At the Petron station just outside of Dasmarinas Village in Makati City, motorists never get to hear the familiar, noisy “ding” of the cash register. That’s because the cashier’s fingers are tapping not on a numeric keyboard but on the “touch screen” of the station’s point-of-sale (POS) terminals.

Petron Corp., one of three major petroleum firms in the country, is looking to install similar POS terminals – running on Microsoft Business Solutions’ (MBS) Retail and Management Software – in at least 50 more service stations by the end the year. Global Implementation Services Inc. (GIS), a local MBS partner, is currently implementing the six-year automation project for Petron.

GIS has so far installed the solution in more than 20 Petron stations including those in the provinces like Bataan, Batangas, Pampanga and Tagaytay City , according to Francis Don Reyes, project manager for GIS handling the Petron account.

“We are averaging about one site (installation) per week,” Reyes said in an interview with Computerworld Philippines at the Petron Dasmarinas Village station, the project’s pilot site, which went live about a year ago. GIS began further installations early this year.

The project is intended to enhance customer service through faster turnover in each service station by automating previously manual and paper-based tasks. POS terminals have replaced obsolete electronic cash registers – item, price and fuel quantity indicators appear on-screen, and sales transactions are completed faster.

Petron is also engaged in retail through Treats convenience stores located in the service stations; and these stores are integrated as well in the system.

Pumping up productivity
A key component of the project is integrating the gas pumps with the RMS software. Seamless integration between the gas pumps and the system was created using a “forecourt controller”, a hardware device that controls the gas pumps (including the quantity dispensed) and can be configured to generate transaction data. This allows the service stations to find out – at any given moment – what grade of fuel is being loaded to a vehicle, from which particular dispenser and the amount spent.

GIS used forecourt controllers from Postec, a New Zealand-based hardware manufacturer. “We found out that some of the dealers have been using Postec controllers but don’t quite have the knowledge to integrate it with their back-end systems,” Reyessaid.

For fuel transactions, the pumps can only dispense gas once the cashier unlocks them from the POS terminal, which shows the exact amount being dispensed. The system eliminates pilferage or erroneous reporting of sale transactions by gasoline attendants manning the pumps.

At the end of the day, the system automatically generates reports on how much fuel was sold and the corresponding amount. Divina Del Rosario, officer-in-charge of the Dasmarinas Village station, said the system totally eliminates discrepancies because gas attendants do not have full control of the pumps.

“We only experience shortage (of amount consumed) in cases when the customer fails or forgets payment,” she pointed out. In the retail stores, the system also does away with manual inventory of stocks and submission of reports at the end of every shift to the head office.

“Previously, it took us at least 15 minutes to reprint all the receipts for the day from the ECRs (electronic cash registers). Now, since we are using SAP, our sales reports automatically get sent to the head office,” Del Rosario explained.

In-sync with SAP
This represents another layer in integration process. Petron’s head office, located in Buendia, Makati, uses SAP financial applications in its back-end that extend down to each service station, acting as thin-client. By integrating RMS with SAP, the head office gains access to a master inventory database that can show inventory data simultaneously from different service stations.

More importantly, integration with head office allows for adjustments of pump settings – without manual intervention- in case of price changes, which normally take effect at 12 midnight. “Even if the service station is closed or the pumps are deactivated, the front court controller will automatically reflect the price adjustments once the pumps are unlocked by the cashiers,” Reyes added.

The same settings also apply to the convenience stores. Should there be price adjustments in certain items as determined by the head office, it is automatically reflected in the POS terminals.

Petron is implementing the POS system in service stations owned and operated by the company although it is allowing stations operated by dealers to install the solution without having to pay the full license fees. GIS have installed the system as well in dealer-owned stations.

“There is an investments scheme wherein the head office shoulders the cost of installing the solution and the dealer pays a rental fee in using the software. The idea really is to allow as many stations as possible to use the system to improve customer service,” Reyes said.