In an age where consumers can purchase groceries, rent a video, make a bank deposit and pay the telephone bill all under one roof, convenience has become the name of the game. The petroleum arena is no exception. More and more petroleum industry players want a streamlined approach to handle their back office needs. The result? System development companies are creating back office accounting systems that offer a comprehensive package of modules that meet their customers’ extensive needs.
Temple, Texas-based PDI offers a broad array of retail, wholesale petroleum, workforce management and package goods distribution software. The underlying philosophy and architecture of PDI’s products is integration. “What has been historically called the ‘back office system’ is not separable from our fuel and accounting functions,” said Kirk Fischer, senior vice president of finance and administration at PDI. “Rather, it is an extension of these functions where a single common database applies to operations, distribution and accounting.”
As Fischer explained, PDI/Enterprise is built as an integrated suite of retail and wholesale functions. “We do not regard accounting, operations and fuel management as separate stand-alone functions,” he said. “Rather, we focus on end-to-end data integrity. So, for example, detail transaction reports have units/margins/profit numbers that precisely match the financial statements. It is designed to handle operations that treat wholesale and retail operations either as a single company or separate companies with automation between those companies, if necessary.”
Broad capabilities: The capabilities of the PDI/Enterprise technology system include sales and inventory tracking for both retail and bulk fuel facilities and dispatching for company and third-party owned locations. “For users of both the wholesale and retail PDI/Enterprise suites, the integration is seamless between wholesale and retail operations,” Fischer said.
Furthermore, PDI/Enterprise includes suggested ordering capabilities to ensure fuel supply levels. “This process goes beyond simple ‘keep full’ and includes inventory optimization based on sales trends and user-specified expectations,” Fischer said. For example, if the expectation is that prices are going down, the user can choose to minimize inventory levels, yet ensure adequate supply. If the user expects prices to rise, they can choose to maximize inventory levels at the current lower price.
Comprehensive integration: Companies continue to look for ways to streamline their back office systems and PDI/Enterprise’s system is built from the ground up to do business electronically. This includes the ability to import and automatically reconcile vendor invoices. Any invoices out of user-specified tolerance are dealt with on an exception basis.
“From a wholesale perspective, it includes the ability to export billing documents for integration with customer systems or automation of sending invoices electronically via email,” Fischer explained. What’s more, PDI/Enterprise tracks the entire lifecycle of a fuel transaction from the ordering/quoting process through dispatching and billing. This process is fully integrated to reduce data entry and billing errors.
Keeping Uncle Sam happy: For tax tracking issues, PDI/Enterprise tracks both purchase and sale transactions for taxing purposes. Also, support for customer tax exemptions including tracking of tax certificates and their expirations are included. “For customers that need to file electronically, particularly in multiple states, PDI has interfaced with ZyTax which is an industry standard tool for electronic motor fuel excise tax filing,” Fischer said.
In the future, PDI/Enterprise will be extended over the upcoming months to include integration to carrier systems and other in-truck systems using PCATS standard document formats.
Since 1989, DM2 Software, based in Vancouver, Wash., has been developing back office/ERP systems to meet the needs of petroleum distributors who own and operate cardlocks and convenience stores as well as offer mobile fleet fueling, home heating oil and propane. The company has been a Sage MAS90/MAS200 Master Developer and Reseller since 1991.
“As a Sage Master Developer and Reseller, DM2 uses MAS90/MAS200, a back office/ERP system designed for general wholesale distribution applications, to develop, sell and support a fully integrated system designed specifically for petroleum distribution applications,” said Tom Lane, vice president of sales at DM2.
It’s in the details: DM2 also offers the following software modules to help automate petroleum marketing operations and processes:
• MAS90/200 Core accounting and financials (general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, inventory management, payroll, direct deposit, purchase order processing, sales order processing, bar code, bank reconciliation, e-business manager, credit card processing and business alerts)
• PetroLink Fuel Tax Management
• Bill of Lading
• Home Heat (Heating Oil)
• Propane & Metering System
• Delivery Scheduler
• Repackaging & Blending
• Equipment Manager
• DTN Supply Chain Automation interfaces for pricing, credit cards, supplier invoices, • Supplier EFTs and BOLs
• Credit Alerts
• Accounts Receivable EFT
• Major oil interfaces for Mobil PEGMOST, ConocoPhillips, Chevron Shell,
• Truck Interfaces for AWE, Frams, Mid-com, Symbology, QT Technologies and integration for SMARTLogix
Delivering results: DM2’s Delivery Schedule module allows petroleum marketers to set up automated schedules to fulfill regular deliveries efficiently, saving you time and effort while increasing their profit margins. “This module will automatically generate dispatch orders by route and vehicle,” Lane said. “Dispatch operators can choose from variable delivery schedules and link to sales and accounting functions, reducing the cost of deliveries and provide better service to your customers.”
