UN/EDIFACT is one of the most widely used document standards for international and cross-sector data exchange. The term EDIFACT stands for Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport and therefore represents the electronic data exchange for administration, commerce and transport, according to the requirements of the United Nations.
After the publication of the first cross-industry document standard (X12) by the American National Standards Institute, the global EDIFACT standard was introduced by the UN in 1988. The ongoing maintenance and development of the standard is carried out by the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT).
The detailed structure of an EDIFACT message is recorded in the official updated standard documents. Two EDIFACT standard versions are developed for each half of the year by the UN/CEFACT. The first release of a year is identified by the year number followed by the letter A. The second release of a year shares the same year number and the letter B.
The EDIFACT standard defines different rules for the structure of various standard messages. These rules are based on the building blocks of general EDI formats. The syntax determines the rules for the structure of a message. Data elements form the smallest unit of an EDIFACT file. Several similar data elements form segments. Messages consist of an ordered sequence of segments.
EDIFACT offers companies the opportunity to exchange documents electronically on a multinational and cross-sector basis. Many industries have established variations of the established main standard (so called subdialects or subsets) in order to automate industry-specific information.
Example of industry-specific variations:
ODETTE – Automotive Industry
EANCOM – Consumer goods industry
EDIFURN – furniture industry
EDITEX – Textile industry
EDILIBE – Book trade