B2B Communication in Automotive: The Basics
The automotive sector places greater demands on suppliers than almost any other sector. Individual components need to meet strict criteria for the quality and traceability of materials, and additionally electronic data interchange (EDI) plays a key role.
Integration with suppliers and customers is fundamental for the business. If for example ASN (Advance Shipping Notice) messages remain undelivered for any reason, or they contain mistakes, fines (defect charges) from automakers are a real, and threatening, possibility. These affect a supplier’s overall rating, and with it, its future contracts. Invoicing, transportation orders, an overview of stock and other processes take place over EDI as well, so it’s important for everything to work as it should.
The different types of messages
Your EDI has to be able to process the various message types that are exchanged between supplier and customer. Here are the types that you’ll encounter most often:
Messages sent by the customer (the automaker) to its suppliers:
- Call-offs (LAB, call-off or Forecast) are messages that offer an outlook onto a relatively long period and thus give you the foundation for planning your production and purchasing.
- Detailed call-offs (FAB and DELJIT), meanwhile, additionally contain a required delivery date.
- Sequence call-off (DELJIS) with the request to deliver the product directly in the given order to the production line.
- Orders (ORDERS) are used in automotive only rarely. These serve to ordering specific goods for a specific place and date.
- Self-billing invoices are primarily used by large companies, with the customer issuing an invoice to themselves for the goods from the supplier.
- INVPRT contains data about stock levels and is used primarily on projects with consigned stocks.
Messages that are sent to the customer (the automaker) by the supplier:
- ORDER RESPONSE (ORDRSP) messages are order confirmations. Just like ORDER messages, they are used in the automotive industry only rarely.
- Delivery notes (ASNs) are lists of products to be supplied. They also contain information on quantities, packaging or transportation type.
- Invoices serve the same purposes in automotive as they do elsewhere.
- Other messages are used for information about stock levels, transportation orders or returnable packaging transfers.
EDI standards are collections of rules under which the data in messages is structured; they determine whether it will be divided up into sections, folders etc.
- UN/EDIFACT (United Nations Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport)
This is a significantly widespread standard used across various industrial sectors.
- VDA (Verband der Automobilindustrie)
VDA was one of the first organizations to campaign for complete data transmission between automakers and their suppliers. It is also one of the founding members of ENX and Odette. In 1970’s VDA began to define EDI standards, especially for automotive and its suppliers.
This non-profit consortium is made up of over 600 companies coming primarily from the areas of IT, electrical engineering, semiconductors, telecommunications and services.
- ANSI ASC X12 (American National Standards Institiute Accredited Standards Committee X12)
This standard is primarily widespread within the USA; the first X12 dates all the way back to 1982.
Different communications protocols
A communications protocol is a channel through which messages are transmitted. To succeed as an automotive supplier, you need to use at least one of the protocols see real-world use.
- OFTP/2 is the most widespread in Europe;
- Asia tends more towards AS2;
- 400 (VAN) is the most widespread in America.
Web services are looming ever faster towards the forefront, which can in certain fields fully replace EDI. Also, new message formats like XML or JSON are appearing instead of EDIFACT/VDA.