The term EDI, or electronic data interchange, refers to an automated solution for document exchange that benefits retailers, manufacturers and supply chain partners around the world. It enables users to process and share business-critical documentation such as orders, invoices and shipping notes without having to transfer paperwork. Because of their computer-to-computer nature, systems need interoperable EDI standards to work effectively. Here we explain some of the acronyms and terms involved.

EDI standards: Talking the same language

EDI standards, often called file formats, enable trading partner’s systems to speak the same language as each other so that the exchange of data is seamless and automatic.

There are many standards in operation, with different industries favouring some over others.

One of the most popular is EDIFACT, the United Nations “EDI rules for administration, commerce and transport”. Others include ANSI in the United States, GS1 for global retail, ODETTE for European automotive, AIAG for North American automotive and TRADACOMS in the UK.

The relevant EDI standard is essential as it will enable the data being sent and received to be correctly interpreted by the partners’ systems.

Recognised formats

EDI standards are based on recognised requirements for the format and make-up of EDI documents including the order of information and where specific data is held.

To conform to EDI standards, the document will include ‘elements’ such as the item number or numbers, the cost and the buyer’s location. Groups of elements are known as ‘segments’, so the full details of the buyer’s address for example. The completed EDI document is also referred to as a ‘transaction set’.

Four principles govern the use of letters and symbols used in EDI documents:

  1. Syntax helps determine the characters to be used and the order in which they appear.
  2. Codes aid to interpretation of common details such as date formats, currencies and the names of countries.
  3. Message designs refer to the structure of a message type, such as an invoice or order, and the syntax rules it is following.
  4. Identification values set out how different values in a document are identified, such where in the order of information they come.

This highly technical task is increasingly the provenance of an outsourced solution provider such as Transalis which can offer a cloud-based, fully managed and cost-effective EDI service.

EDI standards communication tools

EDI standards and communication protocols

Once EDI needs are scoped and the relevant EDI standard is adopted and implemented, documents can begin to be sent electronically to the trading partner via different communication protocols such as FTP, SFTP, AS4, AS2, SMTP, API and more.

Transalis is one of just a handful of UK EDI providers certified as meeting the AS4 standards of PEPPOL or Pan European Public Procurement Online. This is a multi-national framework of technical specifications designed to make disparate tech systems interoperable.

AS4 supports all aspects of electronic procurement and supply chain management including the exchange of purchase orders, despatch advice and invoice messaging. It also goes further than its AS predecessors in providing more support for metadata.

Why Transalis?

As well as enabling you to transfer documents in any required format and over any EDI protocol via a single connection to our Integration Hub, Transalis’ managed services remove virtually all internal effort concerning EDI.

For example, new onboardings are handled by a dedicated project manager who is experienced in liaising with both sides to achieve fast, hassle-free and successful connections.

Similarly, Transalis’s unique API ensures users are able to send and receive data directly from their ERP’s existing user interface.

For more information on EDI standards and EDI from Transalis, visit our knowledge hub or see our bundled EDI solutions.

You can also get in contact with our expert team on 0845 123 3746 or +44 1978 369 343 (for international callers), or contact us via email