It is interesting that war challenges people to achieve some of the most creative and innovative solutions. Many of these are inventions, and solutions, turn out afterward to be useful in peacetime too. Electronic data interchange (EDI) bares such roots.
In 1948, Western Berlin was cut off from the rest of Western Germany as a tactic to drive opposition, including the United States. However, the U.S. resolved to drop supplies to troops from the air. This event, referred to as the “Berlin Airlift,” occurred for more than a year and transported over 2.3 million tons of goods into West Berlin. The Berlin Airlift was an incredible feat for logistics, considering it happened computer-free.
The Berlin Airlift and the Inception of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
Army Master Sergeant Ed Guilbert was one of the logistics officers involved in the coordination of the Berlin Airlift. He developed standardized shipping manifests to help organize the process.
Later on, in the ‘60’s Guilbert moved the documentation procedure one step forward. He developed an electronic message format used for sending shipping information regarding cargo.
Although the majority of industries utilize EDI today, the transportation industry was the first to visualize the possibilities of EDI. One of the first to use EDI in its infancy was the Holland-American steamship line. In 1965, they sent shipping manifests across the Atlantic using telex messages. This meant that Holland-American could send a full page of data across the Atlantic in approximately 2 minutes.
EDI and the Transportation Industry Today
It seems impossible to imagine how transportation and logistics companies could do business without EDI. Highly popular in the industry that initially patronized it, all sizes of companies are making the changes required to use EDI to exchange documents.
There are several reasons why this industry is such a fan. The transportation industry deals with huge volumes of documents. EDI means that there is no need for staff to focus on data entry. It also means that error from manually managing documents is reduced.
“Each day, between 8 AM and 3 PM, 150 orders—mostly EDI—are processed electronically, sent to the warehouse and gone by midnight with very few people involved. In such an aggressively competitive market, supply chain efficiency and the consequent customer responsiveness is a fundamental benefit of EDI to us”
-Planning Director at Bernard Matthews Ltd.
EDI makes seamless communication of data within a supply chain possible. It is reliable, fast, and deliveries can be tracked in real time. Using EDI also increases not only your accuracy but also your business capabilities as time and resources are freed up to develop new business.
Getting Greener with EDI
In terms of social responsibility, EDI adds a valuable contemporary extra by contributing to environmentally sustainable goals by replacing paper-based processes with electronic alternatives. Transmitting a million invoices via EDI saves 228 trees and eliminates CO2 emissions equivalent to about five cars per year.
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