June 19, 2015

IDEA Dictionary: What is an EDI Envelope?

When dealing with data, and all related terminology, you may feel like you’re trying to speak a foreign language. In the interest of keeping things clear and simple, we will introduce commonly used terms in each newsletter that will help you navigate the data shorthand and learn the lingo. This issue, we bring you: EDI envelope.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is a transaction method businesses use to exchange documents (e.g., purchase orders, SPAs, acknowledgement receipts, etc.) electronically. Each EDI document is comprised of different segments formatted according to EDI standards. [1]

Electronic transactions are delivered to a receiving company’s business system via envelopes, similar to mailing paper documents. EDI envelopes can include multiple business transaction sets in the same way multiple paper purchase order documents can be physically grouped, stuffed, and mailed together to a receiver. EDI envelopes are the digital packages that contain EDI documentation to be sent to trading partners.

There are three different types of EDI envelopes representing different levels of digital packaging. These include transaction set, group, and interchange envelopes, the last of which is the largest envelope comprised of the smaller groups of transaction sets.

In an EDI document, each separate EDI envelope is notated by a pair of segments at the beginning and end of the transaction. Within one EDI document, there can be multiple transactions, and groups of transactions, each defined by their respective EDI envelopes. 

The segment that notates the beginning of an EDI envelope mimics its paper counterpart in that it is labeled with the electronic address of the receiving company. The EDI envelope segment also contains a “return address,” or the electronic address of the sending company.

The address on an EDI envelope contains two different components. The first is the header address for the entire interchange, referred to as the ISA segment, which indicates the top-level address of the receiving company. The secondary address is called the GS segment, containing the information directing the transaction set to a particular branch within the overall ISA-level address. A large company may have several branch locations with which trading partners do business, so the GS segment would need to be labeled.

To compare to a typical paper envelope: the ISA segment would be the first line of a street address and the GS level, a particular suite, unit, or P.O. Box at that address.

For example, IDEA’s HQ address is:

2900 Crystal Drive
Suite 500

The ISA address segment for IDEA would be: 2900 Crystal Drive

The GS address segment for IDEA would be: Suite 500

Recently, IDEA updated its EDI VAN service, the Industry Data Exchange (IDX), to include an advanced search feature within the IDX Tracker that enables users to search for EDI transactions at the GS level.

If you have any further questions about EDI, EDI envelopes, or the IDX Tracker, please contact Tom Guzik, IDEA’s Manager, B2B EDI Solutions, at tguzik@idea4industry.com.


[1] IDEA uses the EDIPro, ANSI X12 Standard for its EDI service, the Industry Data Exchange (IDX). 

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