The VDA 4987 Message: Structure, Benefits & Use Cases

Out of the many Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) standards available, the Verband der Automobilindustrie (VDA) standard is fundamental to the automotive industry. Its comprehensive framework and specific messages, such as the VDA 4987, are pivotal in ensuring seamless, efficient, and standardised communication across the automotive supply chain, addressing everything from logistics and inventory management to billing and documentation.

The VDA 4987 message, in particular, plays a critical role in harmonising packaging instructions, facilitating a smoother logistics process, enhancing product safety, and contributing to the sustainability efforts of automotive companies. The VDA 4987 message was released in 2023 and replaces the now legacy VDA 4913 message.

Here we’ll be delving into what exactly the VDA 4987 message involves and how your business can start employing it correctly.

Suggested reading: Start off with our explainer on the VDA standard as a whole.

What is the VDA 4987 message?

The VDA 4987 message acts as an Advanced Shipping Notice (ASN), designed for sharing in-depth logistical information (including packaging and shipment details) between manufacturers and suppliers.

This includes information about how automotive parts and components should be packaged, labelled, and shipped to ensure safe and efficient transport. It provides a structured format for exchanging data concerning the dimensions, weight, handling, and stacking requirements of the packaging, as well as specific instructions for the packaging process.

Its fundamental purpose is to make sure that all parties involved in the supply chain have consistent and accurate information, leading to improved logistics, reduced errors, and enhanced overall efficiency in the supply chain.

What are the benefits and use cases for the VDA 4987 message?

The VDA 4987 message holds a large number of benefits and can be applied to a variety of crucial use cases.

Benefits of the VDA 4987 message

  • Standardisation across the automotive industry: The VDA 4987 message promotes uniformity in the communication of packaging instructions, making it easier for companies to understand and follow guidelines.
  • Efficiency in supply chain operations: By providing clear and structured packaging instructions, the VDA 4987 message helps streamline logistics processes, reducing the time and effort required for handling and shipping.
  • Reduction in transportation errors: With detailed instructions, the likelihood of errors in packaging and shipping is significantly reduced, leading to fewer damages and losses during transit.
  • Optimisation of packaging materials: The message encourages the use of appropriate and efficient packaging materials, which can lead to cost savings and environmental benefits.
  • Enhanced communication between partners: The standardised format facilitates clearer communication between manufacturers, suppliers, and logistics providers, improving collaboration and coordination.
  • Improved product safety and quality: Clear packaging instructions help ensure that products are properly protected during transportation, maintaining their quality and reducing the risk of defects.
  • Compliance with regulatory requirements: The VDA 4987 message can help companies comply with international shipping and packaging regulations, avoiding legal issues and penalties.
  • Flexibility and scalability: As businesses grow and evolve, the standardised message format can easily be adapted to new products and packaging technologies, supporting scalability.

Use cases for the VDA 4987 message 

  • Automotive parts manufacturer to supplier comms: The manufacturer (OEM) will send a Demand Schedule such as VDA 4984 or 4984 to a Supplier. 
  • Logistics and transportation planning: Logistics providers use VDA 4987 messages to understand packaging specifications for automotive components they are tasked with transporting. This enables more efficient loading, unloading, and transport vehicle allocation.
  • Warehouse management: Warehouses receiving parts from various suppliers can use the VDA 4987 message to prepare for incoming goods. Knowing the packaging types and handling instructions in advance helps in allocating the right storage space and handling equipment.
  • Supply chain automation: The 4987 automatically notifies the manufacturer of the shipment delivery location and date/time. It supports warehousing by telling them in advance which products are on the shipment and how they are packaged
  • Quality assurance and compliance: Companies can use VDA 4987 to ensure that all components received or sent comply with internal and external packaging standards, contributing to overall product quality and safety.
  • Environmental sustainability initiatives: By specifying and adhering to packaging standards that reduce waste and promote the use of recyclable materials, companies can use VDA 4987 messages as part of their sustainability efforts.
  • Returnable packaging management: For scenarios involving returnable packaging systems, VDA 4987 messages can specify how these containers should be handled, returned, or reused, facilitating circular logistics practices.
  • Customs and border protection compliance: When shipping parts internationally, the detailed packaging information in VDA 4987 messages can assist in the accurate declaration of goods, ensuring compliance with customs regulations and facilitating smoother border crossings.

Suggested reading: Discover the VDA 4905 message for insights into inventory and production planning through standardised order communications.

