OASIS Universal Business Language (UBL) TC

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Defining a common XML library of business documents (purchase orders, invoices, etc.)

Tim McGrath, tim.mcgrath@documentengineeringservices.com, Chair
Ken Holman, gkholman@CraneSoftwrights.com, Chair
Jon Bosak, bosak@pinax.com, Secretary

Table of Contents


Announcements

The deadline for accepting suggestions for consideration for UBL 2.2 is May 31, 2016. Please use the UBL TC Public Comment List to submit your requirements.

ISO/IEC 19845:2015 Universal Business Language Version 2.1 (UBL v2.1)

On 16 December 2015, ISO/IEC 19845:2015 was published:

http://www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=66370

All resources can be downloaded from the main UBL 2.1 subdirectory:

http://docs.oasis-open.org/ubl/os-UBL-2.1/

UBL APPROVED FOR USE IN EUROPEAN PUBLIC SECTOR

The European Commission has declared UBL officially eligible for referencing in tenders from public administrations.

https://www.oasis-open.org/news/pr/european-commission-approves-referencing-of-oasis-universal-business-language-ubl-standard

UBL 2.1 APPROVED AS AN OASIS STANDARD

The long-awaited successor to UBL 2.0 (2006) has been approved as an OASIS standard effective November 2013.

The UBL 2.1 OASIS Standard is available in the following formats:

HTML:

http://docs.oasis-open.org/ubl/os-UBL-2.1/UBL-2.1.html

PDF:

http://docs.oasis-open.org/ubl/os-UBL-2.1/UBL-2.1.pdf

XML:

http://docs.oasis-open.org/ubl/os-UBL-2.1/UBL-2.1.xml

And the complete OS in a ZIP file package can be downloaded at:

http://docs.oasis-open.org/ubl/os-UBL-2.1/UBL-2.1.zip

Note that for any version of the Standard to operate as a hypertext with working links into the distribution, it must be used in the context it will have when the zip archive is opened.

Overview — what is UBL?

UBL, the Universal Business Language, defines a royalty-free library of standard XML business documents supporting digitization of the commercial and logistical processes for domestic and international supply chains such as procurement, purchasing, transport, logistics, intermodal freight management, and other supply chain management functions.

UBL can be thought of as a lingua-franca — a (data format) language that allows disparate business applications and trading communities to exchange information along their supply chains using a common format.

Objectives — why do we need UBL?

We believe that the standardization of a proven, pragmatic, royalty-free XML syntax will encourage the proliferation of inexpensive off-the-shelf-software that “natively speaks” UBL and will thus drastically lower the cost of entry for small businesses into the electronic networks used by their larger trading partners. To put it another way, UBL means the end of the expensive one-off software systems that typified the EDI era.

UBL also provides the opportunity to end the debate over standards for business document formats that has discouraged the adoption of new technologies for conducting business in the digital age.

Possibly the largest impact of a standardized royalty-free data format over the long run will be its creation of an entire computing ecosystem, like the ecosystem that was created by the universal adoption of HTML and HTTP two decades ago. UBL is rapidly becoming established as the equivalent of HTML for business documents in the digital age.

Functionality — what can it be used for?

UBL is designed to plug directly into existing business, accounting, legal, auditing, and records management practices, eliminating the re-keying of data required by traditional fax, scanned-image and paper-based supply chains and in doing so provides an entry point into electronic business for small and medium-sized businesses.

Although designed for use in business supply chains it can be (and has been) adapted for other contexts of use. This is because all the business document constructs in a UBL are drawn from a single library of reusable components. This ensures a high degree of alignment among the various parts of the UBL specification, and the assembly of XML schemas from a common element base facilitates code reuse in processing applications.

The library-based design of UBL has a couple of profound practical implications.

First, it means that common data structures such as Address and Line Item are implemented with exactly the same XML structures in every document type that uses them. The implications of this for program code reuse (and by extension, the cost of processing software) are obvious. Less obvious, but equally important, is the fact that complex documents such as Order that are received early in a transactional sequence can easily be “flipped” to generate corresponding documents such as Invoice later in the sequence, since many of the original document structures can be reused in the subsequent ones.