DM2’s Delivery Scheduler also offers other features like relationship drops, on-line order taking, multi-drop scheduling, multiple price levels, unlimited memo recording for driver instructions and management and sales reporting. DM2’s Delivery Scheduler module also provides an automated keep-full system for lubricants and fuels.
Integration is key: So how does this system integrate a company’s invoicing systems? DM2’s Petroleum Insights system’s Outbox feature allows you to e-mail, fax and print delivery tickets and invoices automatically or on demand. You can also include or omit prices, taxes and extensions. And the “Quick Print” feature generates invoices for counter sales.
“You can also scan and automatically send signed delivery receipts directly from the system to speed up collections by providing proof of delivery at the time of invoicing,” Lane said. “Our Accounts Receivable EFT module lets you close the loop by automatically drafting customer accounts.”
To integrate with dispatching of tanker trucks, DM2 has modules that interface with truck automation and dispatch systems from AWE, Frams, Mid-Com, Symbology, and QT Technologies. “We also have a fully integrated module for SMARTLogix’s SMARTTruck truck automation system that provides real-time communications with delivery truck handheld devices and DM2’s Petroleum Insight system,” Lane said.
This integration streamlines operations and eliminates double entries and keying errors by automatically sending priced and taxed orders from the DM2 system to the SMARTLogix Dispatch module and handheld driver units instantly. Or it allows you to enter orders into the SMARTLogix Dispatch module or on the handheld units.
“Either way, both systems are automatically synchronized and credit is checked in real-time,” Lane said. “It also provides fleet accounts with consolidated, summary invoices via the Sales Order module or sends per vehicle transaction information to DM2’s CardLink module for detailed invoicing.”
Store-wide synchronization: For those companies interested in a system that integrates well with an internal retail operation, DM2’s StoreLink module is designed for petroleum distributors who also have a convenience store operation.
“From back-office to home-office, StoreLink automates the process of operating a current-day convenience store,” Lane said. “Detailed and easy to use, Operations Reporting Tools provide immediate and flexible options to identify problems, make rapid decisions and respond to the market quickly.”
Complete item level inventories and reporting at both the store and home office provide comprehensive receiving, sales and audit detail to help you maximize margins with minimized inventory. StoreLink also features a complete Lottery inventory and receiving module, point of sale interfaces to eliminate manual keying of most information, three-way report balancing to ensure all information is correct and comprehensive standard reporting in HTML format.
For tax tracking purposes, DM2’s Petroleum Insights PetroLink module offers complete federal, state and local excise and liquid products taxes, as well as state, county and local sales tax reporting.
Finally, DM2’s StoreLink module currently interfaces with Gilbarco, Wayne and Verifone POS terminals.
Summit Software, Inc. is a leading provider of accounting and inventory management solutions for wholesale and retail petroleum companies. Since 1983, Summit Software solutions have helped businesses across North America achieve increased profit margins, enhanced productivity and greater customer satisfaction.
For the wholesale marketer, Summit Software offers:
• Petrolac: integrated order entry, invoicing, accounts receivable, inventory control, physical inventory, purchase order, sales analysis.
• Petrolac Subsystems include: Contracts, special pricing, electronic pricing, transports, tank management, tax reporting, unattended fueling, metered billing.
• Energy Trac features in-truck billing system/metered billing automation
For the petroleum retailer Summit Software offers:
• Summit C-Store includes: Point-of-sale integration, inventory control, receiving and physical inventory via wireless scanning, centralized pricebook, vendor integration, employee time tracking, general accounting integration
For cooperatives and biofuels producers/distributors Summit Software offers:
• Summit Biofuels Accounting, Summit Ag Accounting
As Bruce Ringrose at Summit Software explained, the programs offered also provide general financial management services including general ledger, accounts payable/bank account, payroll, time entry and fixed assets.
