The library automation industry has long awaited EDIFACT for serials and a joint development initiative between Endeavor Information Systems Inc. of Des Plaines, Illinois and HARRASSOWITZ, Subscription Agent and Bookseller from Wiesbaden, Germany, has made it a reality. In October 1997, Kansas State University Library became the first university library in the world to successfully load EDI invoices for serials using UN/EDIFACT.
What is Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)?
Electronic Data Interchange (EDO is the computer to computer process that trades information (messages) using national and international telecommunications methods.
Endeavor Information Systems uses the EDIFACT (Electronic Data Interchange for Administration Commerce, and Transport) standard. EDIFACT is the most widely used and most internationally accepted protocol for EDI interchanges. It specifies rules for composing literally hundreds of messages for thousands of different industries.
EDI makes it possible for much of the "paperwork" of a business transaction (e.g. a purchase order, invoice, claim, return, or backorder) to be transmitted as an electronic message directly between the buyer's computer database and the seller's database. Endeavor offers EDI capabilities in the following areas:
- serial subscription renewal and invoicing (in general release)
- order status inquiries, reports, claims, cancellations, and returns (in development)
- book orders (in development)
Where does EDIFACT come from?
EDItEUR (the Pan-European book group) has developed, in conjunction with BISAC and SISAC, a recommended set of guidelines for how to use EDIFACT in the book industry. You do not need the full power and flexibility of EDIEACT to handle book orders and subscriptions. The guidelines focus on more than a dozen messages that are relevant to the book trade, and specify exactly how the messages are to he composed to handle each situation that might arise. Voyager works best with messages that conform to the EDItEUR guidelines, but will accept the messages that conform to the general EDIFACT standard.
If Voyager detects a problem with the composition of a message, it will tell you whether the problem is a violation of EDItEUR, EANCOM, or EDIFACT guidelines.
How new is EDIFACT and who is using it?
EDIFACT has been in use in the commercial book trade for a few years now (the EDItEUR guidelines for the book trade were approved in 1995). Its first practical library-systems implementation is Voyager 971. The guidelines for serial subscription orders, claims and invoices are in development. Final approval for the serials guidelines is expected in 1998.
Almost all major subscription agents and national standards organizations (including BISAC and SISAC) are committed to making EDIFACT the standard for electronic trading in books and serials.
Endeavor Information Systems is committed providing a complete EDIFACT implementation as a fully-integrated part of the Voyager system. We have just completed the first phase of the implementation process with Voyager 97.1—which includes receiving invoice messages. The next phase, scheduled for Voyager 97.2, will support the serial claims process. Additional features will be added throughout 1998.
Why should I choose Voyager for my EDI implementation?
Endeavor is committed to the complete EDIFACT implementation. We won't stop half way. We won't cut corners. If we need to change the way Voyager works to make it compatible with EDIFACT, we will do so. Some of you may already have noticed some changes in the way Voyager 97.1 handles line-item pricing. These changes are the direct result of our implementation of EDIFACT. We integrate EDIFACT directly into our system. There is no "intermediate file format" to describe information that is transferred between the EDIFACT message and the Voyager database. With a traditional EDI system, you receive the EDT message with one software package, and then pass only selected data from the message to your ILS package. You don't find out about supplemental information in the original message. Voyager takes it one step further. Voyager reads the EDIFACT message directly, and allows you to see all of it if you want to. If your agent sends you unexpected supplemental information in an EDI message, Voyager tells you that it is there, and lets you view it directly.
Will EDI completely eliminate paperwork?
Not yet. Until electronic documents can be accepted as legally binding under local, national, and international contract law, you still need to exchange paper copies of your purchase orders and invoices with your suppliers. What EDI permits you to do is to receive the electronic form as well as the paper document, thereby saving the work of entering the data manually into your system. When you send an EDI order, you offer the same savings of manual labor to your supplier.
What can EDT do for me?
Having the ability to store more information electronically will expedite your library process and provide a better method to budget your expenses. Here's an example, HARRASSOWITZ will know which items you will receive from Random House and which items they are not going to receive. Likewise, you will know the status of the items you ordered. If certain items won't be supplied, you can re-allocate your money. Here are some of the overall benefits of EDI:
- EDI increases the speed and accuracy of trading and cuts costs
- EDI gives you better and more up-to-date information on the status of your budgetary commitments
- EDI links your business operations more closely to those of your key suppliers.
How will EDI change the way I handle orders, invoices, and other documents?
The biggest difference in workflow is the reduction in data entry work for incoming documents. Invoices and claim responses will go directly into your Voyager database, and you won't have to type anything. Voyager takes over the purely mechanical part of the job and leaves you with the intellectual part.
Sending and receiving documents is similar to using electronic mail. Instead of handling pieces of paper, you will open an EDI window on your workstation and review a list of documents that are ready to be sent or received. You can examine them at that time and select which items to process now, and which items to save for later.
This may feel like extra work until you get accustomed to it, especially if (as we recommend for important documents) you are also sending and receiving paper copies as the "official" versions.
When you receive an invoice on paper and enter it into the system by hand, your mind is simultaneously reviewing it and making decisions about how to handle unusual situations. Perhaps there is a price that looks questionable; perhaps there are two outstanding orders for a particular item and you have to decide which order belongs with this invoice. The Voyager system loads the invoice directly into the database, and completes the data entry portion of the work. You read and review the document after it is loaded, and make the same decisions you would have made if you were typing it in.
What are the components of an EDI system?
- First, there must be a protocol, which is an agreement on how the information in a business transaction should be represented electronically. Voyager uses the international standard EDIFACT protocol.
- Second, there must be a network, the communication link that allows EDT messages to pass from one computer to another. Voyager EDI will work with almost any network (even something as simple as hand-carrying floppy disks), but we strongly encourage you to subscribe to a Value-added Network (VAN) that offers security, reliability and accountability.
