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Why is EDI Still Around?

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Photo appears courtesy of www.twin-loc.fr.

Welcome to our 200th blog post!  As we look back through the years, we recall sometime in the 1990s taking a class on the structure and workings of XML. XML was all the rage and was supposed to replace EDI at any moment!!! It’s 20+ years later and yes, XML is widely adopted now in web service applications where systems talk to each other, but it’s really still the wild west with XML XSDs (XML Schema definitions) often inaccurate.  And it involves a lot of back and forth with trading partners saying, “…oh, hard code this, and that XML element loop can be executed multiple times, not the once limitation in the XSD, etc. etc. etc.”  Implementing XML with a new trading partner or transaction often feels like black magic to get it all working correctly, and that’s in the best of circumstances – usually, it’s teams of technical and business staff on endless conference calls just to get it right.  Did XML replace EDI?  No.

So why is EDI still around and so widely adopted? It’s structure man, pure structure.

For decades volunteers from all industries have gone to quarterly ANSI X12 meetings all around the country to sit around in hotel conference rooms (undoubtedly with pastries and coffee abound plus fruit for the healthy ones) to hash out the EDI standards we all use. Still in use today are Versions 4010 for Y2K, 5010-5030 for the Walmart crowd, 6010 and now into the 7010-7030 to do who knows what.  Widely used documents include the 850 PO, 810 Invoice, 856 ASN, 875 and 880 Grocery documents, 940 Warehouse Ship Order series, 210 Motor Freight invoice and 110 series for the Air freight Jetsetters.  All these transactions and hundreds more are precisely defined down to the Inch, Foot, LB, KG, EA, CA (case) and PC (piece).

It’s hard to find a business transaction that can’t be exactly defined by one of the EDI X12 standard defined documents to allow your system, regardless of how large (think Boeing, GM or Walmart) or small (one-person companies) to seamlessly talk to each other. We service enterprise-level companies who send and receive hundreds of thousands of transactions each month as well as single entrepreneurs who make flower leis in Hawaii.  Virtually anyone can be EDI capable and that’s why EDI has thrived so strongly over the decades since it was developed!!!

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