Optimizing Deliveries: Advanced Shipment Notifications

6min read



If a shipment gets put on a delivery truck and the buyer doesn’t hear about it, is the package really on its way?

Advanced shipment notifications support supply chain management by giving buyers concrete proof that the products they’ve purchased are in transit, information on when they will arrive, and what the buyer should expect on the delivery. For supply chain managers, logistics professionals, and operations experts alike, this guide to advanced shipment notifications will provide valuable insights into how ASN can make for better business and far fewer headaches.

So, what is an ASN in shipping? Read on to find out and discover the numerous benefits of this EDI document.

What is an advanced shipment notification?

Advanced shipment notifications alert buyers that their purchased products have officially left the seller’s warehouse or distribution center and are en route to their final destination. This official heads-up can be very useful for companies with limited storage space that need to move things around to accommodate incoming inventory. It’s also helpful to know products are on the way when planning a sale or fulfilling backorders. The ASN is important to the buyer because it allows them to plan receiving goods from their suppliers. The buyer typically sets delivery windows the supplier has to meet. 

In short, ASNs provide essential information that empowers businesses to improve their decision-making processes, optimize space when receiving, save costs and better serve their end customers.

Using EDI to deliver advanced shipment notifications

In the world of electronic data interchange, advanced shipment notifications go by several other names, including ASN and EDI 856. The “856” designation is part of a collection of EDI transaction codes that serve as identifiers, detailing different types of documentation used during the supply chain management process. Each of these codes and corresponding documents must follow standardized formatting and include key data points that inform ordering and shipping procedures, keeping all business partners on the same page.

An EDI 856 document is frequently used in EDI. The seller sends it to the buyer or receiver to alert all parties that the shipment is en route. Not all buyers require it, but many major retailers consider it essential so they can prepare their warehouse, distribution center, or store to receive packages.

ASN key components

Every ASN must communicate crucial information, including what’s being ordered, when delivery is expected, and where that delivery should go.

Here are some of the most common ASN or EDI 856 components:

  • Shipment number
  • Original purchase order number
  • Date of shipment
  • Date delivery is expected
  • Address the package was shipped from
  • Address the package was shipped to
  • Breakdown of products included, with corresponding SKUs or other unique identifiers
  • Number of tares
  • Number of orders
  • Number of packages
  • Number of items
  • Product quantities
  • Tracking details (e.g., BOL or PRO number)
  • Weight
  • Packing specifics (e.g., number of boxes, which products are on which pallet, etc.)
The ASN process

Creating and sending an EDI 856 is just one part of the ASN process flow. Here’s an inside look at the ASN process and what happens after the document is sent:

  1. The shipper or seller receives a purchase order EDI 850 and sends a purchase acknowledgement EDI 855, which says they accept the order and will prepare it for shipment.
  2. The seller then prepares the shipment and uses EDI software to create an EDI 856 specific to the order and its contents.
  3. The EDI software reads the ASN, looking for potential errors and reducing (or even eliminating) the possibility of costly mistakes.
  4. As the ASN is read, the EDI software pushes data to the system of record SOR that fulfills other predetermined tasks associated with the shipment, such as adjusting the corresponding inventory to reflect the sale.
  5. The ASN is automatically sent to the supplier, who uses the information to plan their internal workflows.
Main benefits of an Advanced Shipment Notification

Advanced shipment notifications (EDI 856) are a powerful tool for buyers and sellers. With standardized, automated documentation, business partners can do the following:

  • Communicate when orders have shipped. Purchase orders show what products or services have been ordered, and invoices outline the payments due for them, but only ASNs document what’s actually packaged up and moving to the buyer’s chosen destination.
  • Confirm what has been shipped and how many units were included. It’s easy to assume that an order for 20 computers will yield a shipment of 20 computers. But manufacturing snags and issues up the supply chain could mean you’re getting 10 computers now and another 10 in two weeks. ASNs provide the product type and quantity in a shipment, so you immediately know what to expect when you crack open those boxes.
  • Generate UCC128 barcodes to help the receiver prepare. ASNs often include barcodes for each box, case, pallet, or crate. These numbers help recipients get ready to receive and log products. They’re helpful internally and when checking the manifest against what’s taken off the delivery truck and scanned at the final destination.
  • Track shipments. Most ASNs include tracking information, such as a tracking number, to see where the package is in transit and the delivery company’s name. This is especially helpful when you haven’t specified which purveyor you prefer or when the seller uses multiple cargo companies.

ASN also has business-wide benefits because it’s part of the EDI automation process. For instance, using ASNs instead of sending a quick email or calling the buyer and saying, “Your package is on the way,” offers these advantages:

  • Increases transparency. Shared documents that follow an official format and include all relevant information remove the possibility of human error and miscommunication. Instead of sifting through old email chains to double-check when a shipment was promised, all parties can refer to the shared EDI 856 to see what was ordered, when it was ordered, when it was supposed to ship, and whether it’s on the way.
  • Fits into company-wide bookkeeping practices. EDI 856 is just one piece of the EDI pie. It comes after the buyer sends a purchase order and the seller responds with a purchase order acknowledgment. There is also invoicing and other documentation to keep track of. By sending an EDI 856, you create a paper trail that helps track orders, inventory, expenses, and more.
  • Serves as final confirmation of an order. Purchase orders are just requests, and PO acknowledgments merely say, “Okay, we see you.” Even invoices and payments can be reversed. But an ASN confirms that actual physical products have been packed up and shipped. This notification allows the buyer to close out the financial aspect of a sale. The funds have been spent, and the products are on their way.
Save money and reduce errors with Orderful EDI

Incorporating ASN into your supply chain management process can reduce errors, improve visibility across the supply chain, and even lead to significant cost savings. Advance shipment notifications and the corresponding EDI documentation benefit you and your partners while strengthening the supply ecosystem as a whole.

Want to get started with EDI? Orderful’s cloud-based system is powered by modern APIs that make collaboration and EDI integration remarkably simple. Reach out to an EDI expert today to see how Orderful can work for you.


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