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EDI 856 Advanced Shipping Notice Specifications

EDI 856 Advanced Shipping Notice Transaction Specifications

1. What is an EDI 856 Advanced Shipping Notice?

The EDI 856 transaction is more commonly called the EDI Advance Ship Notice or EDI ASN. It is utilized to electronically communicate the contents of a shipment to another trading partner. It is sent in advance of a shipment arriving at the other trading partner’s facility. The 856 ship manifest transaction is commonly used by the retail, manufacturing and automotive industries in response to EDI 850, EDI 830, or EDI 862 transactions. In addition to detailing the contents of a shipment, the EDI 856 transaction includes order information, descriptions of products, types of packaging used, carrier information and more. An EDI ASN may provide information at a variety of levels, including:

  • Shipment level information such as tracking numbers and carrier information
  • Order level information such as purchase order numbers
  • Item level information including items and quantities
  • Pack level information such as barcodes printed on each carton

The EDI 856 may be the most complicated document to implement for suppliers. Each trading partner can have very different requirements, which puts the burden on the supplier to support many different formats. The EDI ASN also becomes a data collection issue because of the volume of data points that must be captured and transmitted back to the trading partner. For example, each carton in a shipment may be assigned a unique barcode identifier that must be transmitted back to the trading partner. If you ship goods and need to meet trading partner requirements for Advance Ship Notices, EDI Here can help. Contact Us Today to learn more!

2. What is an EDI 856 document?

The EDI 856 Advance Ship Notice (ASN) document is used to communicate one or more fulfillments for a single order, and includes basic shipment information such as the carrier details, tracking numbers, shipping address, and items being shipped. 

856 documents are formatted in the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) x12 EDI standard in North America and EDIFACT in Europe (where they’re referred to as DESpatch ADvice or DESADV messages). Parties who receive an 856 file usually respond with an EDI 997 Functional Acknowledgement file. 

3. What are the Essential Components of EDI 856?

An ASN needs to contain important information about the order itself, as well as the details of the shipment. Key elements of EDI 856 include:

  • Shipment Number
  • Shipping Date
  • Expected delivery date
  • Ship from/to addresses and information
  • Purchase order number
  • Item details and quantities
  • Shipment tracking details (ex. BOL Number, PRO Number, Tracking Number)
  • Item tracking details where applicable (i.e. Serial number or lot numbers)
  • Packaging detail (ex. Which items are in a specific carton, which cartons on each pallet, etc.)
  • UCC128/GS1 Numbers

4. How does a typical EDI 856 structure look like?

4.1 Common information in the EDI 856 transaction includes:

  • Contents of shipment
  • Order information
  • Description of products
  • Types of packaging used
  • Carrier information

4.2 How does a typical ANSI X12 EDI 856 Structure look like?

An ASN message uses segments and elements defined by the ANSI X12 EDI 856 guideline. EDI solutions – which can either be an on-premises solution or EDI Cloud Service – send, receive and process EDI messages like the EDI 856. It is required to follow the ANSI X12 EDI 856 standards to ensure a high quality of the process.

A typical ANSI X12 EDI 856 Message includes:

  • Information concerning parts that are shipped (Material No., Material description)
  • Quantities that are sent
  • Shipment and Arrival date
  • Ship to address (Plant, Dock/Gate addresses)
  • Terms of delivery which can be based on INCOTERMS. INCOTERMS stands for International Commercial Terms which are a set of pre-defined commercial terms provided by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).
  • Carrier data (Carrier name, Means of transport, etc.)
  • Packaging (Package No., Package Type, Serial No.)

5. How do I Use EDI 856?

After receiving an order and preparing a shipment, the sellers or shippers then need to let the buyer, such as a retailer or distributor, know the details for the shipment they are about to receive.  This helps the buyer to plan ahead for incoming shipments, reconcile EDI 856 detail with incoming inventory, and automate receiving workflows.

EDI 856 is a required EDI document for most major retailers. Using EDI software to send this information makes it possible to rapidly provide retailers with the information they need for each shipment. Sellers can also use ASNs for their drop-shipping programs or to inform eCommerce marketplaces. These give the buyer expected delivery dates and tracking information.

ASNs are vital for distribution centers and warehouses. In many cases, the ASN may include additional details, such as mark-for locations and GS1-128 numbers for each carton or pallet.

5.1 Processing of the ANSI X12 EDI 856 Message

The supplier generates an ANSI X12 EDI 856 message typically at the moment a shipment is done for the customer. On customer side the receiving system validates the ASN message from the supplier against the ANSI X12 EDI 856 specifications and sends back a functional acknowledgement (ANSI X12 997 message) confirming the reception of the ANSI X12 EDI 856 message. After reception the ASN message is forwarded to the ERP system where it will show up as planned shipment.

5.2 ANSI X12 EDI 856 Message in context of ANSI X12 EDI 830- and ANSI X12 EDI 850 message

An EDI 856 ASN is used typically in the manufacturing and in the retail industries in conjunction with order processes, delivery schedules and purchase orders. In both industry scenarios the customer first sends an order message either as ANSI X12 EDI 830- or as ANSI X12 EDI 850 indicating what the supplier has to deliver and when. At the delivery step the supplier is creating an ANSI X12 EDI 856 message answering either of the 2 document types triggering the shipment.

