Putting PCATS to Work

Pilot, Eby-Brown exchanging item, price information electronically

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Pilot Travel Centers LLC, and Eby-Brown Co. are now in production with the weekly exchange of electronic item and price information using standards developed by members of the Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards (PCATS).

Standards developed by PCATS are based upon eXtensible Markup Language (XML) technology and are known as PCATS-NAXML, short for the NACS eXtensible Markup Language.

PCATS-NAXML standards are an open, nonproprietary language that convenience store retailers and suppliers [image-nocss] can use to address the problems of system-to-system integration and data exchange. It lowers some of the price barriers of traditional electronic data interchange, making it particularly attractive for companies looking to gain entry into or expand the use of electronic commerce.

Pilot Travel Centers, Knoxville, Tenn., operates 270 travel centers in 40 states and has aggressively implemented PCATS invoicing, item data and price standards since 2004, the group said.

Eby-Brown, Naperville, Ill., is a major wholesale distributors of c-store products.

PCATS-NAXML standards are designed for specific-use instances such as exchanging electronic data about items, price, promotion and invoices. The document known as PCATS-NAXML ItemPrice is being sent by Eby-Brown to Pilot Travel Centers on a weekly basis.

According to Margaret Akins, business analyst for Pilot Travel Centers, the PCATS-NAXML ItemPrice file has been received weekly since October 2004. Akins stressed the importance of making sure all item and price data is correct before implementing electronic invoice exchange programs.

Prior to receiving the PCATS-NAXML ItemPrice file we would receive a spreadsheet file once a week by e-mail. The marketing department would work the information and then send a spreadsheet to the price book department for input into our systems. This was a tedious process that provided multiple opportunities for errors to be introduced into our item and pricing systems, said Akins.

By receiving the PCATS-NAXML ItemPrice file, Pilot Travel Centers can load the information into a corporate system where multiple persons are granted access to a single source of data. In addition, the data can be compared against the company's price book and differences can be identified systematically, Atkins said.

Akins added that Pilot Travel Centers future projects include updating its pricebook information systematically. In addition to the partnership with Eby-Brown, Pilot Travel Centers currently has six implementations of the PCATS-NAXML Invoice document.

While we have been exchanging Electronic Data Information with our customers for many years, Pilot Travel Centers is the first customer with which we are utilizing PCATS-NAXML, said Bob Burkholder, CIO of Eby-Brown.We are now in production, and are ready to service other c-store retailers using this industry wide standard, he added.

Both Pilot Travel Centers and Eby-Brown are active members in PCATS. PCATS was founded in September 2003 to continue the development and maintenance of standards work initiated under the National Association of Convenience Stores' (NACS) Technology Standards Project. With 145 retailer and supplier members, the group's membership represents more than 22,000 c-stores. Membership is open to any petroleum marketer, c-store owner, operator, other retail channels or any of their suppliers or vendors.

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