“Summit offers Petrolac and Summit Transports to automate the workflow of direct delivery businesses,” Ringrose said. “Summit’s cutting-edge thin-client technology allows customers to choose the technology environment that best suits their needs without compromising performance (single PC, server or Web hosting). It also offers optimal performance when linking multiple locations.”
Streamlined systems: Orders can be entered and tracked until invoicing. Summit Transports allows for supplier bills of lading to be entered with minimal manual entry. Rack pricing, supplier taxes and freight rates are automated. BOLs are balanced to customer invoices to automate costing, freight rates, pricing, taxes, splash blending and split loads. Credit card reconciliation and ACH subsystem further automate many of the daily functions. For deliveries to company owned locations, invoicing is avoided with an inventory transfer.
Summit also has designed and developed all of its business applications in house with tight integration, including the general financials. “This eliminates the duplication of data entry and improves auditing capabilities including full drill-down reporting,” Ringrose said. “The end result is time savings through improved productivity and error reduction. True in-house integration also means we are not dependent on a third party to continually offer the best software solutions for our customers.”
Keep full issues: Summit's Tank Management system allows for “keep fulls.” Tanks can be setup for the customer to track “keep fulls,” number of days between delivery, “will call” or heating degree days.
Automation: “Summit has automated many functions that simplify the invoicing process. In direct delivery businesses, we link the bills of ladings to the customer invoices to ensure balancing of each transaction,” Ringrose said. “The automation of rack pricing, cost add-ons, freight rates and special pricing/taxing dramatically simplify the process.”
In metered ticket environments, the automation of sales contracts, special pricing, customer/product taxing and customer specific invoicing notes make for reliable and simple business processes. Summit's Energy Trac, an in-truck billing system, can improve the productivity of the drivers and eliminate hours of manual ticket entry.
Tax tracking: To handle tax tracking issues, Summit has integrated a tax reporting subsystem into Petrolac to automate the preparation of federal and state excise tax forms and assist in the reporting of state and local sales tax. Using flexible, easy-to-use tax tables, all taxes, fees, credits can be automated and sent to the Summit Tax Reporting system for reporting. Summit handles the complex reporting issues associated with the pickup and delivery of fuel in multiple states.
Tracking and dispatching systems: From customer inquiry within Petrolac, orders can be entered and either printed, faxed, and/or emailed to the common carrier or dispatcher. The orders are tracked until the customer invoice is entered.
Addressing retail needs: Many Summit wholesale customers also have retail c-stores and Summit has a fully integrated c-store solution that integrate with c-store POS systems for pulling shift/daily data and updating the pricebook. Summit's C-Store module accomplishes both retail by department and item level inventory management. The centralized pricebook management tools help improve a retail operator’s gross margins through improved merchandising, improved price management and better inventory valuation.
The Summit system also integrates with all common POS including Gilbarco Gsite, Gilbarco Passport, Verifone Ruby, Verifone Saphire/Topaz, Wayne Nucleus, Gasboy and others.
ADD Systems offers the PAMS (Petroleum Accounting Management System), a totally integrated software solution for the petroleum and convenience store industry, encompassing the retail, wholesale, fuel oil, propane, card lock, mobile fueling and financial accounting necessities of the industry.
As Bruce Bott, vice president of sales and marketing at ADD Systems explained, PAMS has a modular, flexible design that enables the system to be tailored for a client’s particular industry focus. Each customer installs only the PAMS modules and optional subsystems that apply to his or her business. “Additional modules can be easily activated and integrated into the existing database as your business diversifies,” Bott said. Clients can also use PAMS to maintain separate databases for a business that is divided into financially distinct companies, yet retain the ability to produce consolidated reports and cross company look-ups. The large range of processing and reporting options provided by PAMS allows the system to be set up in different ways in order to produce the desired end results.
In addition to PAMS, Add Systems offers Power*Store2, which is a Store Manager’s Work Station that is designed around a “task pad” concept for ease of use. The task pad is user defined, based on the data required by the home office for that particular store. The task pad can easily walk the manager through with the auto data entry feature. The data transmitted to the home office includes: merchandise sales, inventory, financials, lottery, payroll, deliveries and competitive prices. With the combination of the POS interface for gathering sales data and the Power*Scan handheld scanner for collection of direct store deliveries, very little manual data entry is required on the part of the store manager to complete his daily work. The system has been designed to automate the store manager’s daily activities in order to improve efficiency and productivity.
