What is an EDI Translator?

An EDI Translator converts data from a variety of formats, including XML, PDFs, and emails into an ordered and standardized structure that is compliant with Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) standards. These EDI formats, such as EDI X12 and EDIFACT, are used by retailers, distributors, and other supply chain partners to ensure consistency across order communications.

This translation software can be deployed on several types of computer hardware and operating systems and in numerous configurations. It is compatible with Windows, Unix, and AS400, along with various other computers and operating systems. Software that transforms incoming data into EDI files can be developed in-house or purchased through third-party EDI providers like TrueCommerce.

The most frequently used configuration methods are manual and integrated EDI processing. In the former, the EDI translator receives EDI data and provides printed reports that are used to key the information into in-house systems manually. This use case is also referred to as “Rip and Read” or “Print and Re-key.”

Integrated EDI involves using the EDI Translator to automatically convert EDI documents into a format that is acceptable by the company’s ERP or accounting system. The EDI solution then automatically routes that data to that system; this can also recur in reverse, where ERP data is translated into EDI transaction sets for outgoing messages.

How an EDI Translator Works

An EDI Translator works in a very similar manner to the manual process that it replaces. Assume that your business wants to inquire about the status of an order. This process would involve:

  • Identifying the data necessary to write the communication
  • Retrieving the necessary information
  • Arranging the data in a structure that the vendor can understand
  • Sending the request to the vendor

EDI translation software mirrors this process:

  • Extracting or converting data
  • Generating an outbound message or translating an inbound message
  • Transforming the outbound message into a standard format, such as EDI X12
  • Transmitting the message to the vendor or your ERP system

How to Select an EDI Translator

Should you build your EDI translator in-house? While this was a popular alternative in the early days of EDI, the costs of developing and maintaining in-house custom code while maintaining compliance with the ever-changing EDI standards makes this prohibitively expensive.

Selecting an EDI Translator from a vendor offers a simpler, faster, and more affordable option. Even when choosing between EDI vendors that offer data translation, however, there are some considerations to keep in mind:

1. Cheap is Not the Same as Affordable

There is a multitude of very low-cost EDI translation offerings on the market. However, the problem with most of these is that they provide only basic functionality and expect the user to understand EDI thoroughly to use the software. Even with the most basic functionality, your EDI Translator should not only be affordable, but it should also enable easy implementation without having to become an EDI expert.

2. Automation is Key

Automation is a feature you should always demand from your EDI Translator. As you deploy the software, you will quickly find numerous repetitive steps in all EDI transaction sets. Your EDI translation software should provide a means of sequencing these steps in an automated, timed process.

3. Features for Scalable Growth

The EDI Translator you select should also provide a viable, scalable upgrade path. TrueCommerce’s integrated EDI solutions can be deployed with only a single trading partner but can then be upgraded to support hundreds of trading partners.

Choosing Your EDI Translator Vendor

Selecting the right EDI Translator vendor is just as important as selecting the software. When choosing a vendor, consider the reputation of the EDI Translator the vendor offers, as well as that of the vendor itself. How many customers does the vendor have actively translating files into EDI compliant formats? What kind of support do they provide? What is the total cost of ownership of the EDI Translator from this vendor?

Following the guidelines above is only the beginning. Choosing the right EDI Translator is a critical decision that requires thoughtful consideration and can make processes significantly more manageable, saving your business a great deal of money. What’s more, the wrong EDI translation software could cost your business valuable time and expense, perhaps as much, if not more, than manual processes.