Another critically important aspect of UBL design is its support for customization to meet the needs of individual organizations while maintaining complete interoperability within the standard framework. To suit the requirements of specific trading relationships, data structures of arbitrary complexity can be added (by mutual agreement) to UBL documents without breaking XML validation against the standard schemas.

UBL Traction — who uses UBL?

Beginning with the 2005 adoption of UBL for all public sector invoicing in Denmark (known as OIOUBL), UBL has become the foundation for a number of successful European public procurement frameworks, including EHF (Norway), Svefaktura (Sweden), ePrior (European Commission DIGIT), the National Health Service (UK), and PEPPOL, the pan-European public procurement platform. The PEPPOL community (OpenPEPPOL) serves government agencies and their suppliers from Austria, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, and Sweden through a network of over 100 Access Point all exchanging UBL conformant documents.

Other implementations for eInvoicing include E-Fatura (Turkey), Factura Electronica (Peru), SimplerInvoicing (the Netherlands), CHORUS-factures (France) and Tradeshift (globally). The European eInvoice Service Providers Association (EESPA) also recommends UBL as the lingua franca for their Model Interoperability Agreement.

UBL has also become foundational to a number of efforts in the transport and logstics domain, including the European Common Framework (European Commission), DTTN (Port of Hong Kong), TradeNet (Port of Singapore), Electronic Freight Management (US), and Freightgate (globally).

In keeping with the original vision of UBL as a standard basis for electronic business in general, UBL is now increasingly used by organizations whose scope extends beyond the generic supply chain. These include the European Textile, Clothing, and Footwear industry group (eBiz-TCF) and Wehkamp, the largest online retailer in the Netherlands.

UBL is also incorporated as a reference format in a small but growing number of industry standardisation activities. These include CEN Workshop Agreement (CWA) 16667, Reference Architecture 2.0 for eBusiness Harmonisation in Textile/Clothing and Footwear Sectors, ISO TS 24533, an international technical specification developed by ISO TC 204 (Intelligent Transport Systems) for data interoperability in the movement and intermodal transfer of freight, and a companion international specification, ISO TS 17187, that identifies UBL as the collaborative syntax for harmonizing other syntaxes used throughout the supply chain domain for tracking the shipment of goods.

The implementations listed above are by no means exhaustive. UBL is available with open access. This means no registrations or approvals are required and there are no license fees to use UBL. As such it is not possible to know all the current implementations. We welcome details of other implementations if the owners are willing to share them.

UBL Sanction — who has endorsed UBL?

UBL is the product of an open and accountable OASIS Technical Committee with participation from a variety of international and industry data standards organizations. It was originally approved as an OASIS standard in 2004 and is among the most mature and widely implemented OASIS Standards. The current version, UBL 2.1 (PDF), was approved in 2013.

In 2014 the European Commission declared UBL 2.1 was officially eligible for referencing in tenders from public administrations (one of the first non-European standards to be so recognized).

In 2015 UBL 2.1 was also approved as ISO/IEC 19845:2015, establishing UBL as a true international standard for use by governmental bodies globally. With this endorsement UBL has reached the maximum level of sanction possible for an international standard.

UBL was conceived as the part of the UN/CEFACT-OASIS ebXML partnership that would standardize XML data formats for electronic business. While widely used outside of ebXML and independent of any particular infrastructure framework, UBL continues to complement the ebXML framework of standards.

Also within OASIS, UBL complements and in some cases builds upon the work of the Tax-XML, eGov, Code List Representation, and Business Document Exchange Technical Committees.

Last (but not least) UBL provides components to realize the Open-edi model in real-world trading communities as described by the Open-edi Reference Model standardized as ISO/IEC 14662:2010. As such UBL is a key component of the contribution of OASIS to the ISO/IEC/ITU/UNECE eBusiness MoU.

