Can’t I just use e-mail?
Although electronic mail is faster than standard mail and eliminates paper, it differs greatly from EDI because the data is in an unstructured format. If you were to get a purchase order as an e-mail, you would likely print out the document and enter the data into another program, such as an accounting or inventory package.
EDI is transmitted in a structured format, based on the use of message standards, which ensures that all participants use a common language. For instance, if you were to receive a PO via EDI, the EDI software would take the data and put it into a “readable format” then import it in your existing software. The result? No manual data entry! In addition, the process can be programmed to take place without human intervention.