Increasingly, businesses and other organizations are integrating electronic data interchange with emerging technologies – and reaping numerous benefits, such as increased efficiency, improved accuracy, enhanced visibility, and reduced costs. In this article, we focus primarily on EDI integrations with three emerging technologies: the Internet of Things, blockchain technology, and artificial intelligence.
While there are some challenges associated with these integrations – including difficulties with data security, complexity, and system interoperability – there are feasible solutions to them all. These include hiring experienced providers, building solid internal integration teams, implementing robust data security systems, ensuring interoperability, and calculating return on investment.
Examples of EDI integration with emerging technologies include the in-tandem use by businesses of both IoT sensors to track the location and condition of goods being shipped and the use of EDI to exchange shipment notices, invoices, delivery confirmations, and more with trading partners.
This piece also discusses how the integration of EDI with blockchain technology can create a tamper-proof record of a business’ transactions, providing it with better security and increased transparency and traceability.
In the future, the integration of EDI with emerging technologies will likely become more crucial to supply-chain management. As technological advancements are made, cloud computing, big-data analytics and the move toward real-time insights are all likely to play more of a role.
EDI Today and Tomorrow
Today EDI – the electronic exchange of business documents between trading partners in a standardized format – is intersecting more and more frequently with emerging technologies in the marketplace. The impact on supply chains has been sizable and will only grow as we move forward.
Emerging technologies are a range of innovative tools and techniques that are still being developed and tested, but which show promise for widespread future adoption. Currently emergent tech includes the IoT, blockchain technology and AI.
These developing technologies are already changing the face of business operations, and companies will very likely need to adopt them in order to remain relevant. AI and machine learning are bolstering the efficiency and accuracy of data processing, simplifying tasks and reducing the need for manual data entry. Blockchain technology can create a secure and tamper-proof ledger for transactional data, giving boosts to security, trust and transparency in EDI.
For its part, the IoT is enabling the creation of interconnected smart devices that can autonomously exchange data. This has the capability of streamlining supply-chain operations.
As these emerging technologies mature and their use broadens, the businesses that use them will likely gain competitive advantages in their respective markets.
EDI and the Internet of Things (IoT)
What is the IoT? It’s a network of connected sensors, machines and devices capable of transmitting data to each other via the internet, and it can play a crucial role in bettering organizations’ traceability, visibility and efficiency.
Companies can use IoT sensors to monitor the location and condition of goods and assets throughout the supply chain, offering real-time information that can be used to optimize operations.
Integrating EDI with IoT can bring out the best in both technologies. The former can give a standardized, structured format for data exchange between trading partners, while the latter can provide the real-time data needed for more accurate transactions. For example, a business can utilize EDI to exchange invoices, purchase orders and shipment notices with its trading partners, while IoT sensors can provide the business with data on the location and condition of items being shipped. All of this will give the company more accurate delivery estimates and help it improve its inventory management.
There are additional benefits to EDI-IoT integration. It can reduce errors and delays in supply-chain operations, since businesses can use real-time information from IoT sensors to automatically synchronize and update EDI transactions. It can also enhance the quality and speed of customer service by giving buyers accurate, timely updates on their purchases.
Perhaps most importantly to many, businesses that use modernized integrations such as this one can expect to see a 335% return on investment, according to global market intelligence firm IDC.
Here is what EDI-IoT integration can look like in practice: In the retail sector, companies use Radio Frequency Identification tags and sensors to track inventory levels and monitor customer buying patterns and other behavior. They also use EDI to automatically reorder items and update supply systems.
In logistics, when a shipment is delivered, sensors on the delivery truck will automatically communicate with the recipient’s inventory-management system via EDI, giving updates on the package’s status. This removes the need for human-done data entry, virtually eliminating room for error and saving hours of employee time. Across industries, companies are using IoT sensors to monitor the performance of their products at work. This lets them spot and correct any potential problems before they turn into major disruptions.
EDI and Blockchain Technology
Blockchain technology is a structure that allows for transparent information sharing in a business network. A blockchain database stores data in blocks that are linked together in a chain. In supply chains, blockchain technology can be used to create tamper-proof records of all transactions, which increases companies’ transparency and security.
When businesses integrate EDI with blockchain technology, they get a clear, standardized format for information exchange with their trading partners as well as a secure database for recording and verifying transactions.
But blockchain-EDI integration offers several benefits besides increased security and transparency. It can boost traceability in operations, allowing companies to better track the movement of their goods and assets throughout the supply chain. It can also make for more efficient operations by cutting down on the need for human intervention and streamlining information exchange between trading partners.
