What is EDI (Electronic Data Interchange)?

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The international supply chain continues to grow in complexity with the aid of technology. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) allows for much-needed automation and standardization to happen instantaneously.

EDI is the direct computer-to-computer exchange of standard formatted business transactions between one or more business partners, known as trading partners. It allows for the exchange of business documentation to happen in a structured, machine-processable format.

EDI facilitates the exchange of electronic documents (such as purchase orders, advance shipment notices, and invoices) without human intervention or human readable (paper or electronic) documents.

Benefits of EDI:

  • It eliminates manual re-keying of data,
  • cuts order processing costs,
  • increases data accuracy,
  • improves cycle time,
  • and makes just-in-time deliveries possible.

Automating the supply chain so that everything could be closely tracked and monitored was hard enough when it was all in one country.  Now that manufacturing has shifted to different continents–often more than one for the same company–with people speaking different languages, (and) using different measurement standards–, managing the supply chain has moved from difficult to incredibly complex.”Forbes Business

How does EDI work?

With EDI, standard business documents that were previously sent on paper through the mail can be transmitted instantaneously using telecommunication capabilities. Because transmissions are sent in a standardized, computer-readable format, the time-consuming and error-prone re-keying of information into the receiver’s computer system is unnecessary. The document goes directly from one information system to another. EDI is “paperless trading.”

Not only does EDI surpass paper documentation, it surpasses other electronic forms as well, such as digital copies of e-mail. Both of these transmission types are in the free format (not standard format) and, therefore, generally require re-keying of data into a computer system.

Learn more about EDI solutions >

The importance of EDI standardization

The standardization of EDI liberates it from differences in computer or communications equipment among trading partners. Similar to digital copies or electronic mail. EDI is able to bridge the previous information gap that existed between companies with different computer systems.

EDI includes the direct transmission of data between organizations (both sending and receiving) using an intermediary such as a value added communication network.

EDI transmission typically involves the following process:

  • The sender uses internal computer files to assemble the data needed for the transaction.
  • This data file then becomes input to a software module that generates the transaction into the EDI standard format.
  • The resulting data file is then transmitted to the receiver.
  • At the receiving end, this data file is input to a software module that translates the data from an EDI format into a file. The file can be entered into the receiver’s computer application systems.

Through electronic commerce, business information can be communicated through standard electronic messages to your trading partners. With your accurate electronic messages in their computers and your barcodes printed on your products and shipments, your trading partners are able to directly connect your products and shipments to information about them as they travel through the supply chain.

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