Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Electronic Data Interchange
By: Brian Harris

Every Thing You Ever Wanted to Know About EDI By Brian Harris December 1, 1998 ISDS 4800 Sec. 001 Introduction First of all what is EDI? Well EDI, or Electronic Data Interchange, is the transfer of business documents such as sales invoices, purchase orders, price quotations, etc. using a pre-established format in a paperless electronic environment. Usually this transfer occurs over VANs, Value Added Networks, but it is becoming increasingly popular over the Internet because of cost savings and ease of use. EDI has been around for approximately 30 years. "The true genesis of EDI occurred in the mid-1960s, as an early attempt at implementing the fictional "paperless" office by companies in transportation, grocery and retail industry segments. Although EDI never eliminated paper documents, it decreased the number of times such documents were handled by people. Reduced handling resulted in fewer errors and faster transfers" (Millman, 83). EDI technology is rapidly changing the way business is conducted throughout the world. Firms that use EDI are more efficient and responsive to the needs of customers and partners and in many cases have jumped out ahead of the competition. Many businesses are already using EDI with suppliers and customers, and if your firm wants to do business with companies involved in Government Dealings EDI must be part of your business no later than January 1, 1999. In May of this year, the major industrial groups in charge of standards setting for EDI, have united behind a set of standards that will allow for seamless web-based forms using extensible markup language, similar to HTML, thereby increasing the accessibility of EDI for small businesses on the Internet (Campbell, 28). An example of an application for EDI is filing tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS offers several options for filing your tax return, one of which is filing electronically and receiving your refund by electronic funds transfer or "direct deposit." The forms used are available in tax preparation software, which can be downloaded off the Internet or purchased by retail. The forms are filled out directly on a PC then transmitted to another computer, which acts as a midpoint to the IRS. The IRS receives your forms and can issue a refund without ever having to reprocess the data. By using this method you save yourself and the IRS time and money (Campbell, 28). How EDI Works Table came from Information Technology for Management by Turban, McLean and Wetherbe page 244. Information, such as purchase orders for medical supplies, flows from the hospital\'s information system into an EDI station, which consist of a PC, an EDI translator and a modem. From there, the information moves to a VAN (Value Added Network). The Van transfers the formatted information to the vendor, where the vendor side EDI translator converts it to a desired format (Turban, 244). An EDI translator does the conversion of data into standard format. An example of such formatting is shown below. Table came from Information Technology for Management by Turban, McLean and Wetherbe page 243. "An average hospital generates about 15,000 purchase orders each year at a processing cost of about $70 per order. The health Industry Business Communication Council estimates that EDI can reduce this cost to $4 per order, potential yearly savings of $840,000 per hospital. The required investment ranges between $8,000 and $15,000. This includes the purchase of a PC with an EDI translator, a modem, and a link to the mainframe-based information system. The hospital can have two or three ordering points. These are connected to a value-added network (VAN), which connects the hospitals to its suppliers. (See figure on previous page) The system can also connect to other hospitals, or to centralized joint purchasing agencies." (Turban, 244). Benefits of EDI There are numerous benefits associated with the adoption of EDI. Probably the most important and largest benefit is efficiency. By utilizing EDI businesses are able to streamline their whole supply chain process. Whether it is upstream to suppliers or downstream to customers, EDI eliminates repetitive tasks such as entering data multiple times and cuts costs of printing hard copies and transportation costs. EDI also allows you to send and receive large amounts of