API for EDI: The Future of B2B Commerce
By Logicbroker | May 20, 2017
EDI has been around for over 50 years and crosses a variety of different industries. It has been a staple in B2B commerce communication and has provided vast amounts of efficiency. But now, in an age where everyone has an API, systems are becoming easier and easier to connect. The question that arises is why are so many retailers and businesses still using the cryptic format of EDI?
Well, the short answer is EDI is a well-established standard. Quite frankly, there is no other generally accepted standard like EDI. With such detailed definitions, EDI can handle nearly every business case you can think of. It will be a long time before we see EDI disappear.
As you may know, EDI can be tricky to read, and transmitting a file is like dropping data into a black box with no immediate validation. Let’s say you send a file and your format was incorrect, you then have to wait to receive a Functional Acknowledgement or an email notification of the error with an undefined wait period. How do you know that it made it into the right user who can resolve the issue? Wouldn’t it be better to post/retrieve the data to an API which can provide an almost immediate response with all defined errors?
So why isn’t there an API like that?
Well that is exactly what Logicbroker said! So, we built a platform around all commerce document exchange by taking the API first approach. With the goal of removing our customers out of the intricacies of EDI and flat file transmission, we built a simple interface where you can integrate with one API and have the ability to integrate with countless partners regardless of their integration format.
How does it work?
Logicbroker makes EDI easy…we have built a proprietary system for mapping documents. We started with a standardized data model of the essential commerce documents basing the standard off of thousands of partners specifications. This included all the standard documents: Order (850), Acknowledgement (855), Shipment (856), Invoice (810), and Inventory (846).
We then created an algorithm that automatically maps EDI into our API model and vice versa (you can even see it in action in the GIF). This means there isn’t a different map for every partner, all documents flow through the same pipe in uniformity. This allows us to keep a standard data model and stick with it. When everyone is going through the same socket, you can then plug in to any partner or system without worrying about any heavy lifting.
Because of how powerful our EDI system is, we named it JEDI. EDI- it’s so easy, it must be a JEDI mind trick!
What about other document types?
Just like EDI, our other documents are also based around our API. We have our standard formats for CSV, JSON, XML, and positional files, but we can also quickly map and configure to any format both inbound and outbound. Our mapping process is so quick and intuitive for these document formats, a sample can be provided and mapped within minutes (assuming the format isn’t hieroglyphics).
What does the setup process look like?
From the customer perspective, it is as simple as connecting to our API. We provide documentation, a support contact, our API keys and a staging environment to begin the development process. There is no need to worry about contacting EDI departments validating formats or testing with your partners. We handle all of that for you, just build to our API and we will handle the rest.
During the building process, we help guide you in developing a drop ship or standard purchase order program. We can get very granular with your business rules and add validation on the fly. Once your rules are entered into our system, they are translated to all document formats. So, if you are communicating with a supplier receiving EDI and one receiving CSV, the same rules apply. In addition, a testing process is generated for onboarding suppliers which is handled by our support staff.
Logicbroker provides guidance in setting up the most optimal workflow for you and tests against retailer’s validation rules that already exist in our platform.
When we add validation for a document it is on top of our API, which provides the user with an immediate response when a request is posted. If the request doesn’t match the partner’s specs you will get a 400 status code and receive information as to why it was rejected.
Here is a response example of a retailer requiring an REF segment with a Bill of Lading (BM) qualifier in the shipment and the request is missing a Bill of Lading value:
What about EDI communication?
Again when you are using our API there is no need to worry about all the connection endpoints with your retailers. You connect once to our API, utilizing the companyIDs to identify each of your partners and we handle the rest. We will send and receive documents as they are created and passed through the platform.
From our side we support all the traditional EDI communication protocols, this includes FTP, SFTP, AS2, VAN, etc. When it comes to us sending these EDI documents we utilize statuses and sub-statuses on all documents. This enables us to monitor all communication with your partners. This provides visibility if we received confirmation if a file was received, rejected, or had errors. If an error in communication is encountered it is immediately visible to you and our support team, which will automatically notify the appropriate contact.
In addition, we took monitoring FTP and SFTP to the JEDI level. Our hosted FTP and SFTP sites are virtualized on top of our API. In this case we don’t send files to an FTP location, they are generated and shown in our directory when a document is in a specific status. So when you login and pull a file we log an event, and immediately update the status of the document. This way we know that the receiver definitely received their file and can provide an audit trail for verification.
What about support?
When it comes to support and maintenance we provide assistance in all areas of integration management. Support is there for help with building your API integration, partner onboarding, and ongoing maintenance. A direct contact can be provided or our support email can be reached any time.
When it comes to EDI, again, we don’t want our customers to worry about the errors in communication processing. When something goes wrong, we do the communication for you. We understand that EDI can be a little ugly, and we are here to help with the dirty work.
As APIs become more common, connecting applications is getting easier, but we are still behind on the B2B side. When there are no viable standard alternatives to EDI offered, it is hard for retailers and suppliers to upgrade their integration infrastructure. Our goal is to provide that needed upgrade for you so we can grow together– bridging the gap of old and new and setting a new standard for seamless integration. There is no reason an EDI implementation or integration with a partner should take 4-6 weeks, we think it should take minutes and it is totally possible!
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