A Deep Dive into Advanced Shipping Notices (ASNs) for Supply Chain Excellence

A Deep Dive into Advanced Shipping Notices (ASNs) for Supply Chain Excellence

Stumped by the term “ASN" in the context of retail transactions with your B2B retail customers? Don’t sweat, you're not alone. The Advanced Shipping Notice (ASN) is a critical yet often overlooked component of successful B2B transactions, particularly between brands and retailers.

In today's fast-paced business environment, efficiency and accuracy are more than just buzzwords; they are the backbone of B2B commerce. Sending ASNs, a key Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) document type, can help fast track your brand to achieve supply chain efficiency. 

Here’s what we’ll cover to help you understand everything you need to know about ASNs:

  • Advanced Shipping Notice Definition
  • How advanced shipping notices work
  • Data included in an ASN
  • Why advanced shipping notices are important
  • ASN Impact on B2B transactions
  • Advanced shipping notice benefits
  • How to use ASNs for your business
  • Getting Started with ASNs
  • Advanced shipping notice FAQ

What Is an ASN?

Advanced Shipping Notice (ASN) definition: An Advanced Shipping Notice (ASN) is a digital document exchanged between trading partners in B2B transactions, typically sent by the supplier to the retailer. It provides detailed information about an upcoming shipment, including items being shipped, quantities, packaging details, shipment dates, expected delivery dates, carrier information, and sometimes even lot numbers for traceability.

Think of an ASN (or Advanced Shipment Notice) as your digital handshake with the retailer who is purchasing from you. Just like you'd send a tracking link to a regular customer to let them know their order is on the way, an ASN serves the same purpose for your B2B customers. . It's like telling the retailer, "Hey, your order is coming, and it's exactly what you asked for in your Purchase Order."

How Does an ASN Work?

This digital document is sent through EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), acting as a detailed packing list that gives real-time updates on what's in the shipment, how it's packaged, and when it's expected to arrive. It's like sending a heads-up to the retailer's receiving team, letting them know what to expect and when to expect it.

An ASN is more than just tracking, however. It's a powerful way for you, as a brand, to demonstrate your reliability and quality to retailers. By providing real-time updates as shipments move through the supply chain, you can prove that you can meet delivery deadlines, maintain high product quality, and manage inventory levels efficiently.

In the EDI world, documents often go by numbers instead of names. So, you might hear an ASN referred to as an "EDI 856 document." Whichever you call it, the ASN or 856 is But don't let the jargon throw you off; it's all about making sure your products get to the retailer smoothly and efficiently.

What’s Included in an ASN?

An ASN is a treasure trove of information, including:

  • Shipment details
  • Packaging Information
  • Item Details
  • Shipping and receiving instructions
  • Lot numbers
  • Carrier Information
  • Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA)

Shipment details included in an ASN encompass the shipment date, expected delivery date, carrier details, and tracking number. These are unique identifiers that point specifically to this shipment.

Packing information provides details on how the items are packed, including pallet or carton information. ASNs also deliver insights about the total number of packages, their weight, dimensions, and the type of packaging used.

Item details clue the receiver in on all relevant data for the products being shipped, including SKUs, descriptions, and quantities.

Shipping and receiving instructions are notes attached as part of the ASN, providing clear-cut directions for carriers to adhere to. Retailer vendor guides often have specific requirements for shipment - these details are in the ASN so everyone in the supply chain knows what is expected. 

Lot numbers (if applicable); lot tracking and traceability is often included in an ASN, helping buyers keep tabs on what goods are being shipped or received.

Carrier information details all data on the shipping carrier, including tracking numbers.

Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) lets the receiver know when the shipment is expected to arrive.

Using the information in an ASN, both retailers and suppliers can work together like a well-oiled machine to make sure orders are filled and inventory is managed smoothly. This means customers get the latest products faster, and it makes the whole shipping and receiving process a breeze for everyone involved.

Why is an ASN Important?

ASNs enable an entire supply chain to work together more efficiently, helping to reduce costly mistakes and delays. 

By including all the critical data that needs to be shared between the shipping party and the receiving party, an ASN unifies information and communication. This is essential for achieving operational excellence and avoiding data silos and lost information!

How ASNs Impact B2B Transactions

In B2B transactions, particularly between brands and retailers, Advanced Shipping Notices (ASNs) play a critical role in making operations run smoothly and transparently. These notices help both parties coordinate their systems, ensuring the receiving end is ready for the incoming goods. This coordination is essential for managing inventory, fulfilling orders, and improving overall efficiency.

Benefits Across the Board

Using EDI and adhering to ASN requirements can seem like a burden but in actuality it can be a benefit to both brands and retailers.

Benefits of advanced shipping notices include:

  • Streamlined receiving process
  • Improved and accurate inventory management
  • Enhanced customer service
  • Overall efficiency gains 

Streamlined Receiving Process

Warehouse teams can better prepare for incoming shipments. This proactive planning reduces discrepancies, accelerates the receiving process, and minimizes manual data entry errors. For instance, with an ASN, receivers can quickly and accurately confirm a shipment’s contents as soon as it arrives, and check it against the purchase order to ensure the shipment is accurate.

