What is EDI?
Electronic Data Interchange is the computer-to-computer exchange of routine business data between trading partners in standard data formats. This definition contains 3 key concepts about EDI:
- Computer-to-computer: EDI in its most efficient form flows directly out of a sender’s computer system directly into a receiver’s computer system without any human intervention; however, it is not always possible for EDI to flow in this most efficient manner.
- Routing business data: EDI is used for routine business documents like Purchase Orders and Invoices. It is not used for non-routine business documents like complicated contracts or information meant for humans to read and analyze.
- Standard data formats: A standard definition of the location and structure of the data is provided. Unstructured text is not EDI.
The diagram above illustrates how much slower the conventional paper process than the EDI process. Additionally, the conventional paper process includes substantially more human intervention to move business information from one company to another.
The conventional process requires someone to handle a printed computer generated form and mail it. Then, the recipient re-keys the data back into another computer for their internal processing. (It is estimated that 80% of the data that is keyed into computers is output from other computers!) The EDI process is a computer transmitting the information directly to another computer, eliminating the paperwork and human intervention.
Benefits of EDI
- Speed – Data can move directly out of one computer system and into another with little to no delay.
- Accuracy – Errors are reduced because data is not being re-keyed. Error rates from entering data are between .5 – 3%. On large volumes of transactions, the possibility for the introduction of errors is enormous.
- Simplicity – EDI standards specify how data will be formatted and where it can be found.
- Security – Much less likely to lose information transmitted through EDI than information sent via mail. EDI can be accessed only by authorized users, and then there are audit trails and archives of data. EDI data cannot be easily changed by unauthorized users. It is also not subject to viruses.
These 4 benefits produce the following results:
- Faster buy-sell cycle time
- Faster cash flow
- Reduced order lead time
- Reduced inventories
- Ability to conduct just-in-time manufacturing
- Improved trading partner relationships
How does the EDI process work in the retail environment?
The retailer will initiate the process with an electronic transmission of an electronic Purchase Order (850). The supplier will receive the order, case it and print UCC-128 labels. Then, the order is packed and the UCC-128 labels are placed on the cartons. The cartons are then shipped to the retailer and the supplier electronically transmits an Advanced Ship Notice (856). After the shipment has been sent, the supplier transmits an electronic Invoice (810) for the goods. These electronic documents are sent in a standard Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) format.
For more information about EDI, use the following links:
For information on how EasyLink can simplify EDI for you, send us a request form here or call us at 1-800-787-4037.