UN/EDIFACT

UN/EDIFACT Data Elements (SARS Explained)

Each data segment has a specific position within the sequence of segments in a message. Segments can appear on their own or as part of a group. A data element is the smallest unit of information in a segment. Two or more data elements may be grouped together to form a composite data element. Like segments, data elements can have a status of either mandatory or conditional.

The type of a data element is represented by either an “a” (alpha characters only), “an” (alphanumeric) or “n” (numeric). The number that follows the type represents the maximum number of characters allowed and the “..” between the type and size means that the data element is of variable length. Should the “..” (dot) not be present, it is a fixed length data element. Examples are “an..35”, “n..18”, “a1” etc. Typically the plus sign (+) is used as the delimiter that precedes each data element within a segment.

When there is no data being transmitted for a defined element, the plus sign is transmitted to preserve the data element count unless the blank elements are the last in the segment. In that case, transmission of the data segment terminator code indicates that all non-transmitted elements are blank. A data element may also consist of component data elements. For example address may be broken into address lines 1 to 5.

Typically the colon (:) is used to delimit the components. As with an element the colon needs to be sent unless all following components are all blank, then the element or segment terminator must be sent. Should one of the delimiters (plus, colon, single quote) need to be sent as data, it must be proceeded with a question mark (?). This is referred to as a release character.

Aslo a question mark in data must be proceeded with a question mark. For example to send “Is 1+1=2?”, it would be sent as “1?+1=2??” The release character is not counted within the maximum length defined for an  data element. Numeric data elements are sent as real, positive or negative, decimal numbers, with a decimal point and/or a minus sign if required, and without leading or trailing zeros, except for a single zero before the decimal point if the value is less than 1. The decimal point and the minus sign are not counted within the maximum length of the data element.

Numeric data elements are sent as real, positive or negative, decimal numbers, with a decimal point and/or a minus sign if required, and without leading or trailing zeros, except for a single zero before the decimal point if the value is less than 1. The decimal point and the minus sign are not counted within the maximum length of the data element.

To keep messages concise, omit unused elements wherever possible. Any complete segment or segment group which is not required in the message is omitted. A segment is terminated immediately after the last data element for which there is actual content. Empty data elements are represented by including the required separators, and nothing else. The following diagram is a summary of the above:

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