How to get started with the EDI 856 ASN (Advance Ship Notice) when you run SAP

by Jodi Abrams

When you get your first ASN requirement from a trading partner, it's often difficult to know where to begin. There are many questions, and answers can be complex or hard to find. Here are some of the most common ones answered for you:

  1. What is the purpose of an EDI 856 ASN?
  2. In an automated logistics set up, the ASN lets your customer know that their goods are on their way. Not only does it give information about the carrier and shipping timeframe, it goes even further to detail how the items will arrive within the truck. Depending on your customers requirements, it can go right down to which item is in which carton, one which pallet. For larger scale receiving operations, this allows them to scan a pallet label, break it up into cartons if needed, and know what's in each and where to put it away in their warehouse. By confirming what has actually been shipped, if there are any shortages it also allows your customer to get that information prior to arrival to adjust accordingly.

    In an e-commerce world, where you are shipping to the end customer, the ASN is used to allow the company to then notify the end customer of the shipment along with relevant tracking information.

  3. What document in SAP generates this output?
  4. Typically the ASN will be output off of an outbound delivery. An output requirement is used to ensure this doesn't get sent until after the post goods issue is done. This way, only a complete ASN is sent to your customer.

  5. What configuration and master data do I need in SAP for this to be successful?
  6. The configuration and data you need depends on your customers' requirements. However typically, handling units are needed to facilitate anything more than just an item level ASN (an item level ASN is where just the items are listed on the ASN with no indication of how they are packed). The most common type of ASN will indicate what items are in what carton, and the barcode on the carton label. Given the label format might be unique per customer, you may need some development to create each of these individual formats. You'll also need to ensure your configuration is set up to use the right kind of barcode (often SSCC-18) and in the right number range for your company. These can not be duplicated to the same customer.

When you begin your ASN journey, you will also need an EDI solution that is robust enough to handle all of the ASN situations. The data that comes out of SAP will need to be manipulated and mapped into the correct format for your trading partner. Mandatory fields need to be completed and the ASN sent in a timely manner to avoid fines.

It requires co-operation and communication between your SAP configuration, development and EDI teams to get it right. The CONTAX team has implemented 1000's of ASN's and excels at taking care of the SAP and EDI needs together in a well-thought out solution with standard SAP at the core. If you want to explore further how to get started with the 856, please reach out to us at

About the author: Jodi Abrams

Jodi is an expert in SAP and eCommerce integration, and is Vice President of Applications for CONTAX.