EDI can benefit companies in a number of different ways, from saving businesses time and money, to reducing risk and improving competitive advantage. However, setting up and operating a successful EDI solution involves a lot of technical expertise, and unless connections are built correctly it’s likely that EDI errors will occur.
Thankfully there’s no need for EDI errors to be a common occurrence, though. In this article we’ll explore why EDI errors happen and what you can do to safeguard your system against them.
The architecture of a typical EDI landscape
The typical modern EDI landscape has four main points (or ‘corners’, as they are often called). As shown in the diagram below, these are…
- Your ERP system
- Your EDI system and/or VAN
- The EDI system of your partner and/or VAN
- Your EDI partner’s ERP system
Although this model is the most efficient EDI landscape as far as the ease and efficiency of setting up EDI connections are concerned, the fact that multiple steps are involved means that there are several places where EDI errors can occur.
In the following section we’ll look at the five most common EDI error types and show you where each occurs on this same EDI architecture diagram.
The five most common EDI errors
1) Message content errors
What are message content errors?
Content errors happen when the EDI message in question contains missing or incorrect information. For example, a message may have the wrong item number (e.g. GTIN) or be missing a number such as the invoice recipient’s GLN (NAD+IV in case of EDIFACT).
How can I fix message content errors?
To correct content errors the exact source of the error needs to be located in the originating system (usually the ERP system) and manually updated.
How can I avoid message content errors?
Message content errors can be avoided if EDI onboarding is conducted correctly and master data is maintained properly. During EDI onboarding all potential message variants (e.g. in case of invoices) must be tested thoroughly. In addition, automated validations, which are executed as part of the document mappings, also help to prevent such errors.
Once a content error has been spotted in a message it is important to check that the issue didn’t stem from inaccurate master data, as the same error will happen again in the future if this was the cause and the master data is left unchanged.
2) Message sequence errors
What are message sequence errors?
Message sequence errors are when an EDI message is rejected because the intended target has not yet received a previous message. For example, if a buyer has not yet received an order response (ORDRSP), they may well not be able to acknowledge a despatch advice message (DESADV).
How can I fix message sequence errors?
In order to resolve this error the previous message in the workflow must be sent successfully. This may involve identifying and tackling a separate error, depending on why the previous message was not received.
How can I avoid message sequence errors?
Avoiding message sequencing errors requires your EDI solution to be set up in such a way that the system would recognise that the previous message has not yet been received and halt the transmission of further messages. Usually this can be achieved by setting up dedicated rules in the ERP system, preventing messages from being released where the necessary preceding documents have not yet been released.
3) Connection errors
What are connection errors?
Connection errors happen between your EDI provider/VAN and the EDI provider/VAN of your partner. For example, your EDI message may become stuck because an AS2 or X.400 server is not operational.
How can I fix connection errors?
Typically it isn’t possible for internal teams to resolve connection errors directly, as message exchange is normally handled by a service provider or VAN. However, good message monitoring processes will ensure you are aware of the issue as early as possible and can alert the relevant internal parties so they are informed about the connection outage. In addition your EDI service provider will have to try to restore the connection and resend any pending documents as soon as the connection is available again.
How can I avoid connection errors?
Due to the fact that EDI involves distributed systems where you are not in control of every node, you cannot fully avoid connection errors. The best way to reduce the impact of EDI connection errors is to work with an EDI service provider that offers proactive connection monitoring and error resolution. In case a connection error occurs, the EDI service provider will take all necessary steps to restore connectivity. In most cases your internal teams and business departments will not even realise that there was a connectivity hiccup.
Furthermore it helps to focus on EDI data visibility – e.g. integrating an EDI solution that utilises API. This way relevant internal teams such as procurement or sales can see when a connection issue arises as well and are proactively informed about the issue.
4) EDI routing errors
What are EDI routing errors?
EDI routing errors occur when the incorrect EDI sender/receiver configurations are present. For example, a message may become stuck due to erroneous UNB sender/receiver IDs in the case of EDIFACT.
How can I fix EDI routing errors?
Fixing an EDI routing error may require master data to be corrected and the message resent from your ERP system.
How can I avoid EDI routing errors?
An efficient EDI solution can avoid EDI routing errors by visualising the error directly in the ERP system. Consequently business users are immediately aware of the faulty configuration, can correct it and then resend the message. A proactive EDI service provider (such as ecosio) will also chase stuck messages and inform you proactively.
5) Configuration errors
What are configuration errors?
Configuration errors occur when key setups are missing in the ERP system. Without the correct logic in place, messages can become stuck, meaning potentially important information is never received. Usually this means that the necessary EDI messages are not being triggered in the ERP system, e.g. because the setup for a new Sold-to party is missing.
How can I fix configuration errors?
Fixing configuration errors will likely require master data updates. In addition it may also require technical work to ensure your EDI solution is integrated fully into your ERP system, e.g. by setting up validation routines which check for missing EDI configurations.
How can I avoid configuration errors?
In addition to maintaining good master data protocols, one good way to avoid configuration errors is to implement automated setup routines. This way business users cannot save new partner records (e.g. Bill-to or Sold-to), unless they have provided the necessary EDI configuration.
What can I do to avoid EDI errors?
In order to build a system resilient to EDI errors, there are two key steps businesses can take…
1) Ensure internal visibility of EDI traffic
If EDI errors are to be eliminated, business departments need visibility of the EDI process. Rather than EDI being a black box, with departments such as sales and procurement unable to access data, EDI traffic up to the EDI system and/or VAN of the EDI partner should ideally be visible directly in the ERP’s user interface for those who need it.
With good internal EDI data visibility, business users can easily see if something is wrong and react accordingly to prevent failure and frustration.
2) Establish reliable message monitoring processes
Whatever type of EDI solution you select, it is important to ensure that EDI traffic is supervised and overseen by experienced individuals.
For companies with extensive internal resources and EDI expertise it may be possible to do this in-house. For those businesses not in this situation, an EDI as a Service approach offers the most sensible solution. This way, not only are connections set up by your EDI provider, they are monitored and maintained by them too – leaving internal teams free to focus on more value-adding activities.
Want to eliminate EDI headaches once and for all?
EDI should be an asset, not a hassle, and the more time internal teams have to spend resolving EDI issues, the less they can devote to more value-adding activities.
At ecosio we’re well aware of just how difficult handling EDI can be for internal teams, which is why we’ve dedicated ourselves to helping businesses achieve maximum automation with minimum effort.
From initial setup right through to ongoing operation and error resolution, our EDI experts take care of all EDI tasks so you don’t have to. Plus, thanks to the modular and cloud-based nature of our solution, there’s no need to worry about the future, as your solution can easily be adapted to suit your changing needs.