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CSNews Exclusive: Love's Travel Stops Sees Benefits With New Home Office System

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- Faced with an outdated home office system packed with performance issues, Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores, based in Oklahoma City, Okla., operating more than 200 locations in more than 30 states, began looking for a new solution to interface with the systems already in place at the company. Jim Xenos, CIO at Love's, knew he needed to find a solution with auditing capabilities, but he also needed a system to interface with and pull data from multiple store systems -- and this turned out to be a difficult task.

But then he came across FuelLogix LLC, a division of MicroLogix, based in Winterpark, Fla., who was beginning to develop a new home office and back office retail automation suite that would provide the ability to interface with any other system. Not only did this provide a solution to the company's problem, but it also presented Love's with the opportunity to work with the vendor on the system's development.

"We were looking at Retalix for our point-of-sale system, but the company didn't have a home office auditing package that sat between the home office and the stores, and our legacy system couldn't handle it anymore," Xenos told CSNews Online. "We saw working with FuelLogix as a great opportunity to co-develop the system, and we collaborated with Retailix to build the interface."

Love's was able to provide FuelLogix with input on how a customer would use the product, which is now known as Agility Enterprise Suite, and includes the vendor's iFlex Enterprise Reporting and Business Intelligence platforms. It handles accounts payable, perpetual inventory, payroll and more, and interfaces to all other systems, said Xenos.

Starting in October 2007, Love's spent one year perfecting the conversion of systems and importing all the data from the old system to the new one, running the systems parallel to each other for 60 days before going live.

"We went live in one weekend," said Xenos. "The Love's auditing team started Friday at 3:00 p.m., and we were live on Monday."

One of the biggest benefits of Agility is the exception auditing, which cuts down on human error, often inevitable with manual processes. The system provides more accurate data, and reduces the amount of time needed to sift through it.

"We reduced head count, and there has been a huge decrease in errors," Xenos explained. "The data is more accurate with exception auditing, and with the parameters we set in the system, our auditing time has been cut back 35 percent."

By setting business alerts and exception rules unique to their company, Love's can concentrate on the problem areas rather than searching through a large amount of data to uncover them. This, in turn, allows the company to alert employees who need to deal with each issue much faster.

Love's distributes reports to field operations and office personnel on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, and the time taken to create these reports was reduced 60 percent with Agility, Xenos said. Also, the ability to change reports also improved. In the past, if Love's needed to change a report, the company would have to go back to the vendor and request it. However, the "more modern tools" of the new system allow for a much faster turnaround.

"Previously, we had to write code to create reports, but now with Agility, we don't need a developer to come in so we can run a report," he noted. "Our managers tell us they feel like the reports were written just for them. We actually took three or four reports from the past and consolidated them down to one. It's more of a snapshot."
Managers can view the reports online, and drill down into the data as much as they want, and the reports also can be viewed in HTML on a Blackberry, PDA, iPhone or a hosted report distribution solution.

The collaboration between the retailer and vendor provided Love's with a solution customized around the needs of a convenience and travel stop operator, and created a system now available for others in the industry to utilize.

"Agility can accept data from multiple systems, and connect to any other system out there," Xenos said.

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