EDI Data Interchange. What it is and its integration with SAP.
EDI, or Electronic Data Interchange, is nothing more than the homogenization of diverse structures for identical data handled by different computer languages. Said in a different way, EDI is an international standard that allows for digital transactions with minimum error, at maximum speed, with the lowest cost and in a transparent way for any member of a business chain.
The homogenization of these documents is what distinguishes EDI from other data interchange systems: Orders, delivery notes, invoices, inventories, price catalogs, etc., can all be interchanged electronically between different interlocutors, through the use of a common language that allows different information systems to interact with each other, automating their integration with management systems or ERPs.
The flexibility of SAP allows us to adapt to our clients. For example, it is common for a client to ask to receive EDI invoices, thus eliminating paper. However, the client’s accounting department needs to receive a copy of the original document. We configure SAP to send the invoice by email independently of the EDI.
SAP does not work directly with EDIFACT languages or EDI structures; SAP has its own messages called Idocs. These Idocs are similar to EDI messages, but they have their own structures. Usually these SAP Idocs work in XML for data interchange. Therefore, SAP already considers XML as its primary standard for data interchange. The trend is for XML to replace EDIFACT in the medium term, since it offers many advantages when it comes to identifying any type of data, which is impossible with EDIFACT.
Therefore, to integrate EDI into SAP, a “EDI – SAP Idoc” or “SAP Idoc – EDI” conversion must take place. For example: When you receive an EDI ORDERS in SAP, it is translated from the EDIFACT language to XML (using a predefined schema) and it becomes an Idoc that is integrated into the ordering module. When issuing a DESADV or INVOIC from SAP, an Idoc is generated that is converted to XML and is finally translated into EDIFACT for its shipment, since at the moment this language is the most widely used among suppliers and clients.
Another option for performing the transformation between EDI messages and SAP Idocs is to do it through external providers who handle the communication between both systems and the conversion of formats.
Once the integration is complete, SAP has numerous tools for monitoring, alerts, message reprocessing… These tools allow us to view the entire flow of messages from the source to the destination, monitoring by client/supplier, viewing documents created in SAP (orders, deliveries, invoices…)
One of these tools is called the SAP AIF (Application Interface Framework). This tool allows for the monitoring and follow-up of all SAP interfaces (EDI and non-EDI). It can also be used to easily map and make conversions. All interfaces can be tracked by the client, business application… in a way that is highly visual and adapted to the end user.
At Appleyard Solutions we have extensive experience in EDI message integration with SAP in many different sectors: Automotive, Food, Industrial, Chemical, Pharmaceutical… We work with all types of EDI messages: ORDERS, DESADV. RECADV, INVOICE, COASCU, DELJIT, DELFOR, DELINS…