Presently, there are two major, nonproprietary, public, translation standards:
In addition, there are several standards that are specific to particular industries, such as the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG), Transportation Data Coordinating Committee (TDCC), and Chemical Industry Data eXchange (CIDX). Some of these industry standards are compatible with the public, interindustry standards (e.g., ANSI X12), while some are not compatible.
Translation standards include formats and codes for each transmission type, called a transaction set, as well as standards for combining several transaction sets for transmission. For example, under the ANSI X12 standard, a purchase order (PO) is a transaction set “850,” a shipping notice is a transaction set “856,” an invoice is a transaction set “810,” and so forth. The ANSI data dictionary for transaction set 850 defines the length, type, and acceptable coding for each data element in an EDI purchase order. For example, ANSI X12 describes the format and location within the message of the customer name and address, the part numbers and quantities ordered, the unit of measure of the items ordered (e.g., each, dozen, ton), and so on.
Besides purchase orders, other typical EDI transaction sets include (the ANSI X12 transaction set number appears in parentheses):
- Purchase order acknowledgment (855).
- Advance shipping notice (ASN) (856). From supplier to customer, advising that the goods are on the way.
- Receiving advice (861). From customer to supplier to report late, incomplete, or incorrect shipments.
- Invoice (810).
- Payment order/remittance advice (820). From customer to supplier for payment.
- Functional acknowledgment (FA) (997). A message is sent from receiver to sender to acknowledge receipt of each and every one of the above transaction sets. For instance, when the seller receives a purchase order (850) from the buyer, the seller sends back an FA (997) to indicate the message was received. Then, when the buyer receives a purchase order acknowledgment (855), the buyer acknowledges that the message was received by sending the seller an FA (997).
Translation software translates outgoing messages so that they are in the standard message format (e.g., ANSI X12) and translates the incoming messages from the standard message format into the form understood by the application system. This intermediate translation to/from the EDI format precludes the need for an organization to reprogram its application so that it can communicate with each trading partner’s application.
The translation software also performs administrative, audit, and control functions. For example, the software inserts identification and control information in front of (header) and after (trailer):
- Each transaction set, such as one purchase order.
- Each functional group (e.g., a group of purchase orders, a group of receiving advices, and so forth) so that several groups may be sent in one transmission.
- All components comprising one transmission.
In EDI lingo, the data sets and the headers/trailers are called “envelopes.” In addition to assembling and disassembling the EDI envelopes, the translation software may log incoming and outgoing messages and route the messages from and to the proper application.