If you’ve been working in supply chain logistics long enough, you’ll likely remember when one of the biggest advances in managing your transportation was Excel spreadsheets. At the time, it was a great way to store data and run reports, but what it offered in terms of intelligence was somewhat lacking.
Technology in the supply chain industry has made significant advances since then, with intelligent solutions that have made transportation management easier and more efficient than ever before. In addition, the advent of cloud-based computing has significantly reduced the price point of even the most robust Transportation Management System software, making the technology accessible to companies of all sizes, not just the biggest companies with the biggest budgets.
With a growing global economy, supply chains have grown more complex, making the adoption of a transportation management system crucial to keep processes running efficiently while controlling costs.
Whether you’re planning on purchasing your own TMS software, or working with one through a 3PL/4PL, here are our top 7 “must-haves” in any TMS you’re considering:
- Route Optimization: Modern TMS software needs to have strong optimization capabilities, especially in the areas of routing and load building. It should be able to recommend the most efficient routes by factoring in data such as traffic congestion, road weight limitations, speeds, roadmaps, fuel costs, any uniqueness or restrictions of the delivery locations, and multiple drop-off points in order to save money on labour, gas, and wear and tear on the vehicle.
- Load optimization: This important Transportation Management System function helps determine the arrangement of packages and pallets on vehicles based on factors such as which freight is stackable, allowing you to use carrier space more efficiently. By using load optimization to consolidate your shipments, you can ensure that your products are shipped using as few vessels as possible, cutting costs and reducing delivery times.
- Delivery visibility/track & trace: Before the TMS, when your products left the loading dock, they virtually disappeared until they reached the point of delivery. With track & trace functionality within TMS, you have the ability to see your freight’s precise location at any given time. This comprehensive visibility also includes information on freight orders, document imaging to access trip documents, and reporting dashboards. Enhanced freight monitoring and tracking ensures that all stakeholders are kept apprised of any problems in transit through event management through push notifications or on-demand from the system’s desktop or mobile-friendly web interface.
- Cross-platform integration: Information silos lead to problems, inefficiencies, and lost productivity. Effective Transportation Management System software is built to eliminate information silos by integrating seamlessly with many CRM, ERP (e.g. SAP, Oracle, QBO), telematics, financial, and customer service platforms via RESTful API or EDI. This allows your TMS to combine all of the data from the separate services to give a searchable, single-reference point for end-to-end visibility. This streamlined outlook not only allows you better inventory tracking from the warehouse to the destination, but also gives you detailed insights into opportunities for further system optimization.
- Business intelligence: Having robust technology is great, but without intelligence can you really use it to identify problem areas within your supply chain? A robust TMS will deliver real-time insights in the form of reports and dashboards, allowing for actionable information that can be helpful for making real-time business decisions, as well as understanding trends. Ultimately, TMS reports and dashboards help you optimize and streamline your business, which will lead to innovations that better serve your customers.
- Security and access management: Your Transportation Management System should have built-in protection against data breaches, and the ability to efficiently scale as your system grows. It should also only provide data to authorized users, keep a log of all user logins and main events in the lifecycle of a freight shipment. Also, be sure that your TMS is compatible with your infrastructure so your data is regularly backed up and using best practices to protect it from malicious attacks.
- Ease of use: As with any software, the easier it is to use, the more you’ll use it. A well-built TMS will make getting the information you need simple, with well-organized dashboards that provide intelligence in clear and precise reports with only a few clicks.
When shopping for a Transportation Management System, be sure that it covers as many (and preferably all) of these points as possible. It’ll give your supply chain a solid foundation on which you can grow your business over the long term.
Cedric Millar utilizes our own best-in-class Lighthouse™ TMS software, one of the most robust supply chain tools on the market. With powerful, easy-to-use functionality that combines business intelligence with an unparalleled user experience, Lighthouse™ improves upon the best elements of multiple TMS platforms, providing everything you need to streamline your processes, eliminate waste, and significantly reduce costs while supporting your business growth.
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