Fundamentals of the EDI Shipping Notice

Traditional EDI integration, in its’ simplest form, involves an exchange of core business transactions between two trading partner entities. The Shipping Notice or “ASN” (the “A” being for “Advanced”, although that’s not always the case) is a type of electronic document that is sent (for example) from a supplier (manufacturer) to a buyer, and precedes the shipment (and arrival) of products at the buyer’s location.  The products on the shipment would represent one or more purchase orders made by the buyer of the supplier, often combined into a single shipment.  The ASN notifies the buyer of the contents of the shipment; the buyer reconciles the received products against original purchase orders by using the ASN.  Primary advantages include the improvement of the ordering cycle and improved efficiencies in managing stock.

The Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) X12 document associated with the ASN is the 856. This transaction is structured using Hierarchical Levels (HL) where each level represents shipping and packaging levels.  For example, a shipment might consist of one or more orders; each order might have one or more cartons; each carton might have one or more items; and so on.  The ASN will detail contents of a shipment goods and contains information specific to the order, product descriptions and attributes, physical characteristics, type of packaging, markings, carrier information, configuration of goods within the equipment, and/or many other specifics to the shipment and representing purchase orders.

This information is generally sent electronically at (or about) the time the physical shipment departs, as it must arrive prior to the actual shipment. This makes it possible for the trading partner to review all ASN data before the physical shipment actually arrives, allowing them to schedule the receipt at the distribution center and identify any possible shortages from the shipment.  Technology also exists making it possible to scan the incoming shipments, which would then update inventory and reconcile the purchase order(s) saving manual time and effort, and ultimately saving money. Automation and integration of these various processes provides advantages with business logistics. As one might expect, for all of this to function as intended the ASN must contain accurate data.  Just as accurate data and synchronized ASN processes will provide efficiencies in the movement of products, inaccurate data and/or untimely processes can result in lost revenue and potential customers.

While the ASN is not a mandatory transaction for trading partners, it can be a very useful tool in shipping and receiving systems.  If implemented properly and completely, it can reduce supply chain and administrative costs by utilizing automated integration to all systems within an organization.

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