For decades, EDI has been used by organizations to effectively exchange documents with their customers and supply chain partners. After all, it’s quicker and less risky than sending your documents through the mail or by less structured electronic methods. EDI is integral to the worlds of manufacturing, retail, transportation, and more. Because it’s so deeply imbedded it won’t be going away any time soon. However, there is more to data integration than just EDI. If you’re only doing EDI, you may be missing out.

An API is an important technology for keeping the supply chain running smoothly. Not only can APIs coexist with EDI, they can also be complementary and compatible. To keep your business competitive, your integration software should be able to handle both. In this article, we’ll explain what APIs are, how they relate to EDI, and how these two technologies can work together.


APIs Explained

API stands for Application Program Interface. Simply put, they let one application “talk” to another application. An API consists of three main components:

  1. Procedures, which is the actual function of the API.
  2. The communication protocols the API uses to connect applications.
  3. The tools that construct new programs.

There are hundreds of specific APIs that serve a variety of functions. For example, some websites allow you to log in using one of your existing online accounts such as Facebook. These websites are using a login API, connecting these two applications to help you more conveniently use the site. You also might have been added to an email list based on items you’ve purchased on a site. This is an example of a marketing automation API. These are just two examples among many.


APIs and EDI

Since APIs and EDI serve similar functions – transferring data between systems – it might seem like they’re in competition with one another. That being said, in order to grow your business, it’s important to invest in both technologies. Even with APIs on the rise, EDI isn’t going away anytime soon. This is because EDI is deeply entrenched in the business world and replacing these systems would be a huge and risky undertaking.

EDI and APIs can each serve unique functions to help your business succeed. For example, an API might be used for looking up information on a certain product. If you or your customer decides to order this product, EDI transactions like purchase orders and invoices can come into play. To what extent you use EDI and APIs will depend on your unique business needs.


Bringing the Two Together

Integrating EDI and APIs requires connecting two technologies that are very distinct from one another. EDI is an established technology that can operate on premise or in the cloud, whereas APIs are more recent and are usually cloud-based. In addition, the two each have distinct protocols.

If you’re attempting to talk with someone who speaks a different language from you, you’ll probably need a translator to understand each other. The same is true for EDI and APIs. While EDI speaks the language of XML or EDIFACT, APIs use newer data formats like JSON or XML. The key to getting the most out of your EDI and APIs is the ability to translate data between the two in a way they can understand.

To maximize your supply chain efficiency, make sure you’re leveraging all the available technologies. Using multiple technologies doesn’t have to mean multiple systems; many data integration systems support both traditional EDI and API’s. If your current system only supports one or the other, it may be worthwhile to invest in newer technology to provide more options. The ROI for the investment is generally high, along with increased customer satisfaction and decreased internal work.


Data Communication Solutions: Your EDI Resource

Navigating the world of EDI as you integrate new technologies like APIs can be challenging. Thankfully, you don’t have do it alone! Data Communication Solutions (DCS) has the expertise you need to find the best data integration solution for your business. Over the past three decades, we’ve worked with hundreds of companies in a variety of industries. Our services include development, managed services, training, and support. Contact us today to learn how we can help you meet your supply chain technology goals.