Enhancements in UBL 2.1 - business

  • UBL 2.1 extends the functionality of UBL 2.0 by increasing the number of defined XML document types from 31 to 65. In addition to the generic supply chain and procurement processes defined in UBL 2.0 (Catalogue, Quotation, Ordering, Fulfilment, Billing, Payment, Statement, Transport Services, and Certificate of Origin), UBL 2.1 adds support for eTendering, Vendor Managed Inventory, Intermodal Freight Management, Utility Billing, and Collaborative Planning, Forecasting, and Replenishment. It also adds two supplementary document types, Document Status and Document Status Request.
  • Aside from adding new document types and areas of functionality, UBL 2.1 also implements a number of improvements across the entire data library.
  • The several thousand data definitions in the UBL library have been thoroughly revised using an approach designed to aid the user attempting to understand the semantics of UBL business entities.
  • The financial information capabilities of UBL have been enhanced in the areas of financial accounting, payment mandates, trade financing, currency handling, and payments reconciliation in order to support downstream processing of invoices within financial services. Legal information capabilities have been enhanced to support advanced procurement and global trade using business models such as outsourcing, application service provision, and virtual services via cloud computing.

Enhancements in UBL 2.1 - technical

UBL 2.1 is a minor revision to UBL 2.0 (because the new 2.1 schemas are backward-compatible with all UBL 2.0 documents). By maintaining complete backward compatibility with all UBL installations since 2006, UBL 2.1 adds these technical refinements and new functionalities without disturbing its extensive implementation base.

The transition to a two-phase model of data verification begun in UBL 2.0 has been completed in UBL 2.1, enabling total flexibility in the application of code lists and other validation rules within the standard structure. This approach allows different versions of the same code list to be used in different document contexts.

Optional support for XAdES and other advanced digital signature schemes based on XML DSig is now bundled into the distribution by default, as are current versions of virtually all internationally recognized EDI code lists.

As an aid to implementers, UML and ASN.1 representations of the UBL information entities are provided in separate OASIS Committee Notes accompanying the UBL 2.1 release.


For the UBL Event Calendar, see ubl.xml.org.


Subcommittees

Technical Subcommittees

OASIS UBL Human Interface Subcommittee

OASIS UBL Pre-Award Procurement Subcommittee

OASIS UBL Post-Award Procurement Subcommittee

OASIS UBL Security Subcommittee

OASIS UBL Small Business Subcommittee

OASIS UBL Transportation Subcommittee

Localization Subcommittees

OASIS UBL Chinese Localization Subcommittee

OASIS UBL Danish Localization Subcommittee

OASIS UBL German Localization Subcommittee

OASIS UBL Italian Localization Subcommittee

OASIS UBL Japanese Localization Subcommittee

OASIS UBL Korean Localization Subcommittee

OASIS UBL Spanish Localization Subcommittee

OASIS UBL Turkish Localization Subcommittee

Regional Localization Subcommittees

OASIS UBL Latin American Regional Localization Subcommittee

Managerial Subcommittees

OASIS UBL Adoption Subcommittee

Retired Subcommittees

OASIS UBL Procurement Subcommittee

A number of OASIS UBL subcommittees that were active in the creation of UBL 1.0 have now been retired as separate entities. The work of these subcommittees continues in the UBL TC itself, and their documents and archives remain available online for future reference.

http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/download.php/22490/retired.htm

TC Tools and Approved Publications

TECHNICAL WORK PRODUCED BY THE COMMITTEE

UBL 2.1 Standard (November 2013)

UBL 2.1 is the latest version of the UBL Standard. See above for details.

