7-Eleven sees convenience in Frame Relay

7-Eleven has brought the convenience of its retail information system to its Canadian stores in what may be one of the country’s largest Frame Relay network introduced in Western Canada.

The company said all 500 stores across

Canada have been set up with a Windows NT device. These are linked to a Motorola VanGuard 320 router with a 56K Frame Relay access port and a 16K and a 4K PVC that are dual-connected to multiple central hubs, including Toronto and Vancouver. These will give Canadian 7-Eleven managers their first peek at the retail information system (RIS), a proprietary database that the convenience chain has been developing and implementing in the United States for several years.

“”We knew that we needed to know what sells every day at each and every store,”” said Kathy Naumann, director of IS support services. “”Given the number of stores that we’ve got in the U.S, our infrastructure allows us to roll that out pretty quickly.””

The first phase of RIS, which automated basic in-store accounting processes, began in 1994 and was completed two years later. The second phase, completed in late 1999, provided information about aspects of the store’s operation and facilitates inventory management. RIS includes touch-screen point-of-sale (POS) cash registers with scanners, item-level information to assist in making product-ordering decisions and a payroll time-keeping mechanism. RIS also includes a weather report, to help store managers figure out when orders are likely to arrive.

Naumann said RIS is supposed to empower store managers who might otherwise stock whatever their suppliers push at them. Though it captures a great deal of historical information, she hopes employees will feed it data that will keep the stores one step ahead.

“”By knowing what’s going on in that community– whether it’s a home football game or a parade or a new road that tracks through their traffic pattern — they have that opportunity to make all those decisions and figure what they need to order,”” she said.

The network architecture for the Canadian rollout was handled by AT&T Canada, which modelled it on the U.S. implementation installed by AT&T Corp. Robert Gray, 7-Eleven’s director of technology management, said network requirements include file transfers several times a day for payroll, accounting, sales and order information.

Other than specific transmission windows, there’s not a seven by 24 continuous connectivity requirement unless that store has installed 7-Eleven’s financial services kiosk or conducts credit transactions with need a fallback capability, he said.

Gray said the architecture within the U.S. has been highly reliable and exceeding expectations since it replaced an Integrated Services Digital Networks (ISDN) system four years ago. “”It’s economically via

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