Delivering and tracking: According to Bott, Advanced Dispatch, which is part of the retail modules within PAMS, improves data collection and reporting, reduces daily reporting errors, eliminates the redundant paperwork, reduce dependence upon individual managers and supervisors, provides timely fuel dispatching data and improves customer satisfaction.
• The system projects fuel re-supply dates and amounts for each station/store
• Monitors tank inventory, fuel sales and other variables
• Identifies the most economical fuel dispatching solutions
• Monitors supply points, hauler fees and delivery zones
Wholesale integration: On the wholesale side, the PAMS package integrates bulk terminal, wholesale marketing, data transmission interface, fuel supplier/tax reporting, card lock management, equipment maintenance, purchase orders, order entry and inventory management programs into a comprehensive system linking home office and field functions into a single function.
The PAMS system also offers a “keep it full” function for deliveries, tracks and reports all taxes to local, state and federal authorities, and integrates with the dispatching of tanker trucks.
“Today ADD Systems has nearly 100 e-commerce maps,” Bott said. “Some of the more popular maps can be inbound ‘fuel supplier invoices,’ inbound manifests (BOL’s), inbound fuel supplier costs, outbound invoices, outbound price notification, etc.”
ADD Systems PAMS program also integrates with common POS including Passport, G Site, Ruby, Palm, Retalix, Suntronics SM3000 and Wayne Nucleus.
Service Station Computer Systems (SSCS) began to provide solutions to the retail petroleum business in 1981. Over that time the company has shipped software to manage over 15,000 back office operations for single and multiple-site operations all across the United States.
In 2004 they shipped their first wholesale solution known as the Fuel Marketer. Fuel Marketer was designed to meet the needs of a fuel reseller/distributor. These needs include: pricing, ordering, dispatching, terminal pickups, customer deliveries, inventory and government taxing.
The Fuel Marketer application helps to maximize profit and minimize workload. It is a powerful application that is simple to maintain and easy to use. With its features, you can track fuel inventory to the last drop and identify required, exempt and refundable taxes.
Fuel Marketer provides the following features:
• Terminal Rack Pricing
• Special Customer Pricing
• Quote Generation
• Customer Orders
• Packaged Goods
• Dispatching Trucks–optimize load or dispatcher entered with a dispatch ticket
• Fuel Transportation–common carrier or company owned
• Terminal Pickups–BOL/manifest
• Customer Deliveries
• Consignment Sales
• Customer Fuel Inventory
• Bulk Plant Storage and Inventory
• Tax Reporting–federal and state
• Taxes Prepaid, Payable and Refundable
• Customer Exemptions
“Over the years technology has changed, and we have adopted these changes in an attempt to help our customers,” said Al Stoeberl, director of marketing at SSCS. “In 2000 we launched Sunray, the first known application service provider (ASP) in the industry for back office systems. Today the industry is beginning to realize that this platform is what any forward- thinking retailer or wholesaler wants.”
Simplified servers: SSCS also has “server farms” at their Salinas location as well as in Nashville, Tenn. and Vancouver, BC. “The benefit of this technology is that we can become their IT department,” Stoeberl said. “The industry is tired of managing networks, backing up data and loading updates. This is all done from our office with much more security and redundancy than any one company would ever have. They get the best of performance and security for a fraction of what they paid to maintain their own IT system.”
Comprehensive solutions: SSCS has been an innovator in this sector since 1987. “Today we offer the largest library of POS to PC interfaces in the industry,” Stoeberl said. Some of largest BOS providers in this industry use this software to meet the needs of their customers.
Today SSCS’ customers can use their computerized daily book (CDB) to receive fuel, maintain margins, run UST reports and even project fuel orders based on sales over a period of time. These orders can then be transmitted to their Fuel Marketer.
“The rising cost of fuel and credit card fees have driven the retailer to look inside their stores for profits,” Stoeberl said. “We introduced scanning at the POS in 1989 and over that time we have enhanced the operation by providing EDI for deliveries, use of handheld technology for store deliveries and audits.”
As Stoeberl explained, these tools permit the operator to manage margins since they highlight every price change since the last time the item was purchased and compares it to the current retail. When the margin changes, the items are flagged. Any new item is highlighted and permits the operator to assign the item to proper dept. When the process is complete, the modified items are sent to the POS. This process reduces shrink; improves margins between three and five points; identifies dead stock and overstock.