- Third, there must be EDT communications software to send and receive messages over the network, and to handle routine tasks like message logging, acknowledgment and archiving. This is not part of the Voyager system: it may already exist in your organization's accounting office, it may be provided as part of your VAN subscription, or you may use any of the communications software you or your institution might have available.
- Finally, there must be translation software to convert local database entries into outgoing EDI messages and to convert incoming EDI messages into local database entries. Voyager contains built-in translation software that converts your messages directly to and from EDIFACT.
What else can you tell me about EDIFACT?
The EDIFACT protocol is an agreement on how information in your business transaction will be presented electronically. It is a set of internationally agreed upon rules for composing electronic communications. The published EDIFACT protocol includes:
- standards for constructing messages that can be read by any computer
- directories of standard message components
- guidelines for using messages and their components
There are over 100 EDIFACT messages in various stages of development (80 are approved and currently in use.) Only about a dozen messages are actually used in book-trade communications as defined by EDItEUR.
What are the structural components of an EDIFACT communication?
- Interchange— An interchange is a communication that consists of a single message or a group of messages.
- Message— An EDI message is the equivalent of a paper document. Examples of message type codes are ORDERS, INVOIC, QUOTES, ORDRSP, etc. Voyager's user-friendly interface allows you to search and display one message at a time.
- Group— A group can be defined within an interchange to collect similar types of messages together.
- Header— The header is the first section of a message. Examples include the message id code, the addresses of the sender and receiver, the date of composition, an expiration date if appropriate, and information about taxes and surcharges that apply to the entire message.
- Detail Line/Item Line— A detail line or line item is the section of a message that deals with one item. Detail lines in an order or invoice correspond directly to individual Voyager line items.
- Summary— The summary section is the last section of the message. It contains message totals and control information. Examples include invoice totals, line item counts, and informational subtotals for taxes and surcharges.
- Segment— The segment is the basic unit from which messages and interchanges are composed. It typically holds one piece of information (such as a price) and may also include supporting information— for example the applicable currency, or the type of price (e.g. catalog price, educational discount price, etc.)
- Data Elements— Data elements are the component parts of a segment. For example, a coded value has three data elements to represent a date/time value.
- Coded Values— When possible, EDLFACT uses short codes (two or three letters or digits) to represent information. For example, the "CCYYMMDD" format.
- Delimiters— Delimiters are the punctuation marks used to compose an EDIFACT message. There are four main EDIFACT delimiters. The segment terminator marks the end of one segment and the beginning of the next. It is usually an apostrophe (‘). The data element separator (+) and the component separator (:) separate data elements within a segment. Two types of separators means that data elements (separated by "+") can be subdivided into component elements (separated by ":"). The fourth delimiter is the release or escape character (?). It must precede any delimiter character that is being used as literal data rather than as a delimiter.
What are some examples of EDT/EDIFACT messages?
The following is used with permission from Part II: Business Cycle Overview of the EDItEUR manual. A transaction can begin in any one of three ways: Quotes Message Example
HARRASSOWITZ (the supplier) sends KSU (their customer) a notification of a title KSU may be interested in acquiring. This notification is described as a QUOTES message.
- HARRASSOWITZ sends QUOTES to KSU
- KSU sends ORDERS to HARRASSOWITZ
- Is the quoted item available for delivery?
- If YES, HARRASSOWITZ sends an INVOIC to KSU and the item is dispatched
- If NO, HARRASSOWITZ sends ORDRSP to KSU, then HARRASSOWITZ sends an INVOIC to KSU and the item is dispatched.
Acquisition Message Example
HARRASSOWITZ sends KSU an approval copy of a title that they feel KSU may be interested in acquiring. HARRASSOWITZ sends an approval item to KSU.
- HARRASSOWITZ sends a QUOTES and an INVOIC to KSU.
- If KSU keeps the approval item, they pay the invoice.
- If KSU returns the approval item, they send a debit note (IN VOIC) to HARRASSOWITZ and HARRASSOWITZ sends a credit note (INVOIC) to KSU.
Order Message Example
KSU sends HARRASSOWITZ an order, in the form of an EDI ORDERS message, for an item that has not been the subject of notification. HARBASSOWITZ responds with an INVOIC message if they are able to supply the order immediately, or with an ORDRSP (Order Response) message, if the item is unavailable or will take time to obtain. In the latter event, KSU may cancel the order with an ORDCHG (Order change) message, or may wait for supply, which will also be accompanied by sending an EDI INVOIC message.
How does EDT work for serial subscriptions?
There are two main cycles involving serial subscriptions: the subscription renewal cycle, and the claims process.
- Subscription Renewal Cycle
The essential part of the subscription renewal process is that the subscription agent sends an INVOIC message to the library indicating what subscriptions have been ordered and also requests payment. The EDItEUR guidelines suggest that the INVOIC message be preceded by a "renewal quotation," sent as a QUOTES message with a specific date by which the library should reply. This lists all the subscriptions and prices, and gives the library an opportunity to make changes (via an ORDCHG message) before the invoice is composed and sent. Provisions for handling new orders and making library-initiated changes outside the renewal process (e.g. canceling a subscription before it expires) continue to be discussed by the committee.
- Claims Process
The claims process uses an OSTENQ (order status inquiry) message to send a claim to a supplier, and an ORDRSP (order response) message to receive HARRASSOWITZ's response. A new EDIFACT addition is the use of the DESADV (dispatch advice) message for a supplier to inform the library in advance that an issue will be late, omitted, or combined. This has the potential to eliminate many routine claims. EDItEUR codes for claim reasons will be functionally compatible with the SISAC code set.