What is EDI 846?

EDI 846 is a powerful tool to streamline a company’s business. Using it, trading partners can identify products’ inventory in warehouses and distribution centers. EDI 846 is a ‘catalog’ that provides real-time access to current product availability and updated inventory data. Understanding EDI 846 is the first step toward automating supply chain operations and processes.

What is EDI 846?

An EDI 846 inventory inquiry/advice is an electronic data interchange (EDI) transaction set. The purpose of EDI 846 documents is to allow trading partners to share information about inventory levels.

EDI 846 documentation is commonly used in drop ship environments. Retailers who control e-Commerce drop shipping websites use EDI 846 as a replacement for merchant/manufacturer portals or API-based integration.

The 846 EDI document type follows the ANSI X12 format. This standard is set by the American National Standards Institute, a non-profit organization tasked with regulating EDI formats in the United States. The United Nations Rules for Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce, and Transport (UN/EDIFACT) standard is prevalent outside North America. However, both systems are incredibly similar, differentiated only by their nomenclature.

What are the benefits of using EDI 846?

EDI 846 streamlines the communication between trading partners, providing buyers and sellers with the inventory information they need to run operations smoothly. 

Thanks to EDI, companies can:

  • Communicate current stock levels, product quantity in transit, and forecasted inventory;
  • Create better strategies for warehouse management and store orders;
  • Reduce manual processes and human errors;
  • Provide locations with inventory information seamlessly;
  • Design more efficient e-Commerce websites.

What are the essential components of EDI 846?

An EDI 846 document contains vital information about the availability of inventory. Manufacturers, suppliers, and resellers use EDI 846 to communicate the current stock availability, inventory location, and similar data to potential customers.

The information found in an EDI 846 file includes the following:

  • The date and time of inquiry
  • Identification information of the retailer and vendor
  • SKUs, UPCs, and other relevant product identifiers
  • The units of measurement used to quantify a product
  • Current inventory levels
  • Estimated restock dates
  • Inventory report by location
  • Information about discontinued items

How do I use EDI 846?

An EDI 846 file can be sent by both a seller and a buyer. When buyers send an EDI 846, they notify sellers of their on-shelf stock levels. In turn, sellers use the transaction set to share their current inventory information, including future inventory quantities.

To guarantee the availability of products in their e-Commerce storefronts, online retailers send EDI 846 files on a very frequent basis. It is common for retailers to send EDI 846 documents daily or even several times throughout the day.

Sellers also send EDI 846 documentation very often. They communicate accurate inventory information to buyers through the transaction set, including informing them about out-of-stock and discontinued items. If an item is not in stock, an EDI 846 can notify buyers when it is expected to be replenished. This way, e-Commerce websites can always display accurate product availability.

How often will you need to send an EDI 846?

All businesses should make the transmission of EDI 846 documentation a significant priority. If a company handles direct-to-consumer drop shipping for a trading partner, it should send EDI 846 files at least once daily. It is common for retailers to expect to receive EDI 846 documents several times a day.

Why is EDI 846 transmitted so often?

EDI 846 data allows businesses to portray an accurate inventory picture to customers. Companies ensure that they keep customers happy by keeping a reliable inventory quantity. Modern consumers have very high expectations about the stores they buy from. Inaccurate inventory levels or a lack of product availability can be a significant source of frustration. A business must fulfill customers’ demands often to avoid losing consumer trust and being overrun by the competition.

On the flip side, businesses can also use low stock levels to their advantage. If a company knows it has a low stock of an item at a distribution center, it can advertise it on its website with “only five left!” or a similar message. This can create a sense of urgency among buyers, who may be more inclined to purchase due to fear of missing out.

How can you make EDI 846 easier?

The transmission of inventory inquiry or inventory advice documentation can be substantially simplified using a Value Added Network (VAN). A VAN is a software solution designed to automate the transmission of EDI documents and streamline communication between trading partners.

VANs are privately hosted services that provide companies with a secure and efficient way of sending and sharing EDI data. By reducing the number of processes and parties involved during trading transactions, a VAN can drastically improve the efficiency of supply chain operations.

EDI format example

EDI 846 documents contain the following data elements:

ISA: This is the interchange control header found at the beginning of EDI 846 files. This segment is meant to contain information about the sender and receiver, as well as the date and time of the EDI transaction.

GS: Known as the functional group header, this segment delineates the beginning of the transaction. The functional group can contain many transaction sets of the same type. Every transaction set within a functional group is assigned a functional identifier code, which can be found at the beginning of the GS segment.

ST: The ST segment identifies the type of transaction set being transmitted. The easiest way to recognize an EDI 846 document is by identifying the “ST*846” sequence at the beginning of the ST segment.

BIA: This marks the beginning of Inquiry/Advice. In other words, the BIA indicates the beginning of the EDI 846 content.

LIN loops: These are used in EDI 846 documents to share line item information. There is a LIN loop providing inventory information for every specific product. One can identify a product within a LIN loop through its UPC barcode, which can be found at the beginning of the loop. Next to the UPC information is the “UP” Product/Service ID qualifier.


Other essential information within a LIN loop includes the quantity of a product and a brief description. The quantity is specified by the QTY ID, while the PID and DTM IDs contain product information and the date the information was recorded, respectively. The number of total LIN loops is found at the CTT segment, commonly located below the loops.

EDI services

Discover a faster and more efficient way to do business with Vantree’s Web EDI. This innovative web-based software solution allows you to automatically send and receive any document. This way, you can automate your EDI 846 documents and make sure you always keep adequate inventory levels.

Web EDI is easy to use and can interconnect to all major EDI networks, ensuring your business information is always up to date. Thanks to a personalized workflow and 24/7 visibility on transactions, you can rest easy knowing all your data is safe, accurate, and accessible. Vantree’s team-based support system is ready to provide you with all the assistance you need, no matter the industry. 

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