Secrets of the Advanced Shipping Notice or EDI 856

This blog was written by our friends over at SPS Commerce, experts in EDI solutions.

The Advanced Shipping Notice (ASN) is filled with vital data for the retailer or buyer and, in some instances, for consumers themselves. The vendor (or seller) sends the ASN to the retailer (or buyer) to indicate that the order is on the way to the requested delivery location.

Whether the order is being sent directly to a customer, a brick and mortar retail store, distribution center or warehouse, the ASN is an important document that can be used to a buyer’s advantage for order management and inventory visibility, streamlining the supply chain, improving efficiency and satisfying customer expectations.

What are advanced shipping notices?

Also referred to as an Outbound Ship Notice / Manifest, DESADV or EDI 856, the ASN document provides thorough information about a pending delivery of goods. One instance in which an ASN would be sent is when a seller sends a shipment of products to a buyer that will be sold at a physical store.

The ASN has multiple functions, with notifying the buyer that the shipment is enroute as the most basic. An ASN usually provides details on when the order was shipped, what items have been shipped and what quantity of each item is shipped. It includes attributes of the shipment such as number of boxes, weight, a description of how the units are packaged within the shipment, shipment’s method of transportation and info about the carrier.

Functions of advanced shipping notices

As mentioned previously, the ASN serves numerous purposes. It gives an estimated time of arrival so the buyer knows when to have the staff available to unload the truck. Once the order arrives at its destination, it enables barcode scan receiving, which leads to quicker unloading and sorting. ASN can be used to assist with preparation for flow-through or store allocation from receiving to the shipping dock and to the end customer. When the order is shipped straight to a consumer, it provides the tracking number from FedEx, UPS or USPS. Worth noting, advanced shipping notices can be used to confirm the collection of funds from the customer’s credit card.

Clearly, the ASN is more than a document confirming that a shipment is on the way – it’s also a reference and a time saver. ASNs can be especially useful when it comes to receiving shipments, unloading trucks and controlling inventory. Before the order is shipped, vendors can attach barcodes on the boxes, crates and cases, and include that data on the ASN. When the shipment arrives, the information from the EDI 856 can be used to confirm delivery of each piece. The process is as easy as scanning boxes as they come off the truck, or could be as simple as scanning a single barcode to receive the entire load. The ASN also enables easy identification of discrepancies concerning what was expected to arrive, and what was eventually received.

Retailers that practice just-in-time (JIT) inventory methods require the ASN to carry out that approach. With JIT, retailers order just as much of a product as is needed, at just the time they are required. Advanced shipping notices indicate when shipment of items are going and coming, or if the product shipment has been delayed.

If a buyer and a seller are both using electronic data interchange (EDI) systems, this exchange of data can happen automatically, without any faxing, emailing or entering orders into the system by hand. Without the advanced shipping notice, the buyer may not know if the seller will ship the correct quantity or when it will arrive. Without EDI, the ASN is not as effective and the right people might not receive the correct shipment information when it’s needed, and human error could cause the data to be recorded incorrectly. 

Advanced shipping notices in practice

One real-life example of the power of the ASN comes from an outdoor sports and recreation retailer. The company wanted to improve efficiency and resource allocation. One of the problems was that it was taking two workers, two full workdays to unload a truck with a load of smaller items. This was due to the fact that the items were packaged in many small boxes inside larger boxes, and each larger box on every pallet had to be inspected and counted to ensure the right quantity.

The retailer implemented the ASN via their cloud-based EDI solution. Instead of opening every single box on every pallet, they could simply scan the barcodes affixed to each box, which automatically matched the item data against the ASN.

Now one worker can unload the same amount of product on the same sized truck in just four hours.

The advanced shipping notice helps retailers with ecommerce orders, particularly when the order is being drop-shipped from a vendor to a consumer. The shipping and tracking information for the delivery is sent via ASN to the retailer, who can then share the information with the end consumer. The customer can then monitor the status of their package as it travels to its final destination.

The ASN is helpful when shipment accuracy and timelines are vital. For example, when delivering produce to grocery stores, an ASN can tell grocers how to plan staffing schedules to ensure that the truck can be unloaded rapidly. Knowing when the next shipment of fruits or vegetables will arrive is important for grocers.

Additionally, the ASN is crucial during the holiday shopping season rush, when store shelves are emptied and ecommerce sites are flooded with orders expected to arrive before Christmas. 

In Conclusion

Advanced shipping notices are more than just a message announcing that a shipment is on the way. They are a fundamental EDI document for offering order visibility, tightening the supply chain and boosting efficiency. Most significantly, the ASN is important for buyers and sellers to track the delivery of orders to satisfy expectations.

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About the Author

Maddie Umhoefer is the Channel Sales Manager at SPS Commerce. Maddie has over 5 years of experience working in the retail ecosystem. For her first three years at SPS Commerce, she worked directly with suppliers helping them streamline their supply chains. Over the last two years, Maddie has been expanding the SPS business partner network for SME ERP systems.