EDI 856: Advantages of the Advanced Shipping Notice

by | Apr 14, 2017

The Advanced Shipping Notice (ASN) is a simple document, but it’s more than a formality on the vendor’s part – it’s full of important information for the retailer and, in some instances, for a consumer. The vendor sends an ASN to the retailer to let them know that the order placed is now en route from the supplier to the requested delivery point. Whether the shipment is being sent to a customer, a store, distribution center or a warehouse, the ASN is a vital document that can be used to a retailer’s advantage for order and inventory visibility, tightening of the supply chain, advancing efficiency and satisfying consumer expectations.

What are advance ship notices?

An ASN is a document that provides detailed information about a pending delivery of goods. An ASN is also referred to as an Outbound Ship Notice / Manifest, DESADV or EDI 856. One example of when an ASN would be sent is when a supplier sends a shipment of product to a retailer that will be sold in a brick-and-mortar store.

The ASN has several functions, with the least of which being notifying the retailer that the shipment is on the way. An ASN typically provides details on when an order was shipped, what items are being shipped, and how many of each item will be shipped. It includes characteristics of the shipment such as its weight, number of boxes, and an account of how the units within the shipment are packaged. The ASN also indicates the shipment’s mode of transportation and information about the carrier.

Functions of advance ship notices

The ASN serves multiple purposes. When the order is being sent to a warehouse, distribution center or a store, it gives an estimated shipment arrival time. Once the shipment arrives at the store, DC or warehouse, it allows for receiving of the shipment through barcode scanning, resulting in quicker unloading and sorting. It can be used to help prepare for flow-through or store allocation from the receiving dock to the shipping dock and out to the store or customer. When the item is being shipped directly to a consumer, it typically offers shipment information, such as a tracking number for FedEx, UPS or USPS. Last but not least, it can be used to finalize the collection of the funds from the consumer’s credit card. That’s a lot of info and functions wrapped up into one document.

The ASN is more than just a confirmation of “your shipment is on its way,” it’s also a resource and time saver. ASNs can be particularly helpful when it comes to unloading trucks and managing inventory. Before the shipment is sent, suppliers can place bar codes on all their boxes, crates, and cases, and include that information with the ASN. When the shipment arrives, the data from the EDI 856 can be used to ensure delivery of each piece. The process is as simple as scanning items as they come off the truck, confirming that everything is where it should be. The ASN also makes it easy to identify differences between what was expected, and what was actually shipped.

Retailers that practice just-in-time inventory pretty much need the ASN to do that properly. You order just as many products as you need, just when you need them. An ASN can help you know when you’re getting the shipment of items, or if your product has been delayed.

If a retailer and a vendor are both on electronic data interchange (EDI) systems, this transmission of information can all happen automatically, and without any faxing, emailing or manually entering orders into the system. Without the ASN, the retailer might not know whether the vendor is going to ship the right quantity or when it will arrive. Without an EDI system, even with an ASN the right people may not be getting the right shipment information at the right time, or human error may cause the data to be manually input incorrectly.

Advanced shipping notice in action

One of our clients, an outdoor sports and recreation retailer, was trying to find ways to increase efficiency and better use their resources. At the time, it was taking two workers two full workdays to unload a truckload of ammunition. This was because every package of bullets within each box, and every box on each pallet, had to be counted and inspected to ensure the right quantity was accounted for.

Enter the ASN, partnered with their cloud-based EDI system. Instead of having to open every box, they simply scan the barcodes on each box, which is automatically matched against the information on the ASN. Now it takes one worker four hours to unload the same truck, with the same shipment.

The ASN has helped many of our retail clients with e-commerce orders, especially when the items are being shipped from a vendor directly to a consumer. The shipping and tracking info for the package is sent via ASN to the retailer, who shares it with the customer. The consumer can then track the delivery status of their package. As more and more consumers order items online, offering this tracking information has become standard practice.

The ASN is useful for when delivery timeliness and accuracy are particularly important. For example, when sending perishables to grocery stores, an ASN can help grocers with planning employee schedules to ensure the truck can be unloaded quickly. With the short shelf life of produce, it’s also important for grocers to know when the next shipment of fruits or vegetables is arriving. The ASN is imperative during the winter holiday shopping rush, when customers are emptying the shelves in brick-and-mortar stores and flooding e-commerce sites to make sure their gifts will be delivered before the festivities.

Advanced shipping notices are clearly much more than a simple message saying a shipment is on its way. They’re one of the fundamental EDI documents for providing order visibility, streamlining the supply chain and gaining efficiency. Most importantly, the ASN is vital for retailers and suppliers to track the shipment of goods in order to satisfy the expectations of today’s consumer.

If you would like more info about implementing ASNs or would like to learn about our cloud-based EDI solution for processing your 856s, please visit the SPS Commerce website or contact an EDI expert at SPS Commerce today.

Scott Bolduc

Scott Bolduc

Director of Supply Chain Strategy at SPS Commerce
Scott Bolduc is a multi-time winner of the Supply & Demand Chain Executive Pros to Know. He has worked with e-commerce retailers on their growth strategies and helped retailers transform their freight spending strategies to maximize efficiencies.
Scott Bolduc

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