The key aspect of EDI is not that it provides Electronic Data Interchange, but that it exchanges these electronic documents automatically in the document management processes of the parties involved. This automatism integrates manufacturing and commercial supply systems into a unified system. Multiplayer manufacturing and supply systems with efficient automatic mechanisms represent the greatest opportunity for our economic development …
The automaticity of EDI lies in its standard nature. The creation of EDI standards represents 50 years of global work in standardisation that is continuing to this day. The main driving force of EDI is the vast, worldwide standardisation project carried out in recent decades. The fact that automatisms can be developed for document management between players of manufacturing and supply chains is due to the standard design of EDI. These automatisms are necessary primarily due to the need of cost-efficient document management. A major part of the expenses of an extensive manufacturing or supply chain stems from document management costs related to production or sales. Standard electronic management of these documents can reduce these costs to a fraction, which greatly increases the competitiveness of supply chains. It could be said that large manufacturing and supply chains would be unable to survive without document management automatisms.
Before the Second World War typically the entire production process took place within the walls of a massive company. Huge consortiums were set up, which produced everything from raw materials to finished products (Ford, for example, even had its own rubber plantations). In the first global economic crisis the conveyor belt was the cost-cutting “automation” solution that meant survival. Here, too, automation led to a massive increase in productivity and after the end of the crisis properly automated production systems once again flourished. Under conditions of reconstruction after the Second World War manufacturing and procurement increasingly shifted outside the walls of the company under the economic concept of “small, yet beautiful”. Multiplayer manufacturing and supply chains were created - with a large number of participants - which allowed even small companies to become involved in “large-scale” processes. Meanwhile, the first computer systems appeared, which already in the 50’s held the promise of creating automatisms in the functioning of these chains. In the 1950’s the need for supply automatisms first arose in military provisioning systems. The first standards were created in this area, and their sector-specific versions rapidly spread to the automotive industry (JIT production systems), commercial supply, and distribution. Later on standardisation committees established under the aegis of the UN set the goal of creating a global EDI standard in order to unify industry-specific standards, which resulted in the EDIFACT standard - since then introduced in almost all industries - which also enables the development of automatisms across industries.
Since 2008, the current global crisis has posed a similarly great challenge for multiplayer manufacturing and supply chains as did the crisis of 1929. Today, too, the main key to survival and future success lies in increasing the efficiency of supply chains, for which automatisms offer the best tool. Today, the spread of automation lies not in “conveyor automatisms”, but in automating the cooperation between players of the supply chain. This means the automated, electronic processing and forwarding of shipping, warehousing, production, and billing documents, which is performed in practice by EDI.
EDI requires initial investment from both buyers and vendors. These, however, are worthwhile investments, as they hold the key to growth. Just as at the beginning of the modern era new ships had to be built, and everyone agreed that “ships must sail”, as this was the key to economic growth, today automatisms must be set up in the economy and “EDI must be used”, as this is now the cornerstone of economic growth.
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