Electronic Data Interchange: Definition, Process, and Benefits

Electronic Data Interchange: Definition, Process, and Benefits

The use of technology is rapidly increasing in many industry sectors worldwide, including logistics. Technologies such as cloud computing and IoT devices have enabled logistics companies to access real-time data and improve the coordination of their operations.

One key improvement area is how Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is used in logistics operations. This technology has improved efficiency and accuracy within the logistics industry and increased the visibility and traceability of goods in transit. Here is an in-depth look at electronic data interchange.

What is Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)?

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the electronic exchange of business documents between trading partners. It automates the exchange of business documents, such as payment, customs, and inventory documents, between computer systems. Human intervention is not required. 

Electronic data interchange uses a standard format to ensure consistency and understanding by both parties of the exchanged data. It eliminates the need for manual data entry, reducing errors and increasing efficiency. 

How EDI works

For electronic data interchange to work, two systems must be able to translate their internal data formats into the standard electronic format and vice versa. It involves using EDI software or an EDI service provider that acts as a translator between the systems.

Once the systems are configured to exchange data, they can communicate directly with one another over a secure network. Data can be exchanged in real-time or on a scheduled basis, depending on the organization’s needs.

The EDI Process 

two people working at computers

Here is the process of electronically exchanging data.

Prepare the EDI Documents

Preparing the EDI documents involves several different tasks. A critical aspect of preparing EDI documents is data mapping. It consists of taking the source’s data and mapping it into the appropriate fields within the electronic document. 

Completion of data mapping leads to data validation. Validation involves checking for missing or incorrect data and ensuring that the data is formatted correctly. It also ensures that the EDI transaction is in compliance according to the American national standard institute.

Electronic data interchange testing is the last step in preparing EDI documents. Testing ensures the receiving organization successfully integrates its internal systems to transmit and process data.

Translate Documents Into EDI Format

Translating documents into EDI format converts the data from the source documents into the format and structure required by the EDI standard. This step is essential because it ensures that the data is structured and formatted to be easily understood and processed by the receiving organization.

Data translation uses electronic data interchange translation software, automatically converting the data into the standard electronic format. This software can also handle data validation, compliance, and testing of EDI documents.

Transmitting Documents to Business Partners

The transmission process is essential in electronic data interchange. It ensures that the information is delivered to the intended recipient promptly and accurately. The first step in this possess is to establish a secure and reliable method of communication between the business partners.

Once there is a connection, you can conduct the EDI exchange. It involves packaging the documents into a specific format, such as an EDI envelope, and then sending them over the communication network. After the EDI document transmission, confirming and keeping track of the transmitted documents is crucial.


Automating the electronic data interchange process involves using technology and software tools to streamline and simplify the various tasks involved in EDI. Automation involves using specialized EDI software and systems that handle the translation, routing, and validation of EDI messages. This software also integrates EDI data with other business systems.

Automated processing helps organizations improve the efficiency and accuracy of their EDI operations. Automation also ensures that they comply with the relevant file transfer protocol. It reduces the time and resources required to complete these tasks manually.

EDI vs. Manual Processes

Electronic Data Interchange is a method of exchanging business documents between organizations in a standardized electronic format. The other option is a manual process that involves the manual entry of data into a computer system or the manual handling of paper documents. 

EDI can provide many benefits compared to manual methods. However, implementing EDI can require a significant investment in technology and training and may require changes to a company’s existing business processes. Additionally, EDI may only be suitable for some businesses or documents.

EDI Documents 

An electronic data interchange document is a structured format for exchanging business data electronically. There are many documents, one of them being the data element. It is the smallest unit of data that has meaning in the context of the EDI document. 

A data segment is a logical grouping of data elements that convey specific information about a particular aspect of the EDI document. For example, in payment documents, a component might include the data elements for the product code, the quantity of the product, and the price.

EDI envelopes are a set of data segments. They contain information about the sender and receiver, the type of business document, and any security or routing information. EDI envelopes provide standardization, allowing for automated processing and reducing the possibility of errors.

EDI Components

person writing down notes on notepad

Here are some EDI components.


An EDI translator is an EDI software component used to convert EDI documents into a standard format that can be read and understood by the recipient’s system. Translation software allows for seamless communication between organizations, regardless of their software systems. They also perform validation checks to ensure compliance with relevant EDI standards and data accuracy.

Mapping Software

Mapping software defines the relationship between the data elements in an EDI document and the data fields in the recipient’s system. It maps the data elements to the corresponding fields in the recipient’s system, ensuring accurate and efficient data transfer.  

Mapping software can also perform validation checks, such as ensuring that the data is complete and in the correct format before it is [processed by the recipient’s system.


A network enables the exchange of EDI documents between organizations. It acts as an intermediary between trading partners. They ensure the secure and reliable computer-to-computer exchange of EDI documents.  EDI networks also offer translation, mapping, and validation of EDI documents, simplifying the process of using EDI.. 

EDI Benefits 

Let’s take a look at the advantages of EDI.

Reduce Operational Costs

EDI can significantly reduce operational costs for businesses. Through automation, time-consuming and costly manual processes can be eliminated. Automated processing allows companies to manage their supply chains more efficiently and reduce costs associated with inventory management.

Faster Processing

Faster processing is one of the critical advantages of electronic data interchange brought about by automation. Electronic data interchange transmission is almost instantaneous, allowing businesses to process and respond to numerous transactions quickly. Information is also shared between partners at a speed that allows parties to take rapid action in response to market changes.

Improved Efficiency and Productivity

Electronic Data Interchange improves efficiency and data quality by reducing manual data entry errors and costs and resources required for manual data entry. It provides real-time visibility into transactions and inventory, increasing accuracy. EDI also supports faster communication between logistics partners, improving collaboration and coordination among trading partners. 

Reduction of Transfer Errors

Data accuracy improves by eliminating the need for manual data entry and paper-based transactions, reducing manual data entry errors. Using standard EDI formats, real-time tracking and monitoring of business transactions enable businesses to detect and correct mistakes quickly. 

Better Customer Experience

EDI improves data accuracy and provides real-time visibility allowing companies to respond to customer needs quickly. Due to the faster and more efficient communication made possible by  EDI, there is also an increased speed and efficiency in order fulfillment. The pros of using EDI ultimately lead to improved customer service and loyalty.

Improved Reporting and Security 

Electronic Data Interchange uses secure protocols like HTTPS and VPN to transfer data. These security protocols ensure that data is transmitted and received over a secure and encrypted connection. They help to protect data against unauthorized access and data breaches. 


A firm that uses Electronic Data Interchange can be eco-friendly by reducing the need for paper-based transactions. Electronic data interchange also streamlines and automates operations and processes, which can help reduce the business’s energy consumption and emissions. 

Risks Associated with the use of EDI

Despite the many benefits of electronic data interchange, some risks exist. One risk is security. As EDI transactions involve exchanging sensitive information, security uncertainties could lead to data breaches and financial loss.

Another risk is the potential for errors during data exchange. Electronic data interchange relies on standardized formats, but mistakes can occur in the data if appropriate formats are not used correctly. EDI systems also depend on the availability of the systems of the organizations, which may also have downtime, planned, or unexpected.

Who Needs EDI?

Companies planning to automate their business operations and processes are the most likely to benefit from EDI. This technology also benefits organizations that conduct numerous transactions, such as manufacturers and distributors. It will significantly reduce the time and cost of manual data entry and transactions for these companies.