EDIFACT

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Definition of the EDIFACT format

EDIFACT is an international EDI standard developed by the United Nations/Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE), which provides a universal structure for data exchange. The standard is widely used not only, but especially in Europe.

“Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce, and Transport”, EDIFACT for short, is one of the best known and most widely used EDI standards for electronic data transmission.

EDIFACT Structure

EDIFACT messages are structured and consist of several segments containing specific data. Each segment begins with a three-letter code that identifies its function, followed by a series of data elements separated by special separators. The data elements can be divided into sub-elements separated by further separators. The message ends with a specific closing part that concludes the transmission of the message.

  • 1

    Segments: contain information on specific aspects of the transaction, such as sender, recipient, item information, etc.

  • 2

    Data elements: Contain information such as prices, quantities, dates, etc.

  • 3

    Separator: Special characters for separating segments and data elements within the message

  • 4

    Closing segment: Special segment that marks the end of the message.

Typical Segments

UNH (Header Segment): Indicates the beginning of the message

BGM (beginning of message): Obtains information on the document type and reference number

DTM (Date/Time/Period): Specifies relevant date information

NAD (name and address): Contains information about the parties involved in the transaction

Separator

(+) = data element separator: separates data elements within a segment

(:) = data element separator: separates sub-elements within a data element

(‘) = segment separator: ends a segment

EDIFACT Subsets

Specific subsets of EDIFACT have been developed for certain industries with a focus on the relevant functions. Examples include

  • CEFIC – Chemical Industry
  • EANCOM – Consumer Goods Industry
  • EDIBDB – Construction Materials Industry
  • EDIFICE – Electronics, Software and Telecommunications Industry
  • EDITEX – Textile Industry
  • VDA – Automotive Industry

Message Types

A six-letter abbreviation identifies the respective message type, for example:

  • DESADV = Shipping Notification

  • ORDERS = Order

  • PAYMUL = Transfer in Payment Transactions
  • PAYORD = Payment Order
  • PRICARD = Price List / Catalog
  • PRODACT = Product Details
  • INVOIC = Invoice
  • FINSTA = Account Statement

Example Message

Example from GS1 in EDIFACT Subset EANCOM Orders format

Use of the EDIFACT standard

The format is mainly used for the exchange of business documents such as orders, invoices, delivery bills and many others. The standardized nature of EDIFACT enables companies to communicate efficiently with international partners without having to make specific adjustments for each individual partner or market.

Benefits

Automation

Turnaround times and errors are reduced, resources are saved and processing is more efficient as a result.

Integration

Integration into existing ERP systems creates a seamless flow of information between different departments and external partners

Compliance

International standards are easier to comply with and legal requirements in various markets are easier to fulfill.

Glossary

Digitization topics explained in a nutshell

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is a technology that enables the exchange of business documents between companies in a standardized electronic format. Structured data is transferred directly from the sender’s ERP or accounting system to the recipient’s corresponding system.

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