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Logistics and a lot of T.L.A

TLA? On Valentines Day? Isn't it TLC (Tender Loving Care)? TLC is a TLA...or is that TMI (Too Much Information)? LOL. The world is full of T.L.As (Three Letter Acronyms) and logistics loves using them.

I analyzed my last 6 blogs to find out that I used 19 Three Letter Acronyms! Ready for them? Lets go...COI, CES, COO, EXW, FCA, CPT, CIP, DAT, DAP, DDP, FAS, CIF, UPS, LTL, TMS, WMS, VCI and CFR twice in 2 different ways CFR meaning Cost and Freight (Incoterm) and CFR meaning Code of Federal Regulations.

Some of the above acronyms don't relate exactly to Logistics, CES for example is the acronym for the Consumer Electronics Show. I wrote about CES in my Trade Show blog. Other acronyms are high profile brands in the industry like UPS, which we all know stands for United Parcel Service.

In my new blog we will be adding 2 more 3 letter acronyms. API and EDI. Both of these acronyms are services that are not dependent on logistics but these days logistics is dependent upon them.

For years EDI, Electronic Data Interchange provided communication standards for exchanging electronic data between different companies or organizations. This computer to computer communication eliminated human errors and made order processing between two companies automatic.

Common business documents like purchase orders, invoices and shipping documents could be exchanged from one company to another without human input. EDI standards were established so everyone was on the "same page". Add a new partner? Standards were already in place to transmit and receive the EDI documents.

I helped develop a Transportation Management System (TMS) in the 90s that was used to transmit Shipping related EDI transaction sets to the Big Box stores that required them, back then we utilized a VAN (Value Added Network) to transmit the data, and that data would batch process at a pre determined time. 

Like most standards however, people came up with different standards...for the standards, and then for every standard now we have different versions of those standards. EDI standards ANSI, EDIFACT, TRADACOMS and more have been established, and for communication to work, both companies have to agree to the standard and version they want to work with.

If you are a larger organization you can push your standard back on a smaller supplier, but if your a smaller supplier trying to work with different larger corporations, that each use a different standard, boy are you in trouble. The Web based XML (Extensible Markup Language) standards were developed during this time as well, which began the process for less expensive web based data transfer.

With the advancement of the internet and the use of it as a communication tool, the Application Programming Interface (API) came along.



An API is like an EDI standard, in that it functions as a roadmap to data.  An API is a method of communicating between various software components that specifies routines, data structures, object classes, variables and remote calls. What this means is a new standard of "getting" and "posting" information between companies over the internet rather than over a private VAN.

There are Remote APIs and Web APIs but both allow for interactions between a companies data assets and those making the calls for that data. The differentiation here between EDI and API is that an API allows you to communicate in real time what you need, when you need it, using different standards but returning or posting only the information needed. 

With EDI you would send a transaction set, Set 858 is shipping information, all the shipping data fields would be populated and the file would be sent to the recipients computer, the recipients computer would then generate an EDI confirming receipt, "Acknowledge" The data transfer.

In many cases in the EDI world, a server may process these transactions in batches, so there may be a delay in the response. With API you have a live transaction in that you are connected into or with the recipients data rather than waiting for a batch process to occur to get the info.

We used to dispatch trucks for pickup using EDI and we would have to go and check the status of our EDI upload multiple times to see if the carrier had been dispatched. With an API driven dispatch system an email or notification is immediately sent from the server as soon as the request is made through the API.

Our Accufrate Transportation Management System is an API driven application. We have access to our carriers data from their server. When you get a rate quote through Accufrate its the rate that is coming from that carriers server, in real time. Dispatch of a truck for pickup occurs in real time, you know this because you are posting the data directly to the carriers interface and it is immediately replying.

The great thing about API driven technology is that an APIs design allows you to program into your application a way to access data from another companies application without the users needing to understand the programming inside the other companies modules.

An API provided to us by another company simply says - here is the information I am willing to share with you and this is how you get it, if there is information you want to give me, this is how you give it to me.

The advantage here is that you can give and get only the info wanted and needed at the time of the request, With an EDI the whole file (transaction set) is transferred each and every time.

In explaining this process, I started out by saying I was adding 2 more TLAs to your vocabulary. Did you see what happened? My 2 turned into 4 more TLAs, we added VAN (Value Added Network) and XML (eXtensible Markup Language) as well as EDI and API in just this short description of the use of these communication tools. 

Whether you are in logistics in the B2B or B2C segment I am HTH. TBH you can AMA and if IDK I will find the answer. I GTG but if you ever want to F2F just use my contact info from this page. BTW most of our customers are from WOM and appreciate our exceptional CRM.

If you think sorting through all of these TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) was difficult...my next blog is going to be written in all emojis 👴 LOL

Steven Tittle is Owner of Gateway Optimum Transportation an Asset Light 3PL located in Tempe, Arizona. Steven has over 30 years experience in Transportation and Logistics Management including software development for logistics applications. Visit www.gatewayot.com or www.gatewaycrateandfreight.com for more information on the services they provide.

 






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