What’s the typical structure of a VDA 4987 message?

To understand what a typical VDA 4987 message includes, let’s start with an example.

511 4987 1 20240315 1
512 1 20240315 20
513 1 11223344 “Front Left Door Panel” 10 120x80x60 25kg “Do Not Stack More Than 3 High, Fragile – Handle with Care”
514 1 “RPC1234567” “Preferred Delivery Window: 2024-04-01 to 2024-04-05”
515 1 20240315

Using the above example, let’s now cover what each of the expected segments of a VDA 4987 message means and represents.

511 – Message Start511 4987 1 20240315 1Indicates the start of the VDA 4987 message, including its type (4987 for packaging instructions), version number, the creation date (YYYYMMDD), and sequence number.
512 – Document Info512 1 20240315 20Details about the message or document being sent, including its sequence number, the date, and a reference number or item count indicating the scope of the message.
513 – Part Information513 1 11223344 “Front Left Door Panel” 10 120x80x60 25kg “Do Not Stack More Than 3 High, Fragile – Handle with Care”Part-specific information, including sequence number, part number, description, quantity, dimensions, weight, and special handling instructions. This segment consolidates critical packaging and handling details for each item.
514 – Packaging and Delivery Instructions514 1 “RPC1234567” “Preferred Delivery Window: 2024-04-01 to 2024-04-05”Provides details on the packaging type/reference and additional delivery instructions or preferences, including sequence number, packaging reference (e.g., a specific type of container or packaging standard), and preferred delivery window.
515 – Message End515 1 20240315Marks the end of the VDA 4987 message, including the date of message completion, to signify that all relevant data has been provided and the message is complete.

How is a VDA 4987 message processed?

With the above detail covered, let’s now get into the steps you should expect to take when sending, accepting, and/or processing a VDA 4987 message.

  1. Creation of the message: The sender (essentially, the supplier) creates a VDA 4987 message. This involves compiling detailed information about the packaging requirements for specific parts or products, including dimensions, weight, handling instructions, and any special packaging needs.
  2. Message formatting: The information is then formatted according to the VDA 4987 standard. This standard ensures that the message structure is consistent, making it easier for the recipient’s systems to interpret and process the information.
  3. Transmission of the message: The formatted message is transmitted electronically to the intended recipient. This is often done through Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) systems, which allow for the direct transfer of data between the information systems of the sender and recipient.
  4. Reception and validation: Upon receiving the message, the recipient’s system validates it to ensure that it conforms to the VDA 4987 standard and that all necessary information is present and correct. This step may involve automated checks for errors or omissions.
  5. Interpretation and action: Once validated, the message is interpreted by the recipient’s system. The specific packaging instructions are extracted and can then be acted upon. This could involve preparing the appropriate packaging for outgoing goods, adjusting inventory records, or updating logistics planning to accommodate the specified packaging requirements.
  6. Confirmation and feedback: In some cases, the recipient may send back a confirmation message or feedback to the sender. This could confirm receipt and understanding of the packaging instructions or could involve questions or requests for clarification if any part of the message is unclear.
  7. Implementation of packaging instructions: The final step is the practical implementation of the packaging instructions detailed in the VDA 4987 message. This could involve the physical preparation of packaging materials, the packaging of parts or products according to the specified instructions, and the preparation of these goods for shipment.

What are the equivalents of the VDA 4987 message in other standards?

Remember, you’ll likely have to interact with trading partners and suppliers that don’t necessarily operate with just VDA — plus, your business will very likely have to work with several different EDI standards.

Here’s a guide on what the equivalent of the VDA 4987 message is in other leading EDI standards.

EDI StandardEquivalent of VDA 4987
ANSI X12856 Ship Notice/Manifest
GS1 EANCOMDESADV (Despatch Advice)
OdetteDELINS (Delivery Instruction)

Suggested reading: Explore VDA 4915, a message that exchanges Just-In-Time delivery information and optimises workflows for the automotive sector.

Data Interchange make EDI communications simple

The world of EDI is both vast and ever-evolving. While that spells a lot of good potential for your business’s communications, it’s also daunting and difficult to navigate if you don’t have the right support.

At Data Interchange, we’re seasoned experts in all things EDI. We’ve taken our many decades of experience and channelled them into comprehensive EDI solutions and managed support for a wide variety of clients.

So if you want your business to get fully up to speed on all things EDI and start seeing more seamless communications — just get in touch with one of our experts.

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