UBL Maintenance Governance Procedures Version 1.0

This document describes the governance of the process to propose, accept and incorporate changes to the OASIS Universal Business Language (UBL) 2 specifications. The Committee Note is available at

http://docs.oasis-open.org/ubl/UBL-Governance/v1.0/cn01/UBL-Governance-v1.0-cn01.html

UBL Guidelines for Mapping IFTM UN/EDIFACT Messages Version 1.0

This document defines the possible mappings of International Forwarding and Transport Message (IFTM) components to the OASIS Universal Business Language (UBL) version 2.1. They apply to data structures used in UBL document types BillOfLading, ForwardingInstructions and Waybill (as well as other document types used in intermodal and multimodal freight). The Committee Note is available at

http://docs.oasis-open.org/ubl/UBL-IFTM-Mapping/v1.0/cn01/UBL-IFTM-Mapping-v1.0-cn01.html

UBL 2 Guidelines for Customization

Anyone who needs to modify or add to UBL schemas in order to fit them to a particular purpose should first consult the UBL 2 Guidelines for practical advice in creating UBL-conformant and UBL-compatible document schemas. The Committee Specification is available at

http://docs.oasis-open.org/ubl/guidelines/UBL2-Customization1.0cs01.pdf

UBL 2.0 Standard (December 2006)

A library of over 1900 XML business data components together with 31 business document schemas. All new UBL 2.0 users should apply the UBL 2.0 Update Package (next item) immediately after installing 2.0. Note that UBL 2.0 has been replaced by UBL 2.1 (see above).

http://docs.oasis-open.org/ubl/os-UBL-2.0/
http://docs.oasis-open.org/ubl/os-UBL-2.0.zip

UBL 2.0 Update Package (May 2008)

Updates the code lists and makes a number of corrections (mostly documentary) to the UBL 2.0 Standard above. New UBL 2.0 installations should first download and install the December 2006 release (see previous item) and then apply the Update Package as described in the instructions.

http://docs.oasis-open.org/ubl/os-UBL-2.0-update-delta.zip

UBL 2.0 Naming and Design Rules

The UBL NDRs are a normative set of XML schema design rules and naming conventions for the creation of UBL 2.0 schemas defined in accordance with the ebXML Core Components Technical Specification. The UBL 2.0 Naming and Design Rules Committee Specification can be downloaded from

http://docs.oasis-open.org/ubl/cs01-UBL-2.0-NDR/cs01-UBL-2.0-NDR.pdf

The primary audience for the UBL NDRs was the UBL Technical Committee itself, which used the rules to create the UBL 2.0 schemas. Other XML schema developers may find these rules sufficiently useful to merit consideration for adoption as, or infusion into, their own approaches to XML schema development, omitting or modifying the rules that apply only to UBL.

UBL 2.0 International Data Dictionary

The UBL 2.0 International Data Dictionary, Volume 1, is a UBL Committee Specification that provides informative Japanese, Italian, and Spanish translations of the roughly 2000 business terms normatively defined in English in the UBL 2.0 distribution (as updated by the Errata package released in May 2008).

IDD Vol. 1 can be downloaded from

http://docs.oasis-open.org/ubl/idd/cs-UBL-2.0-idd01/cs-UBL-2.0-idd01.zip

IDD Volume 2 was intended to contain German and Danish translations of the UBL data dictionary, but only a draft of the German version was completed before the release of UBL 2.1. That draft can be found linked from this message:

http://lists.oasis-open.org/archives/ubl/200906/msg00008.html

Preparation of UBL 2.1 included a thorough revision of the definitions, which will now have to be retranslated. As the translations typically take years to complete, it will be some time before replacements for the 2.0 versions are available.

OBSOLETE UBL SPECIFICATIONS

UBL 1.0 Standard (November 2004)

A library of over 600 XML components together with eight business document schemas and a wealth of support files. UBL 1.0 was replaced by UBL 2.0 in 2006 (see above). UBL 2.x documents are not compatible with UBL 1.0 schemas, and new installations of 1.0 are therefore strongly discouraged unless implemented to integrate with a UBL 1.0-based trading network.

http://docs.oasis-open.org/ubl/cd-UBL-1.0/
http://docs.oasis-open.org/ubl/cd-UBL-1.0.zip

UBL 1.0 Legacy materials

Links to the UBL 1.0 Naming and Design Rules, International Data Dictionary, Small Business Subset, and UBL Formatters can be found on the Legacy Support page:

http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/download.php/22571/legacy.htm

Wiki for OASIS UBL TC member collaboration


Methodologies

UBL 2.x implements an innovative approach to code list specification and validation that is described in Appendix E of the UBL 2.1 Standard. Also available is a fabricated case study (based on a real requirement for the OASIS Customer Information Quality Technical Committee) of adaptations a company or a standards committee might want to perform in order to convert a validation strategy based solely on XSD into the two-phase Methodology for Code List and Value Validation referred to above. The case study goes step-by-step through the creation of various artefacts that an organization would need to publish for a default set of code lists, while allowing their community of users to adapt these code lists to specific business requirements between trading partners.


