What is EDIFACT? Everything you need to know about the EDI standard (2023)

EDI projects require a wide variety of specialized knowledge. In our glossary, we provide answers to most of the terms you may encounter in your EDI project.



The term UN/EDIFACT often also only "EDIFACT" is an abbreviation for the term: "United Nations Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport".

The term refers to an international standard format for electronic data interchange (EDI). The UN/EDFICAT standard has been published since 1988 and has since been regularly updated by CEFACT (a grouping within UNECE).

The EDIFACT standard is predominantly to be found in the European economic area. The corresponding format in the USA is ANSI X12.

New versions of the standard - also called Directories - are published every six months. The different versions of a year are then called e.g. 18A and 18B (18A: first version 2018, 18B second version 2018). An overview of all Directories can be found on the official website of the UNECE. The Directories contain the different message types that correspond to specific business transactions or documents. The most common message types are: ORDERS, ORDRSP, INVOIC, DESADV, SLSRPT and IFTMIN.


You want to manage delivery notifications (DESADV)?

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You want to send electronic invoices (INVOIC)?

Learn more about e-invoicing and the EDIFACT message standard!

E-Invoicing with i‑effect®®

What is an EDIFACT file?

An EDIFACT file is basically like a simple text file that can be opened using a text editor. EDIFACT files often lack line breaks (CRLF) to minimize the file size. The EDI converter does not need you for reading in anyway, since each segment is terminated with a segment end character ('). The special thing about EDIFACT files is the biliterale or generally valid vote about the structure (syntax) of the file.

Simplified: With EDIFACT files, everyone knows in advance what must or could be in which position. The structure of the file is defined.

The following list gives an overview of all EDIFACT message types (UNSM) published by UNECE:





C, D


E, F, G, H




J, L
M, O, P, Q, R
S, T, U, V, W

EDIFACT subsets

In addition to the Directories published by UNECE, there are also numerous subsets. Subsets are shortened directories adapted to the message types standardized by UNECE.

The message types for the various subsets are adapted to the requirements of the respective industry (subsets may not contain any new segments or changed segment sequences). A subset should always be readable with the higher-level UNECE standard format). The best known subset is the EANCOM subset of GS1. The EANCOM subset contains the post-item types and adaptations necessary for the consumer goods industry/trade. There are also subsets in other industries, which are often maintained by industry associations or interest groups.

The following EDIFACT subsets exist (DACH):

  • CEFIC - Chemical industry
  • EANCOM - Consumer goods industry
  • [emailprotected] - Electricity and Gas (only valid for Germany)
  • EDIBDB - Building materials industry
  • EDIFICE - Electronics, software and telecommunications industry
  • EDIFOR - freight forwarding industry
  • EDIFURN - Furniture industry
  • EDIGAS - Gas Transmission and Trade
  • EDILEKTRO - Electrical Industry / Electrical Wholesale
  • EDILIBE - Booksellers
  • EDIPAP - paper manufacturer / paper wholesaler / paper converting industry
  • EDITEC - Sanitary industry
  • EDITEX - Textile industry
  • EDITRANS - Transport economy
  • EDIWHEEL - Tyre and wheel manufacturer (incl. AdHoc EDI)
  • ETIS - Telecommunication (only for invoice)
  • ODA/ODIF - General document formats
  • ODETTE - Automotive industry
  • RINET - Insurance industry

Structure of an EDIFACT message (explanation)

An EDIFACT message consists of the following syntax elements (according to ISO 9735).


There are two segment types:

  • Service segments (starting with UN) UNH+1+ORDERS:D:18A:UN'
  • User data segments (All other) e.g. DTM+4:20181224:102'

Service segments are easy to identify because they always begin with the two letters "UN". Service segments include for example: UNA (character definitions), UNB (header information), UNH (message header and identification of the message itself), UNT and UNZ (message close).

However, there are also the following less known service segments:

Segment name Description
UIB Interactive interchange header
UIH Interactive message header
UIR Interactive status
UIT Interactive message trailer
UIZ Interactive interchange trailer
UNB Interchange header
UNE Group trailer
UNG Group header
UNH Message header
UNO Object header
UNP Object trailer
UNS Section control
UNT Message trailer
UNZ Interchange trailer

The user data segments contain the actual user data of the messages. i.e. values such as amounts, addresses, quantities, etc. Examples of known user data segments are: DTM (dates), RFF (references), QTY (quantities), NAD (addresses), PRI (prices), and many more.

