British businesses are poised to modernise the software they rely on for the exchange of essential trading documents with supply chain partners.

A study of 250 decision-makers by automation specialist Transalis has found the vast majority are looking to ‘review in the near future’ their current solution for EDI, or electronic data interchange.

A third of respondents cite the need to align with new customs declarations and other paperwork vital for cross-border trading in the EU post-Brexit.

Other reasons include dissatisfaction with their current EDI supplier, concerns over competition and a desire to add resilience to supply chains hit by the impact of Covid.

The research involved senior managers and team supervisors in retail, wholesale, distribution, transport, construction, property, manufacturing and production.

Disciplines represented were operations, procurement, finance and IT, with the bulk of respondents employing 250 or fewer staff and declaring annual revenues of up to £100 million.

56% of respondents say they are already using EDI for cross-border shipping

Les Cowell, Business Development Manager for eInvoice, Transalis’ suite of electronic invoicing solutions, said:

“Our research shows that EDI continues to be the bedrock of document exchange across many trading networks and supply chains.

“At the same time, companies are increasingly keen to upgrade their solutions to accommodate the new economic realities they face.

“The impact of Brexit on the pulse of trade is clear in our findings.

“At the moment, respondents say 81% of their trading partners are solely based in the UK.

“In the future, they expect that figure to drop to just 39%, so people are definitely looking to wider horizons, including accessing EU markets through in-country distribution on the other side of the Channel and Irish Sea rather than direct from the UK.

“Having a broader range of trading partners outside the UK means companies here will have to consider reviewing and upgrading their EDI systems so they can comply with international standards and regulations.”

Seven out of ten respondents in smaller companies, those with fewer than 50 employees, say they have identified opportunities to expand their trading networks. The figure is just under half among those with more than 250 staff.

Among the key challenges companies face in upgrading their use of EDI is the onboarding of new partners.

Responses indicated an average wait of two months to add a UK-based trader to their existing system, with three months the average for partners with operations in both the UK and other countries.

Les said: “Companies don’t want to lag behind competitors using the latest EDI software and so will increasingly turn to vendors for onboarding and other help where they can, whether for cross-border trading or simply to be more cost-efficient on operations and process.”

EDI has supported global commerce and industry for several decades

EDI is a fast, accurate way of exchanging data between trading partners. It provides a unified format for different approaches to document content and transfer.

The Transalis study found that more than half of the documents currently being exchanged through EDI in the UK are orders and invoices.

And 56% of respondents say they are ‘beginning to implement or already using’ EDI for cross-border shipping.

A major international EDI protocol championed by Transalis is connectivity through PEPPOL, standing for Pan European Public Procurement Online.

Under this, companies can signal to other traders that they operate EDI to a recognised common standard, so making the electronic exchange of documents within and between markets much easier.

Find out more about the benefits of EDI? Call us on 0845 123 3476 or +44 1978 369 343 (for international callers), or email

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