External Resources

  • UBL XML.org Online Community

    A web site and wiki for users of UBL can be found at ubl.xml.org. Materials from the former UBL 2.0 Support Page have been relocated to the new site, which is open to the entire UBL user community. Sections containing items produced by the UBL TC take the place of the Support Package referred to in the UBL 2.0 Standard.

  • OASIS UBL LinkedIn Group

Mailing Lists and Comments

ubl: the list used by TC members to conduct committee work. TC membership is required to post; TC members are automatically subscribed. Current TC membership is listed at

http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/membership.php?wg_abbrev=ubl

To join the UBL TC, first obtain an OASIS membership using the form at

http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/join.php?wg_abbrev=ublis

All correspondence on the ubl list is publicly visible at

http://www.oasis-open.org/archives/ubl/

and is currently mirrored by MarkLogic at MarkMail.org

ubl-comment: a public mail list for providing formal input to the OASIS UBL Technical Committee members in response to public review drafts. Do not use the comment list for questions about UBL; use the ubl-dev list described below. Formal comments can be logged at

http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/comments/form.php?wg_abbrev=ubl

The comment archive is located at

http://lists.oasis-open.org/archives/ubl-comment/

and is currently mirrored by MarkLogic at MarkMail.org

ubl-dev: an unmoderated, public mail list that provides an open forum for developers to exchange ideas and information on implementing the UBL OASIS Standard. You can subscribe to ubl-dev using the OASIS list manager at

http://www.oasis-open.org/mlmanage/

and view the ubl-list archives at

http://www.oasis-open.org/archives/ubl-dev/

currently also mirrored by MarkLogic at MarkMail.org

Questions about UBL

For questions about UBL, please use the public ubl-dev list described above. Do not use the comment form linked from this page for questions. The form is only for comments to be formally reviewed by the TC.


Meetings and Minutes

The weekly UBL Technical Committee meeting is comprised of two teleconferences attended only by OASIS members:

  • The Pacific Call - held at 01:00UTC (November to March) and without change at 01:00UTC (March to November) on Wednesday (this is on Tuesday evening west of the Atlantic Ocean and changes twice a year for those in Daylight Savings Time)
  • The Atlantic Call - held at 15:00UTC (October to March) or 14:00UTC (March to October) on Wednesday (this is always 16:00 Central European Time)

Please see the committee schedule page for a summary of scheduled upcoming meetings.

The agendas and minutes of all meetings are published in the committee email archives.


Additional Information

Event Calendar

The UBL Event Calendar lists conferences of interest to UBL members and indicates those at which UBL representatives may be contacted.

Acknowledgements

The OASIS UBL TC thanks Syncro Soft for its contribution of oXygen licenses used in DocBook authoring of UBL documentation, RenderX for its contribution of XEP licenses used in generating PDF documents from DocBook originals, Altova for its contribution of XML Spy licenses for use in UBL schema design, Sparx Systems for its contribution of Enterprise Architect licenses for use in developing UML content models, GEFEG for its contribution of EDIFIX and technical expertise in the generation and quality review of UBL 2.0 schemas, and SRDC Ltd. for developing iSurf eDoCreator (supported by the European Commission FP7 ICT-213031 iSurf Project) and providing technical assistance in its use as an online repository and editing environment for UBL 2.1 document models and the generation of UBL schemas.



Providing Feedback: OASIS welcomes feedback on its technical activities from potential users, developers, and others to better assure the interoperability and quality of OASIS work.