create a portal linking vendors and retailers.

"There's an ongoing need to automate with the DSD [direct-store delivery] supplier," Gilkerson told about 500 attendees at a general session this week. "Currently, it's hit or miss."

He said efforts to accomplish this going back to the 1990s have struggled, noting that the current challenge is the need to involve suppliers. Being able to create a reliable, electronic flow of elements such as price changes, approvals or promotional data would reduce errors and save time.

Retailers also took the general session stage to talk about some of the electronic improvements they've been working on. James McNutt, vice president at Midwest Petroleum, St. Louis, spoke about his company's move to item-level inventory, a product-specific accounting and inventory method. He said the biggest benefit was the "visibility into the items themselves," which prior to were only accounted for in terms of larger, overall categories.

Speaking on workforce management automation, Mark Roark, database analyst at Tri Star Services, Nashville, Tenn., said that bringing the clocking-in process from the backoffice to the front register increased accountability and saved both time and money. The new software also helped managers identify problems and monitor activity more closely.

Several PDI representatives outlined improvements to both its software products and the hardware environment around them, including the following:

  • Improvements in item authorization where a default can make that step happen automatically.
  • Rebate program enhancements tying back to promotions.
  • Improvements to accounts receivable that allows the user to raise credit limits by groups of customers.
  • A revamp of the cash management structure within the software.
  • The introduction of a real-time dashboard for workforce management.

Other personnel talked of improvements in wholesale software as well as the larger infrastructure of servers, with an announcement that PDI offers the ability to host off site all "end-to-end" needs regarding c-store technology. Offering these types of services is a large and growing part of the business, Gilkerson told the audience.

The session rounded out with awards given to four companies for their work in automating processes and reducing paperwork, as well as to individuals for helping to develop the company's online "community" on its interactive website.

The conference, which included a supplier exhibit on Sept. 8, will conclude Sept. 11.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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