Supercharged Inventory Management

ASNs give you the power to show retailers exactly what's en route to them, helping you manage your own stock levels with precision. By using ASNs, you can assure retailers that you've got a firm grip on your inventory, making you a more reliable supplier

They are also a benefit to the retailer, empowering them to forecast inventory more accurately and optimize their stock levels. Paired with their sell through reports, the ASN will help them plan future orders as well, giving you a source of recurring, consistent revenue.

Enhanced Customer Service

Timely and precise ASNs provide the buyer with the most up-to-date information on order status and expected delivery times, resulting in superior customer service. For example, a retailer knows they have a shipment incoming and can even pre-sell those units to customers who would ordinarily be left out by a stock out. 

Overall Efficiency Gains

By streamlining processes and eliminating potential points of failure, ASNs benefit businesses with significant efficiency gains. Automating manual processes helps reduce labor costs and free up time for staff to focus on other areas. They also prevent the mistakes that come from using manual processes. 

Actionable Insights: How to Leverage ASNs

  1. EDI Integration: Ensure that your EDI system supports ASNs. This is the first step in automating and streamlining your supply chain communications.
  2. Data Accuracy: Invest in systems that ensure the data in your ASNs is accurate. Errors can lead to delays, increased costs, and strained business relationships.
  3. Training: Educate your team on the importance of ASNs and how to interpret them. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page, reducing the risk of errors and inefficiencies.
  4. Collaboration: Work closely with your retail partners to ensure that both parties are fully utilizing the data provided in the ASNs. This collaborative approach will result in a more efficient and transparent supply chain, as well as improving your business relationship.
  5. Continuous Improvement: Regularly review the effectiveness of your ASN processes. Use key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success and identify areas for improvement.

Improve Your Supply Chain with Crstl's ASN Solutions

Whether you're a brand distributing to retailers or a retailer procuring from brands, ASNs are a crucial element in your business toolkit. This is particularly true if you're navigating intricate supply chains, operating multiple distribution centers, or managing high-volume consignments. ASNs will ensure smooth sailing in B2B transactions, helping you ace inventory management, boost operational efficiency, and elevate customer service to new heights.

Ready to unlock the full potential of ASNs in your business? 🌟

At Crstl, we specialize in fine-tuning your ASN processes for pinpoint accuracy and reliable delivery times. We can help you transform your supply chain into a well-oiled machine. Reach out to us now and let's get started! 🚀

Advanced Shipping Notice (ASN) FAQ

If you read quickly, just skimmed, or simply have more questions about the subject, no worries! We’ve put together some frequently asked questions about ASNs that will help distill the key concepts into some quickly digestible, need-to-know facts.

What is an Advanced Shipping Notice (ASN)?

An ASN is a document that provides detailed information about an upcoming delivery from a supplier to a customer. It usually includes data such as the shipment's contents, packaging type, carrier information, and expected delivery date and time. ASNs are transmitted electronically, often using EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) standards.

Why are Advanced Shipping Notices important?

ASNs play a crucial role in supply chain management by providing the receiving party with advance notice of a shipment, allowing for better planning and efficiency in receiving processes. They help in reducing unloading times, improving inventory management, and increasing the accuracy of order fulfillment.

How is an ASN different from a Bill of Lading?

While both documents provide details about a shipment, their purposes differ. A Bill of Lading (BOL) is a legal document issued by a carrier to acknowledge receipt of cargo for shipment, serving as a contract of carriage and receipt. In contrast, an ASN is a notification sent by the supplier to the customer in advance of delivery, focusing on the contents and expected arrival of the shipment.

How are ASNs transmitted?

ASNs are most commonly transmitted using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) standards, which allow the electronic exchange of data in a standardized format between business partners. Other methods may include XML files or API integrations, depending on the technological capabilities and preferences of the involved parties.

Can ASNs improve warehouse efficiency?

Yes, ASN’s can improve warehouse efficiency by providing detailed information about incoming shipments in advance, ASNs enable warehouse staff to plan for receiving, inspection, and storage processes more efficiently. This can lead to faster unloading, sorting, and inventory updates, ultimately improving overall warehouse operations and reducing wait times.

How do ASNs impact inventory management?

ASNs allow businesses to update their inventory systems with incoming stock information before the physical goods arrive. This advanced knowledge helps in planning for space allocation, reducing stockouts, and improving inventory accuracy, leading to more effective supply chain management.

Are there any challenges associated with implementing ASNs?

Implementing ASNs can require significant investment in technology and training, especially for businesses not already equipped with EDI or similar electronic communication capabilities. Additionally, the effectiveness of ASNs depends on the accuracy and timeliness of the information provided, which requires good communication and cooperation between suppliers and customers.

Can small businesses benefit from ASNs?

Absolutely. While the implementation of ASNs may seem more suited to larger operations, small businesses can also benefit from the improved communication, planning, and efficiency ASNs offer. There are scalable solutions and service providers that can facilitate the adoption of ASNs for businesses of all sizes.