2.1 History and Current Status Of EDI in Japan

EDI in the retail sector in Japan started with the Electric Ordering System (EOS) using the JCA Protocol (*1), the standard data communication protocol drawn up in 1980 by the Japan Chain Stores Association (JCA). In the 1990s and thereafter, EDI also came to be adopted for business processes other than ordering. And in the 2000s, based on Efficient Consumer Response (ECR) and Quick Response (QR) procedures, Ryutsu (*2) Business Message Standards (known as Ryutsu BMS) was established for the purpose of achieving of information sharing among companies

2.1.1 From the JCA Protocol to the Ryutsu BMS

The JCA Protocol drawn up in 1980 became widespread as an EOS for retail businesses. It was designated in 1982 by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (present Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) as the standard communication protocol for the retail industry (J Protocol). After that, the J Protocol was also adopted by retail businesses other than supermarkets as a main tool for EDI. The business procedures covered by EDI expanded from the EOS to shipping and receiving of goods, invoicing and payment. On the other hand, with the spread of the Internet in 2000 and later, the following issues connected with the J Protocol began surfacing:

  • Low speed
  • Inability to deal with Kanji characters and images
  • Necessary communication equipment was discontinued
  • Difficulty in adding new data fields due to the fixed-length data format
  • Message formats differed from retailer to retailer

Concerned about the situation, Japan's two supermarket organizations cooperated and in June 2005 started investigating a next-generation EDI. Their examinations were performed as part of the project for promoting the optimization of the entire supply chain conducted by METI from FY2003 to FY2005.
METI continued the Supply Chain Information System Standardization Project for three years from FY2006 to FY2008 to support standardization measures for supermarket businesses. As a result, in April 2007, the Ryutsu BMS were created as a new EDI standard. The Ryutsu BMS is now being increasingly adopted throughout the Japanese retail industry.

2.1.2 Outline of the Ryutsu BMS

The Ryutsu BMS defines the followings:

Communication infrastructure

Now that the Internet is widely used, the Ryutsu BMS designates the following three standard communication protocols:

  • Two server-to-server protocols: ebMS and AS2
  • One client-to-server protocol: JX Protocol (*3)

In addition, guidelines for secure internet communication were prepared. And the use of three certificate authorities that meet the guidelines are recommended.

Standard Messages

The standard messages are classified into three types and managed for each type of business process model as follows:

  • Basic messages

Intended for use at supermarkets, drugstores, etc. 26 basic messages were published based on the Order to Cash business model. In 2010, retailers and the apparel industry worked together to develop peer-topeer product information data messages.

Department store messages

Japanese department stores have unique transaction models that are different from those of other retailer categories. For example, they register a merchandise purchase when the merchandise has been actually sold, and also they need to manage pre-ordered seasonal gifts for the Japanese custom of giving gifts twice a year, in summer and at year-end. Therefore department stores use 27 messages in their transactions.

2.1.3 Users' commitment to Ryutsu BMS

According to a survey conducted by GS1 Japan in, 148 retailers and 206 wholesalers or manufacturers have already adopted the Ryutsu BMS. The survey results by business category and product are described in Table 2.1.3-1.

*1 JCA Protocol
This is the standard communications protocol for electronic ordering established in 1980 by the Japan Chain-stores Association (JCA). The communication circuits available for the protocol are public circuits (2,400 bps) and DDX circuits (9,600 bps), and cannot transmit Kanji and images. DDX circuits are packet communication services using telephone circuits provided by NTT.

*2 Ryutsu
Ryutsu is Japanese equivalent of supply and demand chain, typically consists of three groups; Manufacturers, Wholesalers and Retailers.

*3 JX Protocol
This is the communications protocol for transmitting messages from a client terminal to a corresponding server on a TCP/IP network. Using the international SOAP-RPC standard, the protocol realizes functions equivalent to those of the J Protocol. The JX Protocol has become a standard communications protocol for exchanging EDI messages between client and server in the Ryutsu BMS.