Segment groups (SGX)

In EDIFACT there are segment groups in addition to the segments themselves. A segment group consists of at least two different segments. As an example: The segment group with the name SG29 in an ORDERS consists of the segments LIN & QTY. The segments, as well as the group, can be optional or necessary. The segment group can often repeat itself or the segments contained in it.

LIN+1++Christmas tree:SA'

These two lines with the segments LIN and QTY are child elements of segment group 29. The segment group itself may repeat 200,000 times. The purchase order could therefore contain 200,000 different items with different quantities.

data elements

Data elements represent the smallest unit of an EDIFACT message. They contain "simply" data and have the following properties: length (e.g. 0-35) and occurrence (e.g. optional or mandatory). The following segment contains the data element C507 → 2380 from the segment DTM.


The date is displayed in 102 format. The value '102' (data element with code list - see next section) is in a code list and means that the date in this segment: '20181224' is formatted according to the format YYYYMMDD. However, the data element C507 → 2380 itself contains only the date.

Data element with associated code lists

If possible, data elements to which code lists are assigned should only contain values from the code list. A code list is a list with key-value pairs. For example, certain codes/abbreviations are assigned meanings. An example is the Incoterms in logistics: The code "EXW" means EX Works.

In practice, however, it often happens that free texts are also filled instead of the permitted values. Modern EDI converters can supplement code lists or accept any values and warn if the transmitted codes are not contained in the code list. This is not really recommended or intended.

In this case the code means "AIP" from the code list: A free text question. This means that the segment that follows contains a question: Delivery until Christmas possible?

FTX+AIP+Delivery until Christmas possible?

In this case the code AIP from the code list means: A free text question. This means that the segment that follows contains a question. Namely: Delivery until Christmas possible?

Composite & Composite Data Elements

A "composite" contains several composite data elements. Thus a composite can also be referred to as a group of data elements within a segment.


An example of a frequently used composite is the composite C507 in the DTM segment. Here, three composite data elements (2005, 2380 & 2379) are combined in one composite.

Separating and control characters

In a message, the various elements are separated by separators. Essentially, these are the data elements and the composites. Which characters are used to separate the message is defined in the UNA service segment. In the standard definition, the plus sign (+) is used to separate data elements & segments and the colon (:) is used for composite data elements.

Another important control character is the segment end character, which is a single apostrophe in the standard system. This character is used to close the segment or initiate a new one. In the productive operation of an EDI system, the line breaks (CRLF) are omitted in favour of the file size in the EDIFACT message.

Example of an order in EDIFACT (EDIFACT ORDERS)

The following EDIFACT file shows an order sent via Edifact from 01.12.2018 to Amazon (GLN: 4062268000006). The sender of the message is the company menten (GLN 4399901544994). A Christmas tree (1st piece) is ordered with the order number ORD4711.

UNA:+? '
FTX+AIP+Lieferung bis Weihnachten möglich??'
NAD+BY+4399901544994++menten GmbH+An der Gohrsmühle 25+Bergisch Gladbach++51465'

The definition/directory or the EDIFACT message itself can also be easily displayed using a EDI-Viewer.

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To the Glossary


What is EDIFACT? Everything you need to know about the EDI standard? ›

What is EDIFACT? EDIFACT is the abbreviation for "Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport". This is a global set of rules defined by the UN for the inter-company electronic data exchange between two or more business partners via EDI.

What is the EDIFACT standard in EDI? ›

UN/EDIFACT (the United Nations rules for Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport) comprise a set of internationally agreed standards, directories, and guidelines for the electronic interchange of structured data, between independent computerized information systems.

What is the difference between EDI and EDIFACT? ›

What Are the Differences Between EDI and EDIFACT? Geography: The primary difference is geography. EDI X12 is most widely used in the United States and in North America. EDIFACT is mostly used by European- and Asian-based organizations.

What is EDI and its standards? ›

EDI, which stands for electronic data interchange, is the intercompany communication of business documents in a standard format. The simple definition of EDI is a standard electronic format that replaces paper-based documents such as purchase orders or invoices.

What are the three EDI standards? ›

There are several EDI standards in use today, including ANSI, EDIFACT, TRADACOMS and ebXML.