5.3 How is the ANSI X12 EDI 856 Format called in other EDI Message Standards?

In the Northern America region ANSI X12 has seen a wide adoption as the primary EDI standard. In Europe and ASIA EDIFACT and VDA messages are encountered more often. The EDIFACT defines DESADV as standard for exchanging ASN information. In the automotive industries you also come across the VDA4987 and VDA4913 standard to exchange shipment information.

6. EDI 856 Advanced Shipping Notice Workflow

EDI Workflow for processing of the ANSI X12 EDI 856 Message

Documents exchanged between EDI trading partners follow a typical sequence of business processes. The sequence of exchanged ANSI X12 messages depends on the industry. The figures below show the role of an ANSI X12 EDI 856 standard in a manufacturing scenario and in the retail industry:

Workflow example for the exchange of an ANSI X12 EDI 856 – ASN message in the automotive industry
Workflow example for the exchange of an ANSI X12 EDI 856 – ASN message in the retail industry

7.Benefits of the EDI 856

7.1 What are the Benefits of EDI 856?

By using EDI 856 to send advance ship notices, sellers can quickly and easily keep buyers informed of upcoming deliveries. Because the EDI document pulls data directly from the order itself, as well as other shipping documents, this method also helps prevent errors. Suppliers can use ASNs to streamline partner communications, while creating an electronic document trail for each shipment, in case of discrepancies.

For retailers, using EDI 856 helps them track inbound inventory and plan labor based on upcoming deliveries. Additionally, ASNs allow buyers to automate the receiving process to quicker putaway.

After receiving EDI 856, a buyer responds with an EDI 997 Functional Acknowledgement.

7.2 Benefits using EDI and the ANSI X12 EDI 856 Message

Benefits exchanging shipment information via ANSI X12 EDI 856 for both – the customer and the supplier – are:

  • Reduces employee workload tremendously as data has not to be keyed in manually as shipment information is exchanged very frequently
  • Preventing errors as data is generated automatically by the system w/o human interaction
  • Reduces costs as less paper has to be exchanged

7.3 Benefits specific to suppliers

  • Automatic generation of shipments information in form of an EDI 856 message saves time and reduces costs
  • Fulfilling ANSI X12 EDI 856 standards will lead to higher acceptance for new customer projects and better supplier ratings

7.4 Benefits specific to customers

  • Lesser workload and errors as information is already present with the ANSI X12 856 message and doesn’t need to be typed in by customer personnel.
  • Shipment information is received in advance so that planning for production and inventory can be enhanced. It is practically impossible to run a JIT (Just-In-Time) or JIS (Just-In-Sequence) assembly line without ASNs, which is due to the risk of not knowing if supplies arrive on time.
  • Goods receipt is accelerated as data referring to the shipment is already on the customer side. In addition with barcode labels the data from the EDI 856 message can quickly be aligned using RFID- or Barcode-Scanners reducing human errors at goods receipt tremendously.

7.5 Typical Errors when using the ANSI X12 EDI 856 Message

Problems that occur when exchanging ASN messages are commonly based on wrong data referring to the shipment. Wrong package information or reflecting the package structure incorrectly in the EDI 856 ASN are errors customers usually face. Because of that some customers also started to introduce penalties for suppliers not sending in the proper ANSI X12 EDI 856 format or send no EDI 856 ASN at all as it raises significant effort on their side to correct or key in the data manually. Typical issues when sending ANSI 856 messages are:

  • Quantity in ASN does not match with the quantity actually shipped
  • Packaging numbers are wrong or missing
  • Packaging structure (which boxes belong to which pallet) is not in line with the actual shipment

8. EDI X12 856 Sample

Here’s a sample EDI 856 file for dropship:

EDI X12 856 Sample

Don’t be alarmed; there’s a lot to unpack here. If you don’t have experience handling EDI files, it might be very confusing to try and understand them.

EDI files are made up of standardized sequences of data elements called segments. We’ll break down the most important segments so that you’ll be able to understand any 856 file at a glance. 

EDI 856 files are a little different compared to other EDI files (like EDI 846 or EDI 850 files) in that they have a hierarchical structure that looks like this:

EDI X12 856 Sample

Similar to other EDI files, EDI 856 files are denoted by the transaction set identifier code in the first element of the ST segment. 

Each section in the hierarchical structure of an EDI file is denoted by the HL segment header, which stands for Hierarchical Level. Each HL loop has its own segment identifier in the first line of the loop, which influences the hierarchy you see in the file.

  1. S denotes Shipment information – the shipment’s routing information, including its destination, and its associated carrier information.
  2. O denotes Order – which order the shipment is associated with.
    The PRF identifier in this loop refers to the purchase order number associated with the order.
  3. P denotes Pack – the package that contains the items in the shipment.
    The CP identifier refers to the Carrier Package ID. This can help you cross-reference packages in an order when you or your customer receives them.
  4. I denotes Item – the products that are in each package.
    In this example, products are identified by their UPC code (UP). PID (Product Description/Item Description) is the segment identifier that contains the product’s information.

In case you’re curious about the other segment identifiers and qualifiers that are part of this EDI transaction, like BSN, CTT, DTM, LIN loops, and more, check out our Support article that breaks this document down further. 

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