What Are EDI in Logistics, and How Do They Work?

5min read



In today's fast-paced business environment, companies are constantly seeking ways to enhance operational effectiveness, improve supply chain visibility, and foster stronger customer connections.

A powerful tool has emerged to address the unique challenges of logistics: electronic data interchange (EDI). By leveraging EDI technology, companies can streamline their processes, gain real-time insights into their supply chain, and establish seamless collaboration with trading partners. Leveraging the benefits of EDI logistics while preparing for potential challenges will transform your business operations.

What is EDI in logistics?

Electronic data interchange is the electronic exchange of structured business documents between trading partners in a standardized format. In the logistics industry, where time is of the essence, EDI proves invaluable in streamlining operations and reducing manual processes. 

In the past, logistics operations heavily relied on paper-based systems, leading to inefficiencies, errors, and delays. However, with the advent of EDI, logistics companies can automate data exchange, improve communication, and achieve seamless integration with trading partners.

EDI in transportation encompasses various EDI documents, commonly called “transactions,” which serve as the foundation for initiating or completing inbound and outbound activities within the logistics network. These transactions serve as the lifeblood of logistics operations, ensuring smooth coordination and timely execution of critical tasks.

How does EDI work in logistics?

Logistics companies rely on modern EDI solutions to connect and seamlessly integrate EDI into their data transport processes. Automated data exchanges streamline operations, reduce errors, and facilitate communication with partners.

Standardized EDI transaction codes, such as the EDI 210 (Motor Carrier Freight Details and Invoice), initiate and respond to essential activities. Translation software converts the data from internal formats to the standardized EDI format so it can be processed and integrated into partners’ systems. 

To achieve effective business collaboration through EDI, logistics professionals emphasize standardization, automation, integration, and simplification.

  • Standardization calls for uniform data formats and industry-wide EDI standards to ensure compatibility between different systems.
  • Automation reduces manual interventions and minimizes the risk of errors, enabling faster and more efficient data processing.
  • Integration ensures constant information exchange between various systems, enabling real-time supply chain visibility.
  • Simplification streamlines complex processes, removing unnecessary steps and enhancing overall efficiency.

Benefits of EDI logistics

EDI is an indispensable tool for logistics operations, revolutionizing how companies communicate, operate, and connect with their customers in B2B and B2C contexts. Here are some key advantages of EDI-powered logistics:

1. Streamlined communication

EDI eliminates the need for manual data entry, reducing errors and saving valuable time. It enables uninterrupted communication between trading partners. Automated document exchange lets logistics professionals focus on core activities, leading to increased productivity.

2. Supply chain visibility

EDI provides a real-time view of the supply chain. It enables more accurate tracking of shipments, inventory levels, and order statuses. This data helps logistics managers make informed decisions, improve planning, and respond quickly to disruptions and delays.

3. Improved efficiency

EDI automation simplifies and accelerates various processes in logistics, such as order processing, invoicing, and shipment notifications. By digitizing and automating these tasks, logistics companies eliminate manual errors, reduce processing time, and achieve higher operational efficiency. The streamlined processes result in savings, improved resource utilization, and enhanced customer satisfaction.

4. Enhanced accuracy and data integrity

Manual data entry is prone to errors, leading to costly mistakes and delays in logistics operations. EDI ensures data accuracy and integrity by eliminating the need for manual intervention. With standardized data formats and automated validation, logistics professionals can rely on accurate information to make critical business decisions.

5. Faster shipments

EDI expedites the order fulfillment process by automating purchase orders, acknowledgments, and confirmations. Logistics companies can receive orders electronically, validate them in real time, and initiate rapid shipments. By reducing order cycle times, logistics professionals can improve customer satisfaction and gain a competitive advantage.

6. Strengthened customer connections

EDI facilitates collaboration and data exchange between logistics companies and their customers. Organizations can enhance customer relationships and improve responsiveness with accurate, timely information. Real-time updates and proactive notifications strengthen trust and foster long-term partnerships.

Challenges to EDI adoption in logistics

Although the benefits of EDI in logistics are undeniable, there are challenges associated with its adoption. Logistics professionals must understand and address these challenges to ensure successful implementation. Some common challenges include the following:

1. Lack of in-house IT resources

Implementing and maintaining an in-house EDI system requires technical expertise and costly resources. However, partnering with a reliable, cloud-based EDI solution provider, such as Orderful, can alleviate this challenge with a user-friendly platform and expert support.

2. Expensive implementation

Investing in EDI infrastructure and systems is a significant financial burden for some logistics companies. However, the long-term benefits, such as increased efficiency, cost savings, and improved customer satisfaction, often outweigh the initial investment. Cloud-based EDI solutions, like Orderful, provide cost-effective alternatives with flexible pricing models.

3. Resistance to change

Often, adopting new technology requires a cultural shift within logistics organizations. Often, team members fear disrupting existing workflows. Effective change management strategies and education about the benefits of EDI can help overcome resistance and gain buy-in from all stakeholders.

Top EDI transport transactions for logistics

To effectively navigate the world of electronic data interchange (EDI) in logistics, professionals must know common EDI transport transactions. These standardized documents play a vital role in facilitating communication and collaboration between trading partners. Here are some EDI transaction codes logistics organizations frequently use:

  • EDI 204: Motor Carrier Load Tender
  • EDI 210: Motor Carrier Freight Details and Invoice
  • EDI 214: Transportation Carrier Shipment Status Message
  • EDI 753: Request for Routing Instructions
  • EDI 754: Routing Instructions
  • EDI 810: Invoice
  • EDI 850: Purchase Order
  • EDI 856: Advance Shipment Notice
  • EDI 990: Response to a Load Tender
  • EDI 997: Functional Acknowledgement

Simplify EDI adoption in logistics with Orderful

In the rapidly evolving logistics industry, EDI technology is fundamental to a company's success. With it, logistics professionals can transform their operations and achieve a competitive advantage.


Go live with new trading partners in days, not months. Orderful’s modern EDI platform standardizes integrations and streamlines testing, getting your business connected with partners 10x faster than other solutions.

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