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IRVING, Texas -- With assistance from the National Association of Convenience Stores' (NACS') Technology Standards Project, Exxon Mobil Corp. has made available delivery of electronic bills-of-lading (BOLs) to all of its fuel distributors using eXtensible Markup Language (XML).
Last month, a broad transmission of BOLs in NAXML -- short for the NACS XML program -- was made possible by the recent addition of the DTN Online Message Center in the ExxonMobil portal. Using the guidelines issued through NACS' Technology Standards Project for BOLs, the Online Message Center provides customers the option to manually download BOLs, along with other business documents formatted for integration, from the ExxonMobil portal or receive them electronically.
XML is a set of codes that describes text within a document to convey information electronically. In XML bill-of-lading transmissions, electronic BOL documents are sent from the terminal, immediately following fuel loading, to the distributor over the Internet. By automating the BOL process, fuel distributors are able to immediately issue invoices to delivered accounts, allowing for their near-instantaneous transmission. Traditionally, BOLs are hand keyed, can take two to three days to process and are susceptible to operator input errors.
"The goal in automating the fuel order-to-payment system is to put documents into the distributor's accounting system as quickly as possible, so that the process of dealer invoicing, supplier payment and inventory reconciliation can begin," said John Hervey, NACS' chief technology officer, who estimates that the industry could save more than $2.5 million annually if just five percent of stores in the industry adopt uniform technology guidelines for electronic bill-of-lading transmissions. "A significant benefit of this format is that once it is tied into invoices, it becomes possible to automate a very large portion of the work, ensuring accuracy and speed throughout."
In April 2001, Vulcan Oil Company became the first fuel distributor to receive a NAXML transmission. "The benefits of NAXML to retailers, distributors and consumers is phenomenal," added Hervey. "It creates good economics throughout the industry. The potential cost savings are amazing."