EDI Document Types
EDI documents come in various forms, each of which can appear differently, depending on the company’s internal computer system. Also, while each standard has code specificity, each order may look very different – a clothes company will send details of color and sizes, while a food company will send details of expiry date.
Within the document itself, the appearance is somewhat dependent on the standard which is being used. These standards differ worldwide. An example of these standard codes appears as a set of special characters and words. Each carries a different significance, and denotes a different part of the document type. The standards themselves are a part of the EDI framework, and are all specific to them. Each document type is related to a code.
Transmission of EDI documents
From the outset of the transmission process, it must be stated that EDI is not of itself the entire process; it is the documents formats and the codes which are specific to these documents. The transmission utilizes various software and systems to allow transmission. To make an EDI document, first of all, one must generate a template upon which the rules of the documents are available. In traditional EDI, the backend system of an enterprise will create a document, which is then translated to an EDI document.
All the information required is put into a language that is readable by the receiving computer. Then it can be transmitted via various means such as FAX, modem or through a VAN. VANs are like a post office for these documents. They provide a storage place for EDI’s that are not immediately receivable. They also provide mailboxes for later retrieval. These have been very popular within the EDI industry, as they allow for re-sending and delayed retrieval.
However, lately Internet EDI is becoming increasingly popular, which can offer similar services, at a reduced cost to the user. It transmits the documents using Internet protocols such as HTTP, FTP and E-mail. The information is generated from the sender, and progresses through translation software. Following this, the information is sent using the protocols through a server to the receiving user, who is also connected to the Internet. It is then translated again.
Basically, a document, such as an Order is required to be sent. This document is generated by the Sender system, turned into an EDI document by whatever code is required for that type of document. It goes to the VAN where it is translated and then it transmitted and received then translated again into a readable document by the receiving computer.
Many of these documents are automatically generated by the sending computer – because it is a regular order, or invoice. These systems were originally designed to avoid human interference, as this reduced the number of errors and increased productivity and profitability.
Traditional vs. Internet
Traditional operating systems allow for efficient, guaranteed secure, and reduced in error transmission of data documents. They allow enterprises to establish firm relationships which are also dependable through the technology. VANs have been in place and are entrenched in many businesses. They offer services such as process auditing, mail boxing, re-transmission, translation and management reporting.
However, the move towards Internet EDI is being pushed by a number of large scale operations such as Wal-Mart, which insists on Internet capable business links.
AS2 is the standard for transmitting data securely and reliably over the Internet. By using digital certificates and encryption, AS2 creates security over the Net. It provides an envelope by which a message is transmitted. It specifies how to connect, deliver, validate and acknowledge data.
The perceived advantages of Internet EDI are that it reduces the costs of VANs while maintaining fast and reliable data transmission. Internet EDI has a one off fee, and perhaps a registration fee. The information is secure due to encryption, and authentication ensures that only messages from authorized senders are accepted. Internet EDI can also offer some of the services of VANs such as audit processing.
The system is interoperable as it can utilize software tools to allow disparate systems to communicate. It allows for enterprises without the ability to implement traditional EDI infrastructure to communicate and do business electronically. The complex proprietary software is not required. Also, the expanded use of Internet EDI to include other data formats such SML are seen as advantageous. Perceived disadvantages of Internet EDI is the cost of a static IP address, maintaining permanent Internet connection, firewall and relevant expenses.
The fact that the system cannot pull data, the cost of AS2 software, and the need to manage the certificates used for secure connections are also disadvantages. Also the system only works over TCP/IP networks, so there is a reduced flexibility of users.
Traditional EDI transmission, mainly in the form of VANs is viewed as being more appropriate for larger corporations that must move great quantities of data daily, whereas Internet is more for small enterprises that require EDI capability. In the end, it is the choice of the user to select the system that suits best.