An EDI document is an exchange of information between trading partners that contains the same amount of detail that is contained inside its paper equivalent. As an example, the X12 940 (ship-from-warehouse) order is an EDI document used to instruct warehouses when shipping goods to a trading partner. This type of EDI document contains as a minimum set information on ship-to and bill-to address, a list of product numbers (skus) and quantities as well as other detail depending on the requirements for the individual implementation of this EDI document. The type of EDI document you will use is going to depend greatly on the industry you are in and the geography of your business. EDI document standards are extremely comprehensive; an EDI document exists for just about every conceivable form of business document available. The X12 856 EDI document, also known as an Advance Shipment Notification or ASN, is an EDI document that informs the recipient of goods that are about to be shipped. This type of EDI document shows the flexibility that an EDI document provides that was not available before EDI was implemented.
Global EDI Document Standards
The UN/EDIFACT EDI document standard, created in the 1980s by the United Nations are EDI documents for enabling global trade. These EDI documents are the most prevalent outside the United States.
The X12 EDI documents were created by the American National Standards Institute sub section responsible for EDI documents (Accredited Standards Committee).
EDI documents in the TRADACOMS standard were created for the British retail industry
The ODETTE EDI documents had their origin among Europe’s automotive manufacturers.
How EDI Documents are Created
An EDI Document can be generated in a number of ways. Since the EDI document is nothing more than a simple flat-file, the EDI document could be created with a simple text editor. The complex nature of EDI documents however makes this impractical and most are created using specialized "EDI Software." The EDI document that is created must not only comply with the prescribed EDI standard it is based on, EDI documents must also contain the information that is required by the specific trading partner. This "implementation" of the EDI document is always trading partner specific, meaning that an EDI document for Wal-Mart (for example) will contain slightly different information from an EDI document for Target.
Exchanging EDI Documents
Once the EDI document is created it must be transmitted to the trading partner. Communication methods vary and some companies still use dial-up technology to send EDI documents to their trading partners. While this form of exchange for EDI documents used to predominant, it is now being overtaken by more modern means of sending and receiving EDI documents like FTP, Secure FTP and advanced communication protocols like AS2. The Exchange of EDI documents is communication independent - meaning that regardless of the method of communication used, the recipient will be able to understand and convert the EDI document into a format that can be more easily processed. Because of these variations in how an EDI document is created and transmitted, your software used for processing these EDI documents must be flexible and able to work with a multitude of standards, implementation guidelines and means of communication. Fortunately, the right EDI software will hide this complexity and provide you with an automated means of sending and receiving information to your trading partners.
Understanding EDI Documents
An EDI document is often referred to by the number of that EDI document as well as by its name. For example, an EDI document for invoices is also known as an 810. Similarly, an EDI document for purchase orders is known as an 850. EDI Document numbers do not necessarily follow a "logical" convention. In the example above it may seem logical for the purchase order EDI document to have a lower number than the invoice EDI document, since the EDI document for purchase orders precedes the one for invoices. For this reason its important that you leave the details of deciphering the order of an EDI document to a company that has expertise in the subject.
Making sense of an EDI document can be a complex and time-consuming process for anyone. From understanding the standard on which the document is based to the implementation guidelines must be followed, managing the information properly can be daunting. Fortunately, companies like DiCentral have made managing EDI easier and faster through automated software that not only understands the EDI document, but can also handle the exchange of the EDI document with your specific trading partners, making your life easier and more productive at the same time.