What is the importance of EDIFACT? ›

EDIFACT was designed to simplify and standardize the communication between trading parties that were relying on electronic data interchange (EDI) as their primary form of communication.

What is the structure of EDIFACT? ›

Structure. EDIFACT has a hierarchical structure where the top level is referred to as an interchange, and lower levels contain multiple messages which consist of segments, which in turn consist of composites.

What does an EDIFACT provide? ›

EDIFACT is an English acronym for Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport. The EDIFACT standard aims to secure and accelerate trade. It enables companies to communicate and exchange all their business documents in EDI format with suppliers and subcontractors within their supply chain.

Are there any two EDI standards? ›

There are two types of EDI standards: Proprietary standard - EDI standard developed for a specific company or industry. This is also called a non-public or private standard. Public standard - EDI standard developed for use across one or more industries.

How many EDI formats are there? ›

There are over 300 X12 standards, all of which are identified by a three digit number (e.g. 810 for invoices) rather than the six letter code system used by EDIFACT and TRADACOMS. These EDI file format standards fall under X12's different industry-based subsets: AIAG – Automotive Industry Action Group.

What are the 4 major components of EDI? ›

EDI Components

An EDI transaction consists of four main components: the sender, the receiver, the EDI standard, and the EDI software. The sender is the party that initiates the transaction, such as an order, an invoice, or a payment.

What are the four elements of EDI? ›

A: The 4 major components of EDI are: standard document format, translation and mapping, preferred communication method and communication network to send and receive documents.

What is an example of EDI standard? ›

The most common EDI examples include; Shipping statuses (EDI 214) Purchase Orders (EDI 850) Payment confirmations (EDI 820)

What are the six steps involve to implement EDI? ›

Implementing EDI: 6 Steps To Integration

Which are the two most common EDI standards formats used in the USA? ›

GS1 EDI is used in retail globally. HL7 required by HIPAA regulation is predominant in U.S. healthcare.

What is the difference between EDI X12 and EDIFACT? ›

One of the differences between EDIFACT and X12 is their geographical region of use. EDIFACT is the primarily used EDI standard by companies in Europe and Asia, whereas X12 is the common EDI standard in the US and North America. Both EDI standards are widespread across different industries and sectors.

What is the EDIFACT XML format? ›

XML/EDIFACT is an Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) format used in Business-to-business transactions. It allows EDIFACT message types to be used by XML systems. EDIFACT is a formal machine-readable description of electronic business documents. It uses a syntax close to delimiter separated files.

What are versions of EDIFACT also called as? ›

Solution. The versions of EDIFACT are also called as directories.

What is EDIFACT code? ›

EDIFACT is the abbreviation for "Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport". This is a global set of rules defined by the UN for the inter-company electronic data exchange between two or more business partners via EDI.

What is the difference between EDIFACT and XML? ›

The ANSI or EDIFACT document is based upon strict rules governing the position of data within a file, whereas the data in an XML file is not bound to a specific location but is instead identified by tags, such as “<quantity>300 </quantity>” to indicate a quantity value of 300.

What is 997 in EDIFACT? ›

What is an EDI 997? EDI 997, also known as a Functional Acknowledgement, is used by trading partners to confirm the receipt of other EDI documents. EDI 997 is usually fully automated and lets the sending party know that an EDI transaction was received by their partner's EDI translation software.

What is the main feature of EDI? ›

EDI software creates an electronic version of the purchase order and transmits it automatically to the supplier. Supplier's order entry system receives the purchase order and updates the system immediately on receipt. Supplier's order entry system creates an acknowledgment an transmits it back to confirm receipt.

What is one of the key features of an EDI? ›

An EDI solution reduces the risk of data redundancy and duplication and enables a seamless flow of information across all your departments—thus, improving stakeholder relationships. EDI supports the exchange of standard business documents such as orders, acknowledgments, advanced shipping notices, and invoices.

What is one of the major advantages of EDI? ›

The main benefit of integrated EDI is that it removes the need to manually retype data which eliminates costly data entry errors. This saves considerable time and money and improves your customers' experience.

Who maintains EDI standards? ›

In 1979, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) chartered the Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) X12 to develop uniform standards for electronic data interchange (EDI). X12 develops and maintains EDI standards and XML schemas which drive business processes globally.

