EDI: Workhorse of the Extended Supply Chain



: a dependable person who does a lot of work

: a dependable machine or vehicle that is used to do a lot of work

EDI is the workhorse of B2B connectivity. It is not new. It is not sexy. Four decades after its creation, supply chain executives see it as slow and expensive. They are frustrated. They question the value. But it does matter and slowly, we are making progress.

In our recent research study of 89 companies, we find that EDI is used nearly six times more frequently in the connection of trading partners than portals, and eight times more frequently than the use of business networks (e.g., trading exchanges or specialized industry hubs). We also find when companies can achieve hands-free orders, order-to-shipment cycles decrease by 50% and there is greater accuracy in fulfillment. The current state of B2B connectivity is outlined in figure 1.

Most companies see EDI and the exchange of documents through established protocols as old-school processes. Many technology options have promised to make EDI outdated, but it has not happened.  Today, no company studied uses just one method for B2B connectivity.  The connectivity with trading partners is usually a mix of portal, business network and manual processes. While companies have invested in portals, trading exchanges and automated business networks, the adoption is low. The reason? Portals are one-way communication. The use of portals is too passive and companies struggle to synchronize the many changes that occur in sales and purchase order processing through this passive form of connectivity. Business networks represent 7% of B2B connectivity.

Figure 1. Current State of Trading Partner Connectivity

The value proposition for automation is compelling. The messaging is pennies and the value proposition is in dollars.  Here are some of the findings of the study:

  • Irrespective of how they are processed, over 40% of customer orders change at least once.  The use of EDI reduces errors and improves processing times.
  • Today, there are few incentives to use EDI in trading partner relationships. Despite the strong value proposition, only 6% of respondents offer order discounts to customers for using EDI for order processing.
  • The use of EDI reduces costs. Today, 30% of shipments are received without Advance Shipment Notification (ASN). Shipments without an ASN cost the average company an additional $78 per purchase order to process.

Does this match what you are seeing? Any stories to share?

For more on the results of the study, please join us on December 5th for a webinar to release the full study.  Click here to register for this sponsored webinar by GXS. I hope to see you there!


Lora Cecere

Author Lora Cecere

Lora Cecere is the Supply Chain Shaman. A shaman interprets and connects an evolving world to a group of followers. Lora does this for supply chain. As the founder of Supply Chain Insights and the author of Supply Chain Shaman, Lora travels the world to chart the course of supply chain practices and disruptive technologies. Her blog focuses on the use of enterprise applications to drive supply chain excellence.

More posts by Lora Cecere

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Great series on EDI. Your survey matches up with my experience with hundreds of large shippers and most carriers in regard to EDI. In regard to the transportation industry, most shipment orders, shipment status, and invoice documents are exchanged by EDI or a proprietary electronic format. What is amazing is that most executives are not aware that EDI is the workhorse of information exchange for their supply chain. And thus allocate millions to their web sites and a pittance to their supply chain info flow.

    Your survey results in regard to advance shipping notices highlight the tip of the iceberg in regard to costs of not leveraging EDI information. Even if your $78 cost per non-ASN PO is way off the mark, it is disappointing that retailers / manufacturers only have visibility to 70% of their inbound shipments. It begs the questions – are they getting shipment status from the carriers? Are they having their small suppliers paying for shipping at premium rates?

  • […] 5. Standardized Data Transfers Photo from Flickr There’s nothing new about EDI and data interchangeability…besides the steadily rising adoption rates. Which is understandable, given that easy data exchange drops operating costs. […]

  • […] me one other blog that crafts a metaphor from a Dr Suess book one day and expertly analyzes the growth of EDI the next. That’s what you’ll find at Supply Chain Shaman, a daily blog written by Lora […]

  • […] me one other blog that crafts a metaphor from a Dr Suess book one day and expertly analyzes the growth of EDI the next. That’s what you’ll find at Supply Chain Shaman, a daily blog written by Lora […]

Leave a Reply