How Does EDI Work?

There are three main components to sending EDI documents:

  1. Prepare
  2. Translate
  3. Transmit
EDI-WORKFLOW-Commport Communications

Step 1: Prepare the documents to be sent

EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) requires electronic versions of files. Instead of printing a paper purchase order, you would organize the necessary information to build an EDI document within your system. The sources of the data and the methods available to generate the electronic documents can include:

  • Data entry by human intervention 
  • Exporting data from Excel spreadsheets or internal databases
  • Reformatted electronic reports into data files

Step 2: Translate documents into EDI format

Put your collected internal electronic data through EDI translation software to convert it into the EDI standard format. EDI standards describe the format in which the data will be sent and received. Most common standard sets:

There are two ways to use translation software;

You can purchase EDI translation software that you have to manage and maintain on your premises. This requires dedicated IT resources with specialized mapping expertise to define how your internal data is to be mapped to the EDI data.

Alternatively, an EDI service provider would provide translation services. Using this option you would send your electronic data to the EDI Service provider, who would then handle all mapping, translation, and support to and from the EDI format on your behalf. 

Step 3: B2B Connection and Transmission of your EDI documents

Once your business documents are translated to the appropriate EDI format they are ready to be sent to your business partners. There are several types of EDI for this connection:

  • secure internet protocol (AS2) 
  • connect to an EDI Network provider with a Value Added Network (VAN) 
  • a combination of both, depending on the particular partner and the volume of transactions you expect to exchange.
Conclusion

EDI operates on the principles of standardized electronic communication, facilitating the seamless exchange of business documents between trading partners. By eliminating manual processes, reducing errors, and enhancing the speed of transactions, EDI serves as a foundational tool in modernizing and optimizing business operations. The interoperability and efficiency it brings contribute significantly to building robust and agile supply chains in today’s dynamic and interconnected business environment.

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Frequently Asked Questions

EDI uses standardized formats to encode and structure business documents. These documents are then electronically transmitted between trading partners, ensuring a consistent and machine-readable exchange of information.

The key components include the EDI software or service provider, communication protocols (such as AS2 or FTP), standardized document formats (like EDIFACT or X12), and secure networks. These elements work together to enable the efficient flow of data.

EDI reduces errors by eliminating manual data entry. The standardized formats and automated processes significantly minimize the risk of errors that often accompany traditional paper-based methods.

Yes, EDI is designed to integrate seamlessly with various business systems, including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Warehouse Management Systems (WMS). This integration ensures a cohesive flow of data across different facets of the business.

EDI is suitable for businesses of all sizes. Many EDI solutions offer scalability, making them adaptable to the specific needs and volumes of small enterprises. The benefits of efficiency, accuracy, and improved collaboration are accessible to businesses regardless of their scale.

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