GIANT EAGLE INTRODUCES SIL TO 8 UNITS, SETS WIDE USE

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Giant Eagle began sending price changes to eight stores using the Standard Interchange Language late last month and is preparing for broader implementation of the communications protocol next summer.The Pittsburgh retail and wholesale company plans to convert 60 more stores to SIL, which, unlike the more common Uniform Communications Standard, can facilitate data exchange easily

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Giant Eagle began sending price changes to eight stores using the Standard Interchange Language late last month and is preparing for broader implementation of the communications protocol next summer.

The Pittsburgh retail and wholesale company plans to convert 60 more stores to SIL, which, unlike the more common Uniform Communications Standard, can facilitate data exchange easily between a host and different types of point-of-sale systems.

"It's a nightmare to try and support the different types of hardware and software" at Giant Eagle stores with various models of point-of-sale systems, said Jim Vogt, director of retail systems. "We have five different processes written to support these stores with file movement."

Having converted its eight NCR 1265 stores to SIL on Oct. 25, Vogt said Giant Eagle will now turn its attention to 60 stores outfitted with IBM 4680 point-of-sale systems. In June 1995, he hopes to write a mainframe interface that will enable price file maintenance data to be communicated to those stores via SIL.

Vogt detailed Giant Eagle's plans for SIL during a presentation titled, "Implementing the Standard Interchange Language" at the Food Industry Productivity Conference here late last month.

Acknowledging that he was "fairly cynical" about using SIL initially, Vogt now believes it is an important component of headquarters-to-stores data exchange. SIL, which is also used for retailer-to-wholesaler communications, was designed to co-exist with -- not replace -- the UCS protocol.

In addition to SIL's ability to support different point-of-sale systems, Vogt said, the standard requires less technical expertise to maintain. Although he was unfamiliar with the Standard Query Language, upon which SIL is based, Vogt said he had no trouble writing the file maintenance program.

"If I can write this, any programmer can write this," he said, noting less time spent on maintenance allows programmers to focus on more strategic projects.

Going forward, Vogt said Giant Eagle will focus on broader applications of SIL. Rather than just using SIL for one-way price file maintenance, he hopes to employ SIL for data retrieval from stores as well as other store applications like time-and-attendance, direct-store-delivery, video, scale management and labor scheduling.

Giant Eagle's migration toward SIL followed its movement off a Unisys 1100 mainframe system and onto an IBM mainframe system this summer. The chain developed its SIL program and conducted testing with Bass, Dayton, Ohio, which supplies and develops business applications software.