We see blockchain-EDI integration at play in several increasingly common business practices. More companies are using smart contracts – documents programmed to automatically self-execute when specific conditions are met – to automate various supply-chain transactions. This speeds those transactions considerably. Companies are also using blockchain-based supply-chain platforms to make their data more transparent and secure during transactions with trading partners.
EDI and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI is a technology that allows machines to learn from data and perform tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence. In supply chains, it can be used to analyze large volumes of information, identify patterns and trends and make forecasts and recommendations to optimize operations.
Integrating EDI and AI means that companies get both a structured format for data exchange and the data-processing and analysis capabilities they need in order to optimize their functions. This integration can help them automate processes so they reduce their spending and increase their efficiency.
EDI-AI integration has several main advantages. It can improve supply-chain planning by analyzing data and forecasting future demand (and thus necessary inventory levels). It can make supply-chain visibility better by allowing businesses to track and monitor shipments. Finally, it can improve decision making by giving recommendations based on historical data analysis.
Successful EDI-AI integration is seen in companies’ use of machine-learning algorithms to automatically reconcile purchase orders and invoices, a practice that reduces the need for human intervention. It is also on display when organizations employ predictive analytics to forecast inventory requirements, reducing the chances of both insufficient and excess products in storage.
Challenges in Implementing EDI with Emerging Technologies
The integration of EDI with various emerging technologies offers organizations a host of benefits – but it also comes with some drawbacks, which must be considered. These include:
- Cost: Integrating EDI with emerging technologies can come with a high price tag. Organizations considering integration should be sure they have the capital to invest in integration before they commit to it.
- Complexity: Integrations of EDI with blockchain, IoT or AI can be complicated and require a lot of resources and expertise. Companies must have in place the know-how needed to implement and maintain the systems they are putting in.
- Security: Data security becomes a bigger concern as the volume and complexity of exchanged data increases. Organizations must implement strong security measures to protect sensitive information from data breaches and other cyber threats.
- Interoperability: There are numerous EDI and emerging-tech solutions available, which can make ensuring interoperability difficult. Businesses must find EDI and emerging-technology solutions that integrate seamlessly both with their existing systems and with the existing systems of all their trading partners.
The above challenges are not insurmountable, however. Below are some steps companies can take to overcome them:
- Engage an experienced provider: Entities can partner with knowledgeable providers that can help them navigate the often-complex integration landscape and offer tailored guidance.
- Build a good team: Companies need a dedicated internal team of experts with the right skills and resources to implement and maintain the integrated systems.
- Ensure data security: A company has to have powerful security in place to shield sensitive data from cybercriminals. This could include multi-factor authentication, data encryption and data backup and recovery systems.
- Ensure interoperability: Businesses have to be certain that their EDI and emerging technology systems can work with those of their trading partners.
- Calculate ROI: Before investing in integration, a business should calculate the return on investment and determine that the benefits outweigh the costs.
Future of EDI Integrations with Emerging Technologies
In coming years and decades, the role of EDI integrations with emerging technologies will grow, particularly in supply-chain management. As increasing numbers of firms adopt digital solutions to improve the way their businesses function, the demand for ever-more advanced technologies will grow.
For example, "intelligent edge" – a network of sensors and devices that gather and analyze data in real-time – will take over more business decision-making. And experts expect that in the next two years the majority of companies will be using smart robots in their warehouses, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets.
Integrations of EDI with IoT, blockchain and AI will become more common across industries and business types. By giving companies more comprehensive data insights, enhanced visibility into their operations and the ability to automate numerous tasks that were previously done by employees, these integrations will speed operations, improve customer servicing and increase revenue.
Also expected to provide a boost to EDI integrations down the road: advancements in big data analytics and cloud computing, which will give users even more tools to achieve their business goals.
Other factors are likely to influence these integrations as well. A growing consumer appetite for real-time data insights will lead to the development of new technological tools capable of enabling optimal decision-making. And more widespread use of blockchain technology will give businesses better data security and increased transparency, allowing them to be more efficient and productive.
EDI integration with emerging technologies – particularly IoT, blockchain and AI – is becoming more critical for businesses that want to improve their supply-chain operations. These integrations offer benefits including increased efficiency, improved accuracy, enhanced visibility and reduced costs. As technology advances, EDI integrations with emerging technologies will likely be shaped by other factors, including cloud computing, big data analytics and the move toward real-time data insights.
In the next few years and beyond, we are likely to see continued innovation in the integration of EDI with emerging technologies, as businesses seek to gain a competitive edge in their markets. While hurdles to integration – such as challenges with data security, complexity and interoperability – will probably continue to arise, companies will increasingly be able to clear them. By partnering with experienced providers, building strong teams and evaluating ROI before implementing integrations, businesses will likely see success integrating EDI with emerging technologies.