What is EDIFACT and How to exchange EDIFACT Messages with a trading partner?

  • January 21, 2021 / by Infocon Systems


EDIFACT stands for Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport. UN/EDIFACT is one of the most widely used EDI standards today used by many organisations

It is a very common global standard for electronic data interchange and published by UNECE, and they also maintain it. The EDIFACT standards cover interactive exchange protocol, data element directories and syntax rules which cover delimiter characters etc.

EDIFACT Structure

Any electronic document in UN / EDIFACT represents a massage and it has a hierarchical structure. The EDIFACT syntax and the guidelines set the standards for structuring data elements into segments, segments into messages, and messages into an interchange. Also, the syntax enables the user to optimise the transfer files so that only the required content is transferred. Top level of hierarchical structure is referred to as an interchange, and lower levels keep various messages which consist of segments, which in turn consist of composites.

EDIFACT message

An EDIFACT message represents a single business document. – For example, a ORDRSP file represents a Purchase Order note. Each message has a six-letter identifier that shows the short name of the message,.

Some of the standard EDIFACT messages are the following:

ORDERS           Purchase order message

ORDRSP           Purchase Order Acknowledgment

INVRPT            Inventory Inquiry/Advice

DESADV           Shipment Notification ASN

INVOIC            Invoice

CONTRL           Functional acknowledgment

ORDCHG         Purchase Order Change – Buyer Initiated

EDIFACT Segments    

An EDIFACT segment is a Group of similar data elements in a fixed, defined sequence. EDIFACT segments contain a three-character alphanumeric code that identifies the segment (segment tag) and Variable length data elements (either simple or composite).

Data element separator (data element delimiter) requires to separate the segments, which is normally + and:, and terminated by a segment terminator, normally. There are two kinds of segments, Service Segments and Generic Segments. Envelopes s (UNB-UNZ, UNG-UNE, UNH-UNT), Delimiter String Advice (UNA) and Section Separator (UNS) are the Service Segments. DOC, MOA, DTM and NAD are the Generic Segments.

EDIFACT Data Element

Data elements represent smallest, non-dividing parts of information in a segment, e.g. the amount of tax, the name of the destination and the document date. The composite data element contains more than one component data elements. A component data element is a simple data element contains one piece of information and used in a composite data element.     

EDIFACT Delimiters

Below is the list of delimiters:

Segment delimiter        '     apostrophe          Hex: 0x27

Element delimiter        +     plus sign           Hex: 0x2B

Subelement delimiter     :     colon               Hex: 0x3A

Decimal Separator        .     period              Hex: 0x2E

Release character        ?     question mark       Hex: 0x3F

EDIFACT Qualifier

A data element whose function is to additional definition to another data element is referred to as a qualifier. These are typically ID (code values) fields. The code sets are part of the UN/EDIFACT Code Lists (EDCL).

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