Photo appears courtesy of Will Thomas. I’ve always said that EDI and data Integration in the Freight/Logistics/Distribution/3PL industry is like the Wild West. Rather than the traditional PO, invoice and ASN documents we all know in retail, the 3PL’s use of “standards” can be more like riding a bucking bronco.
Communications can be via traditional VAN or AS2, or more freeform FTP. Outside of the common 3PL EDI 940 Warehouse Shipping Order, EDI 945 Warehouse Shipping Advice and EDI 856 Advance Ship Notice, there are documents such as the EDI 214 Transportation Carrier Shipment Status, EDI 300 series ocean container, EDI 100 series air or EDI 400 series rail related documents as well.
The name of the game is data, lots of data.
UPS, originally a ground service, uses 200 series documents. FedEx on the other hand, starting as an overnight air carrier, uses 100 series documents. Even though all the major carriers now offer all of the services… Go figure. In any case, they are a real bear to map with loads of detail, surcharges and exceptions.
However, effectively using the tools at your disposal can bear the fruit of efficiency and productivity:
- Smart companies with competent in-house EDI software like Liaison’s Delta/ECS, can map inbound freight invoices right into A/P to automate data entry, saving hours of manual labor keying in large numbers of detailed invoices.
- If shipping is being done on behalf of customers, EDI allows the freight amounts to also be posted right to the customers’ order invoice.
- EDI 214 shipment status reports can be configured to post on your web site or to be made available to inquiring customers.
- EDI software with web service capability can make an API call to a carrier to find out the exact location and status of a shipment.
So the moral of the story for integrating 3PL EDI documents is to harness the bronco and use the right tools to make your business run efficiently.