Chapter 1 - General Information
Beginning in late 1995, at the request of the retailer community, the National Association for Convenience Stores (NACS) began a technology standards initiative. This initiative was aimed at bringing the benefits that accrue from the use of standards to achieve interoperability among systems serving the same function but from different manufacturers. Specific areas addressed included; connectivity, data exchange, and application interoperability. The primary objective was to develop standards in areas where they previously did not exist or to adopt or modify existing standards where feasible.
One of the committees formed was the EDI Standards Working Committee. Early on, the committee recommended that NACS adopt the Uniform Communications Standard (UCS) Guidelines for ASC X12 EDI Standards. These guidelines were administered by the Uniform Code Council (UCC), now known as GS1 US, and maintained by a Standards Maintenance Committee (SMC) composed of EDI practitioners from the convenience store, warehouse distribution, grocery, wine and spirits, and food service industries.
However, the Committee recognized that the UCS Guidelines as written needed extensive modification and reduction in scope to meet the needs of the convenience store industry. The Committee set about developing an EDI Foundation Model for the Convenience Store Industry. This Foundation Model is composed of three business processes: Item Maintenance/Database Synchronization, Fulfillment, and Settlement. It covers seven ASC X12 transaction sets: 810 - Invoice; 820 - Payment Notice; 850 - PurchaseOrder; 878 - Product Authorization/DeAuthorization; 879 - Price Notification; 888 - Item Maintenance; and 889 - Promotion Announcement.
The Committee prepared a set of Functional Profiles for each of these transaction sets (except 820) for submission to the UCS Standards Maintenance Committee. These Profiles were adopted and have been published each year beginning with Version 4020 of the UCS Guidelines. They are available from GS1 US ( www.gs1us.com ) on CD-Rom.
Additionally, subcommittees of the EDI Committee recommended changes to certain transaction sets and developed Functional Profiles for the business processes involved in (1) motor fuel ordering, delivery, invoicing, and payment and (2) lottery product activity and invoicing. Functional Profiles have been published or are in the process of being published for each of these processes.
The Committee also recognized that there were still barriers to implementation of traditional EDI within the industry, particularly among the small and mid-sized companies. Implementation of EDI is not an inexpensive proposition both in terms of manpower required to maintain the system and tools to perform mapping and translation.
XML, which was introduced in early 1999 as a "recommendation" of the World Wide Web (W3C) Consortium, has quickly become a widely supported technology standard for the exchange of data and documents. With its potential for low cost implementation, maintenance, and support the Committee believed there might be an opportunity to use this technology to translate its Functional Profiles into XML schemas. At the meeting of the Committee on February 2, 2000, it was agreed that a CStore XML Task Force would be created to begin the work on xmlifying EDI documents. In addition, the NACS Technology Standards Steering Committee directed work be started on xmlifying the lottery documents required for product activity and invoicing. At about the same time, the Motor Fuels subcommittee, known as the Downstream Distributors and Retailers Task Group, began work on xmlifying its business documents.
IP Transfer to the Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards (PCATS)
In early 2003 the NACS board of directors began an evaluation of the Technology Standards Project, which resulted in an acknowledgement of the tremendous growth of the project and interest in the development and maintenance of industry technology standards by both the retailer and supplier communities. Additionally, the board recognized the value of technology standards tohelp ensure the competitive viability of the industry. However, if the project was to continue to achieve its goals for the industry it must stand on its own and be self-sustanining. The establishment of PCATS was directed by the executive committee and PCATS was incorporated in Virginia in August 2003 and went into business on January 1, 2004. Shortly thereafter, PCATS and NACS entered into an agreement whereby all of the intellectual property developed in the project was transferred to PCATS.
There are four (4) PCATS technical commitees. The EB2B Committee is responsible for the EB2B business documents and is composed of three (3) Working Groups; Motor Fuels, Retail, and Lottery.
Membership on the EB2B Committee and/or one of its working groups is open to any current member of PCATS. The results of the Committee's activites are open to feedback and comment by anyone desiring to do so. Feedback and comments are encouraged so that the Electronic Commerce Guidelines - XML EB2B Document Exchange have the broadest possbile support within the industry.
PCATS has formal procedures in place outlined in the PCATS Policies and Procedures Guide. These changes are submitted to the EB2B Committee for review and discussed among the committee members. If the changes are agreeable to the committee, then updates to the specifications are made and a new release is published to the PCATS General Assembly for approval as a standard.
The Committee recognizes that as refiners, wholesalers, suppliers, solution providers, state lottery authorities, jobbers/distributors, and retailers gain experience with the use of these PCATS-NAXML guidelines, revision, modifications, and enhancements will be required. As these are identified they will be referred to the respective Working Group for action.