The Pinnacle Corporation
Pinnacle, based in Arlington, Texas, provides solutions that span the entire enterprise within the convenience store and petroleum markets – from point-of-sale systems, to store level solutions, to home office applications and general accounting. In addition, many of Pinnacle's products can stand alone as well as operate in multi-vendor environments. This gives its clients the important capability to address specific issues in their automation plan with one suite of products, while offering them a road map toward more integrated environments and solutions that are available now and over time.
Pinnacles’ Fuel Smart component is the company’s fuel management tool.
Flexible Reporting: All reports in Fuel Smart can be viewed on the screen and electronically output to any number of common file formats for use by other programs. A user can select and/or sort by any field and define multiple versions of each report.
If a report is required that Fuel Smart doesn't have, any of several widely-used Window programs (e.g. Microsoft Excel, Lotus 1-2-3, Crystal Report-Writer and Microsoft Access) can be used to create the report. The Fuel Smart database is also fully relational.
Smart Buy: Smart Buy automates the steps otherwise required to correctly anticipate who needs fuel when, optimized inventory levels, determine where to buy, how to haul and to notify the carrier or company drivers of details. Little maintenance is required because most of the data needed is captured electronically.
The Fuel Payables system delivers an ingenious rules-based approach to handling the adverse impact on accounting functions created by gasoline suppliers, freight carriers and tax authorities. Automating all the bookkeeping associated with every load of fuel purchased virtually eliminates time-consuming errors.
Orders and Delivery: The Order Entry/Dispatch module provides an efficient way to make a customer's life simpler by delivering quality with speed at the lowest price. All the complexity of operating multiple entities is virtually invisible to the order entry and dispatch process. It gets done effortlessly day after day.
The Delivery Acknowledgement/Billing system is engineered to ensure that a company always fully accounts for every load of fuel. The entire process takes only a few moments per load to enter or acknowledge, verify and print invoices. Since all of the pricing, taxing and arithmetic are performed by Fuel Smart, the process is fast, simple and error free.
Three fundamental challenges that petroleum marketers constantly face - regulatory compliance of UST's inventory management and cost/margin management - are addressed with equal ease by an inventory management module.
Fuel Tax: The Tax Reporting System efficiently captures and accurately reports, in the form required by each agency, all the petroleum related taxes. Rules are defined to match each tax situation and can be quickly adapted when the tax rules change.
Accounts Receivable: With Fuel Smart, most of the work normally associated with the accounts receivable process, such as keying sales, is not necessary. The orders are typically generated automatically by Smart Buy, or entered in the Fuel Smart Order Entry/Dispatch system, and then verified in the Delivery Acknowledgment/Billing system. The user simply enters customer payments and requests various reports as needed. The system generates service charges, prints statements and creates journal entries to your general ledger.
FACTOR, Inc., based in Oklahoma City, Okla., is a fully integrated, end-to-end, terminal-to-pump software solutions provider. The company maintains that data and business runs smoother with a single system such as FACTOR’s rather than a system using interfaces to join together different software solutions from different providers.
A Web-based architecture facilitating secure, real-time, interactive and remote data exchange between a home office and c-store back office locations is FACTOR’s latest technology.
For fuel management and purchasing prior to delivery, the company offers a modular system powered by FACTOR ExecuTrak, a base system combining all corporate accounting functions. Other ExecuTrak features include Fuel Management, from point of dispatch to point of purchase, through delivery to billing of product, and Best Buy, which can identify alternative terminals, vendors and freight costs to maximize profitability when filling a dispatch order.
Delivery and dispatching: FuelTrak, an integrated, interactive and real-time delivery dispatch management module uses on-board truck technology to offer real-time billing, inventory management, multiple end-of-day automated reconciliations and real-time customer service inquiries. DeliveryTrak provides automated dispatch and automatic dispatcher notifications based on pre-set supply levels.
Fuel management: FACTOR’s ExecuTrak Fuel Management also helps marketers manage fuel once it’s in the ground. Inventory reconciliation reports, recommended dispatch reports, load-to-load, customer-by-customer, time period fuel-profitability reports, fuel margin analysis and FIFO cost layering are generated.
Reporting: DataTrak, FACTOR’s reporting portal, sends e-mail to notify dispatchers when retail tanks don’t reconcile and a keep-full system to assist dispatchers with these kinds of accounts.