What is replacing EDI? ›

Some experts believe APIs will replace EDI, while others find they work well together. The aging EDI market leads to a shortage of relevant IT skills. PEPPOL protocol may make it easier for businesses to integrate EDI.

What are the different types of EDI? ›

Types of EDI
  • Direct EDI/Point-to-Point. Brought to prominence by Walmart, direct EDI, sometimes called point-to-point EDI, establishes a single connection between two business partners. ...
  • EDI via VAN or EDI Network Services Provider. ...
  • EDI via AS2. ...
  • EDI via FTP/VPN, SFTP, FTPS. ...
  • Web EDI. ...
  • Mobile EDI. ...
  • EDI Outsourcing. ...
  • EDI Software.

What is the most common EDI cycle? ›

EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) is the process of choice for helping manufacturers to increase their supply chain productivity through accurate and timely transactions. The supply chain cycle starts with an EDI 850 Purchase Order, which is one of the most common EDI transactions.

What tool reads EDI files? ›

UltraEdit is the ideal tool for opening and modifying EDI files which are common in the medical records industry.

What are the commonly used EDI standards? ›

Popular formats, such as X12, EDIFACT, TRADACOMS, and ebXML are used across industries to facilitate business communication, while niche variations and EDI formats specify transactions in unique industry scenarios.

What is X12 EDI standards 850? ›

The ANSI X12 EDI 850 is the Purchase Order Message sent by a customer to a supplier requesting services or goods. An electronic purchase order message is one of the most fundamental documents for automated B2B Transactions that should be part of an EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) workflow.

What is EDIFACT 997 equivalent? ›

EDI 997 documents follow the x12 format set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), a not-for-profit organization that regulates EDI formats in the U.S. For businesses using the EDIFACT standard, the equivalent of EDI 997 is the CONTROL message.

What are the components of EDI standards? ›

A: The 4 major components of EDI are: standard document format, translation and mapping, preferred communication method and communication network to send and receive documents.

What is X12 856 in EDIFACT? ›

What is an ANSI X12 EDI 856 Message? The ANSI X12 EDI 856 message – commonly known as Advanced Shipping Notice (ASN) – is a document the supplier sends to a customer for notification about an upcoming delivery via EDI.

How many standards are used for EDI? ›

There are two types of EDI standards: Proprietary standard - EDI standard developed for a specific company or industry. This is also called a non-public or private standard. Public standard - EDI standard developed for use across one or more industries.

What is ANSI X12 and EDIFACT? ›

The ANSI X12 EDI Message Standard

The goal of ANSI X12 is to uniform standards for inter-industry electronic exchange of business documents, namely EDI. ANSI X12 is a global set of rules for the intercompany electronic data exchange between two EDI Trading Partners.

What is X12 standards EDI? ›

The X12 EDI standard uses Interactive Exchange Protocol, which allows companies to exchange business-related messages and documents directly. This dynamic exchange improves communications for both parties, providing shorter response times and removing the problem of delayed responses and inefficient data connections.

How many types of EDI processes are there? ›

There are more than 300 different types of X12 EDI standards, all delegated by a different three-digit number, for numerous industries such as finance, government, health care, insurance, transportation, and others.

What are the data types in EDI X12? ›

For X12, the following EDI data types are annotated in schema for validation by the Disassembler/Assembler components in the Receive or Send Pipelines: Numeric, Decimal, Identifier, String, Date, Time, Binary, and Composite.

What is 940 in EDIFACT? ›

What is an EDI 940? EDI 940, also known as a Warehouse Shipping Order, is an electronic data interchange transaction set commonly sent by sellers/suppliers to third-party logistics providers (3PLs). It acts as a formal request for shipment of goods from a remote warehouse to a buyer's location.

What is the difference between 997 and 999 in EDI? ›

Both the 997 and 999 are used to confirm that a file was received. However, the 999 includes additional information about whether the received transaction had errors. This includes whether the transaction is in compliance with HIPAA requirements.

What is 830 in EDIFACT? ›

What is an ANSI X12 EDI 830 Message? The ANSI X12 EDI 830 message is an electronic representation of the planning schedule sent from a customer to a supplier. It follows the ANSI X12EDI message standards and is an essential document for electronic purchasing processes in the manufacturing or automotive industry.


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