Supply Chain Logistics - The Use of XML

What is XML?

The current buzz-word today is XML. XML is short for Extensible Markup Language and is a set of rules defining how a document or a message should be formatted. XML is not the next-generation-HTML, it's a language that can describe anything, a HTML web page, a hotel booking request, a phone book, anything! This is how a very simple XML document look like:

<?xml version=”1.0”?>
<MESSAGE>This is the message</MESSAGE>

How is XML Used ?

XML is used as the 'glue' between different systems and applications. It is used as an EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) language, i.e. instead of sending UN/EDIFACT or ANSI X.12 messages, you send an XML file.

What XML Standards Are Available

As mentioned above, XML can be used for any data. There are XML formats for the insurance industry, for real estate etc. Below are some XML standards used in supply chain management.


ebXML is a set of specifications that together enable a modular electronic business framework. The vision of ebXML is to enable a global electronic marketplace where enterprises of any size and in any geographical location can meet and conduct business with each other through the exchange of XML based messages. ebXML is a joint initiative of the United Nations (UN/CEFACT) and OASIS, developed with global participation for global usage.

The standard defines all aspects of message interchange, from definitions of business processes to the nitty-gritty part of specifying extactly how the messages should be sent. Whats interesting is that you do not need to implement all of the ebXml requirements, you can start out with some of the parts. Another good feature is that there is a shared repository for company profiles, business process models and related message structures; it is a kind of Yellow Pages for EDI capable businesses.

Because it is (partly) developed by the United Nations, it is expected that ebXml will replace UN/EDIFACT in the future.

Web site at


RosettaNet is an organisation which provides method and processes for conducting e-business. The organisation is a consortium of more than 400 of the world's leading Electronic Components (EC), Information Technology (IT) and Semiconductor Manufacturing (SM) companies. The RosettaNet process is much more than deciding the format of the EDI messages, it defines the full process of e-commerce. There are:

RosettaNet has developed process definitions targeted solely for business-to-business supply chain integration. Web site at

Open Applications Group

The Open Applications Group publishes a large number of XML standards to be used in various eBusiness and Application Integration projects. The standard is similar to RosettaNet and ebXml, but more generally applicable. Where RosettaNet is aimed more

Web site at

stepML by PDES, Inc

The STEPml specification addresses the requirements to identify and classify or categorize products, components, assemblies (ignoring their structure) and/or parts. Identification and classification are concepts assigned to a product by a particular organization.

The following are within the scope of this specification:

  • identifying products using a string value that is unique within the organization that assigned the value for a type of product;

  • representing the name of a product;

  • representing an optional description of a product;

  • representing the categorization of the product;

  • the specification of a data structure to identify an organization;

  • the specification of a data structure to identify a person;

  • the specification of a data structure to relate a person to an organization;

  • the specification of a data structure to represent an address;

  • an organization may have a related address;

  • a person in an organization may have a related address;

  • all identified people must be related to organizations;

  • the assignment of an organization to product data;

  • the assignment of a person in an organization to product data;

  • specifying a data structure to record the names of categories for products;

  • specifying a data structure to optionally record the description or definition of a product category;

  • specifying a data structure to relate product categories in a hierarchical manner;

  • optionally recording what organisation or person in organisation defines a category for a product.

Web site at

Pär Henning, 2001-04-16.