X12 vs. EDIFACT
As your business expands globally, you’ll eventually hear about EDIFACT. And if you are already familiar with EDI for your company, your first question will probably be: how is EDIFACT different from X12, the EDI format used throughout North America?
To begin, you should understand that EDIFACT is the dominant EDI format in Europe and Asia. Think of it like some other things that are slightly different in other places around the world—power outlets, television standards, the level of enthusiasm for cheeseburgers. Initially developed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe in 1986—X12 was launched by the Accredited Standards Committee in 1979—it is an international standard used by government, industry, and retailers. If your markets are expanding and you’re selling globally, EDIFACT is going to be a part of that and being able to work within it will be critical to success when you enter new markets. EDIFACT is also gaining traction in certain industries outside of Europe and Asia, as some supply chain administrators have shown an affinity for it.
IS EDIFACT more challenging than X12?
If you are working with a capable EDI provider, they should be able to have you working in EDIFACT without missing a beat. The bottom line is that, just like X12, EDIFACT is a data format that facilitates the exchange of information between suppliers and their trading partners. The tasks it completes are the same—the biggest difference is that it uses abbreviations instead of numbers to describe many documents.
For example, you are probably well-versed in, say, the EDI 820. It exists in EDIFACT but it’s known as the REMADV. If you’re accustomed to saying the 820, you ‘ll have to say R-E-M-A-D-V when you’re referring to this document in EDIFACT. (You could also say REMADV, but that seems challenging.) Most of the abbreviations in EDIFACT are easy to follow and will make sense to anyone with EDI experience, although a few are tricky.
Here’s a list of the basic document label differences between ANSI and X12.
Work with a global EDI provider.
Lifestyle brand Guess has reported that more than 40% of its revenue now comes from European markets. As mall vacancy rates increase in the United States, rents are going up in many Asian markets as an emerging middle class flexes its shopping muscle. Clearly, gaining market share around the world will be critical for any brand that wants consistent year-over-year growth.
At eZCom, we’ve made the investment in our platform and our people to ensure that our clients can meet the EDIFACT standards of retailers around the world. Our diverse client roster includes many brands that sell high-end, luxury goods, often to retailers who are established outside of the United States. Our experience with EDIFACT is vital. If you envision a larger footprint across more countries for your products, establish a relationship with an EDI provider that can keep pace with you on your journey.
If you’re working with an EDI provider right now, ask if they know EDIFACT. Even if you currently only sell in North America, business is more global than ever before and having a software solution that can handle EDIFACT can be critical to future growth. Today, it’s the rare brand that doesn’t have at least some international sales, and having an EDI provider that can handle different standards is important.
Want to learn more about EDI documents? Here's a guide.