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Posted Tuesday, June 7, 2022 in News

The EDI 846 document, known as Inventory Inquiry or Inventory Advice, is adopted by buyers and sellers to communicate current inventory levels in the supply chain.

Most EDI documents are one directional, meaning they go from suppliers to buyers, or buyers to suppliers. The EDI 846 is a little different because it can be sent by buyers and sellers. Retailers send the 846 to alert suppliers of how much product is left on the shelves. And sellers use it to notify buyers of pertinent stock information including items on backorder, newly replenished inventory, amount in the warehouse, and amount en route to stores.

These updates often are sent multiple times a day.

There are many retailers using this document to keep inventory numbers current, including, but not limited to, Barnes & NobleBest BuyDSWCostco, and Target.

This communication tool is used frequently by trading partners involved with drop shipping on an eCommerce store, because if something becomes unavailable, the retailer needs to mark it as such on the website asap, or take it out of the store altogether.


Oftentimes, you can find mapping guides online to see what information is included on an EDI 846 for a retailer you’re about to work with. (Here are two examples: Macy’s and CVS/Caremark.)

Data elements found on an Inventory Inquiry include:

  • Date and time of inquiry
  • Retailer and vendor ID
  • Product SKU, UPC, or other identifiers
  • Item description
  • Unit of measure
  • Quantity on hand
  • Quantity on order
  • Quantity on backorder
  • Quantity in transit
  • Committed inventory
  • Pending returns
  • Inventory location


1. Inventory Accuracy. Using EDI for inquiries eliminates the need for phone calls, email, or web requests. These modes of communication invite all kinds of human errors, but those are a thing of the past with EDI. Always know what’s on the shelf or in the warehouse, so you can prepare to replenish.

2.  Automation. The inquiry can be sent automatically, via the parameters you choose: daily, hourly, weekly — whatever time frame your product calls for.

3. Auto Replenish. If two partners have an agreement to automatically replenish an item when low, the inventory information communicated in an EDI 846 sets the wheels in motion for a new purchase order. You won’t miss an opportunity here because the quantities are communicated accurately between the two partners. This is an order that’s already agreed upon; it would be a shame if the transaction was stalled or not put into motion because the inventory counts are not communicated.

4. Customer Satisfaction. The ultimate goal, right? With an accurate inventory picture, retailers are able to delist an item on the website if it’s not available, thereby avoiding the problems that arise when a customer purchases something that isn’t in stock.

I recently experienced this issue with an online order. A few days after purchase, I received a note that said the item is on backorder: “Please note: If the item above has not shipped within thirty days of this notice, we are required by law to cancel the order.” The email went on to say that to keep the order beyond 30 days, I had to either email or call customer service.

You don’t want your customers to have to go through extra hoops like this. They just might turn elsewhere to purchase a comparable product with less hassle.

5. Move Overstocked Items Quickly. Many manufacturers send the EDI 846 to notify buyers of overstocked products that are available for a discount.

6. Boost Sales. Questions to ponder: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If you have the items in stock, but buyers don’t know this, do you really have the items in stock? Using this document has been shown to increase sales because purchasers know what you have on hand and can send orders through quicker than before.

7. Internal Communication Tool. The EDI 846 is also used within an organization; for example, one location can let another location know what’s on their shelves.

8. Marketing Tool. Sellers can share the document with potential retail customers, letting them know they have plenty of the latest item that’s flying off the shelves.

EDI doesn’t have to be daunting; let us show you the ropes. We can help determine which of our EDI services is best for your situation. Contact us to learn more: call 844-265-3777 or email info@boldvan.com.

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