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MSG Segment Should Not Equal "Fine Print"

Fri, Oct 06, 2017 @ 02:26 PM / by Shandra Locken

bigstock-Business-Acronym-Edi-As-Electr-88291748.jpgThis week's blog was written by Art Douglas.

There are strange things done

In the midnight sun

By the men who map and code

The X12 trails have their secret tales

That would make your blood run cold

The o’erhead lights have seen queer sights

But the queerest they ever did see

Was that night late in March

A penalty charge; I was dinged by an M-S-G.

With apologies to the great poet Robert W. Service, I’m referring to the hideous practice of placing MSG segments in EDI messages like Purchase Orders, and expecting your Trading Partner to collect, read, and react to them accordingly.

EDI was never intended to be a word processor.  It’s not the place for boilerplate information like you see in the fine print of every contract.  We have specific places for important information in the transaction set, and the MSG segment is not it. 

Here’s what I mean:

Client X receives 850 Purchase Orders and 860 PO Change notices from their TP “M.”  Buried in every one of those documents is a whole slew of MSG segments that collectively say they better be an Equal Opportunity Employer.  Just between us, isn’t this information more fittingly agreed to before M starts buying from X?  Put it in the Trading Partner Agreement (TPA) – a contract between partners.  I suggest you also put something in there about the TPA not being modified by a unilateral declaration.  Let your lawyer figure out the exact wording.

Client Y receives HL7 transactions to notify an insurer of medical lab test results.  For each occurrence of each test, the sender inserts an entire medical explanation for the test, and a table explaining the meaning for the results.  A test requires a few lines.  Triple that to accommodate the repetitive descriptive verbiage.

Client Z receives an 850 with shipping instructions in an MSG, but not in the correct segments for specifying shipping instructions.  When his shipping office fails to see the instructions in the wrong place, the customer is angry because things didn’t go as expected, and the seller may end up with a huge penalty that could have been avoided had the purchaser coded the 850 correctly.

These are three examples out of many that we all know are commonly encountered. Some are little more than a waste of bandwidth and storage.  Others prevent our employers or clients from receiving information critical to the business transaction.

As an EDI analyst, I have very little influence over what the Trading Partner sends me.  But if others join me, and if we get our business office customers to understand the issues and support our cause, we may be able to affect a change for the better here or there.  What can we do?  Discuss the issues with our business offices – the Sales team, Procurement, A/R and A/P.  Take ownership of the Trading Partner Agreement process.

In today’s competitive business environment, every penalty we avoid, every customer we serve better, every dollar of profit we preserve is a win.

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Topics: supply chain, EDI document, EDI Consultant, EDI

Shandra Locken

Written by Shandra Locken

Shandra is the Director of Business Development for GraceBlood LLC.

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