ProductsEDI vs. API: Why more logistics companies are opting to automate - Primus Solutions

January 20, 2020
For decades, logistics companies have used electronic data interchange (EDI) to speed up manual processes. However, forward-thinking companies are now recognizing there’s a better way.
The use of EDI dates back to the 1940s, with the technology becoming more widespread in the 1970s. A computer-to-computer exchange of business documents in a standard electronic format, EDI marked a step forward for logistics companies, allowing them to trade manual processes for digital data exchange. That move toward digitization through EDI has proved invaluable for many businesses, delivering benefits like reducing costs and errors, better information storage and access, and enhanced visibility into orders.
But times change, and technology is changing with it. EDI has technical shortfalls and limitations that limit productivity and efficiency, resulting in higher overall costs for providers and shippers. That’s why more companies are turning to application program interfaces (API) to exchange data digitally. In a recent survey, 55% of supply chain executives said they’re currently considering APIs as an alternative to EDIs.
By adopting an API-enabled TMS like Primus, 3PLs and brokers can spend less time on administrative tasks and more time on revenue-generating activities. The result? Improved efficiency, end-to-end visibility and flexibility, and overall profitability. Here are three major advantages of using APIs versus traditional EDI-enabled systems.
1: Faster exchange of information.HED: EDI vs. API: Why more logistics companies are opting to automate
EDI enables business partners to exchange information in minutes – a significant improvement over the cumbersome manual exchanges of the past. But when time is money, speed truly matters. EDI relies on transmission via timers and batch delivery to share data between systems, creating delays that can last up to two hours. For providers anxious to compare quotes or manage shipments, that means human intervention is often needed to manage processes that could otherwise be automated. EDI might be speedier than in the past, but still fails to catch up to the speed required of data transmission today.
With APIs, information is available in real time, allowing providers to get the most up-to-date rates from carriers and create BOLs or labels instantly. That level of efficiency allows teams to work faster and service more clients, without the need to add additional labor or staff. It also serves as a distinct competitive advantage, as logistics providers can connect their own customers to the real-time information they need to run their businesses.
2: Greater visibility and flexibility.
When comparing EDIs vs. APIs, think of the evolution of the telephone. Whereas an EDI might be like a landline phone, an API is more like a smartphone – offering much greater flexibility and ability to connect to the information you need.
With EDI, you can only exchange information that conforms to EDI-specific standards. In contrast, APIs use universal transmission methods, relying on common digital building blocks to help providers connect to virtually any system. By using APIs, both shippers and 3PLs can service clients and partners more easily without having to wrestle with specific file formats and transmission methods. Primus offers integrations with more than 120 carriers, without any of the hassles of complex setup or data exchange.
3: Less customization and costs.
Unlike EDIs that require custom standards, API code is simplified and structured in a way that clearly defines how a program will interact with the rest of the software world. APIs can combine data from multiple systems and automate processes with minimal custom code. That code is also usually reusable for other systems or similar processes, because it’s built on universal standards. As a result, logistics companies save time as well as resources – allowing them to invest in more high-value activities that drive business growth and long-term success.
The Future Is Now in API

Gone are the days where you could only rely on an EDI that had the potential to be delayed by transmission errors or clunky, outdated protocol. API is a completely viable alternative to EDI that makes information exchange simple and snappy. An API-enabled TMS like Primus helps your business connect to all your partners seamlessly, so supply chains can run smoother and better than ever.

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