A multilingual trade information system: the road to global success!

The world has become a global village: electronic commerce is truly international and must be standardized

The 2nd Logistics Information Standardization Forum held in Seoul, South Korea on September 2016, brought together a host of actors in an effort to standardize international logistics information as a key factor in improving logistic processes in business. The forum put forth the creation of an international consensus for a cooperation system on international logistics information.

At the AFNET association, we promote and develop such standards so as to improve relationships between organizations and enterprises. Standardizing electronic commerce for logistics means defining a common document structure for order processing transactions and product deliveries.

An early initiative in the Asian Pacific region

In 2008, Korea, China and Japan established a trilateral cooperation, NEAL-NET, to organize and structure the logistics information systems between the three countries.

With the heavy flow of merchandise traffic between ports, the logistics information system between countries must be connected and the exchange of data structure that describes a container’s content must be shared through a common standard.

There are many logistics actors in international logistics activities. The information sharing barrier has become the bottleneck for logistics in business. The core problem is that the logistics information sharing mechanism among countries is poor. Also, standards and sharing networks are relatively new.

UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe)

A similar European initiative is in progress to define an ISO international standard to be applicable worldwide. The work is being carried out by UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe), under the umbrella of the United Nations Organization. [1]
It provides an internationally accepted standard repository for the semantics of trade data elements used in international trade. This data structure is at the heart of the logistic exchange between countries.

How to overcome the language barrier within logistic exchanges?

At SYSTRAN, we define terminology that is applicable systematically to any machine translation request performed with a given profile. Within the context of electronic commerce, SYSTRAN’s engine, which is compliant with the terminology of the Trade Data Elements described above, makes possible an automated way to transfer logistic documents from one language to another with respect to the standard:

  • An order generated in Japan in Japanese can be received in Chinese by a Chinese worker;
  • Data description of goods within a given container, filled in Korea in Korean can be understood by European customs when the container arrives at the port;
  • Transportation documents are better understood if they are read by workers in their native language; most of the people involved in the transportation flow are not fluent in English;
  • Today, the United Nations’ initiative makes possible the interconnection of different Single Windows developed within regions (A Single Window is a portal used by all stakeholders during the transportation: traders, suppliers, customs, banks, insurance companies, customers, logistics and postal companies, airlines, etc.).

Using automated translation for the Data Element names and descriptions is a key factor in facilitating the communication and trading within logistic processes. SYSTRAN’s application in front or integrated within the Single Window portal is an essential element in enhancing communication for international commerce.

[1] The United Nations Trade Data Element Directory (UNTDED, ISO 7372) is developed and published by UN/CEFACT. A UN Layout Key (UNLK) trade document has boxes to be filled in with specific data. The requirement for each box is recorded in a dictionary called the Trade Data Elements Directory (UNTDED, ISO 7372). The directory consists of a four-digit number to identify each data element, its name and accompanying description.

Author: Pierre Bernassau, AFNET expert since 2000.