Logistics is an incredibly important tool in today’s evermore competitive world. The success or failure of a business will depend, in large part, on its internal efficiency and the way it manages its customer satisfaction. Having a well-functioning and streamlined supply chain is essential for seeing the company through such a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environment. To do this, you will need to deploy the right transportation management system (TMS) solution.
Such logistics software will help improve the interaction between your company’s order management system and its warehouse management and distribution center systems. The aim is to monitor what goes into delivering goods and help with the operations planning and execution of transportation.
As a machine learning (ML) and automation software, the TMS will function as a central management hub for all logistics matters, encompassing customers, shippers, and carriers. Among the modules that make up a top Transportation Management Software, we can include things like route planning and optimization, carrier management, load optimization, order visibility, and advanced shipping, among others. This guide to transportation management software will help you make an informed decision.
What Features to Look for in Transportation Management Software
Not all Transportation Management Software solutions are created the same. Likewise, not every company will require the same features from their TMS. Therefore, you will need to know what to look for before you start looking. Begin by identifying your current resources and capabilities and look for a TMS provider whose capabilities will complement yours.
By knowing your operational gaps, you will be better suited to define future objectives and select a TMS that will fit your short and long-term needs. Working together with your TMS provider, you can develop a shared vision and clarify your strengths and weaknesses. This way, your TMS provider will better understand your organization’s needs, which will dictate your future relationship and success.
Also keep in mind that, without a clearly-defined roadmap to steer your TMS deployments, you will set yourself up for failure. Detailing your needs and requirements in advance will help you select a logistics provider who can cater to your expectations. Keep in mind that 3PL providers can be a great asset to your organization.
That said, here are some of the features that Transportation Management Software typically provides:
- Route Optimization – The logistics management software will determine the most cost-efficient routes. It does this by using available traffic data, maps, road speeds, fuel costs, and modal limitations, saving you time and gas, in the process.
- Carrier Selection – A typical TMS will automatically determine which carrier and which mode option will make the most sense for each delivery, thus improving your procurement process.
- Contract Management – The platform should also allow you to track your existing terms and agreements with individual carriers in real-time. Some will also display the total costs for each, thus allowing you to pick the most cost-efficient carrier.
- Shipment Consolidation – You can further cut shipping costs by scheduling and arranging shipments in the most efficient sets, maximizing your load consolidation.
- Freight Estimates, Settlements, and Payments – Your TMS software should also be able to calculate the delivery costs based on the shipping method, distance, and cargo weight. Likewise, it should enable your accountants to work on all invoices, create payments and vouchers, allocate costs, reduce any related errors, and allow for tolerances when it comes to match-pay settlements.
- Tracking and Tracing Capabilities – The TMS platform will need to provide you with real-time exchange of distribution data between the carrier, the customer, and the distributor.
- Product Visibility and Shipping Support– Full product visibility is essential as it will show you the entire shipment status from start to finish. In some cases, you may also be able to rate and route your packages.
- Warehouse and Yard Management – Warehouse facility real-time information in the form of shipment dispatch should also be included in the package. Likewise, the system should enable you to oversee truck and trailer movement across your manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution facilities.
- Risk Management – By automating your auditing processes, and cross-border report generation capabilities, you will be able to avoid any unnecessary national and international shipping risks.
- Business Data Analytics – Such a system will also need to provide you with analytics capabilities so that you can observe trends as well as improve operations and procedures.
Aside from these features, some Transportation Management Software may also include more advanced capabilities. These can come in the form of big data analytics and SaaS cloud systems that help you outsource your freight data and third party logistics.
Likewise, a TMS can also help increase collaboration between different departments and team members, helping increase the ROI and lower shipping rates, at the same time. Now, as we said, you should choose Transportation Management Software that will be able to complement and expand your existing capabilities.
The Benefits of Transportation Management Software
When using a TMS , companies will be able to better forecast their on-demand and shipment volumes, as well as maximize their return on the user’s transportation spending. It will also allow you to implement a transportation plan like carrier dispatching. As such, you can follow up on any administrative tasks relevant to the situation, such as sending of transport alerts, documenting booking, invoicing, reception editing, etc.
Also, Transportation Management Software will be able to manage things like transportation execution and transport follow-up, performance management and measuring, as well as help decision-makers with future planning. You will be able to track transportation in real-time, optimize terrestrial transport rounds, shipment batching, maritime transport management, vehicle load, and route optimization, etc.
By linking up your TMS to your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, you will also be able to generate electronic load tendering as well as track shipments with your carrier. A reliable Transportation Management Software system will provide you with the following benefits:
- Cash-flow Optimization – A reliable TMS will help you reduce your shipper payment per invoice.
- Inventory Optimization – It will also help you plan better for inventory and generate more inventory reductions and accurate forecasts.
- Increase Customer Service – By having an integrated system that allows you to keep track of all of your orders and shipments, you can ensure better customer experience and satisfaction.
- Improved Warehousing – By reducing the time spent on freight management, you will have more time for optimizing your warehouse efficiency.
- Enhanced Delivery Capabilities – By allowing you to create a master landing bill, your TMS will also enable you to create individual logins, which can be used from different locations and by different authorized personnel.
- Lower Freight Expenses – A good TMS system will also provide various analytics and optimization opportunities, helping you reduce your overall freight cost.
- Fewer Errors – With increased process automation, you will also be able to minimize the number of paperwork errors or incorrect billing.
- Real-Time Delivery Tracking – By having access to data relating to route duration, you will be able to create more time-efficient schedules.
- Better Supply Chain Management – By tracking inventory, deliveries, and other related processes, you will be able to increase your productivity and streamline your supply chain management.
How to Select the Right Transportation Management Solution
Rather than picking a TMS solution at random, you should do your research to determine which vendor will cater to your needs the best. The following steps will help you achieve that.
The System Covers The Basics
Even though you need a system that will be able to satisfy your individual needs, you should look for one that has a comprehensive suite of all the essential features. This will help you cover everything from your supply chain to inventory, warehouse functions, and more.
Look for basic features like:
- Multi-client architecture that supports more than one customer at a time.
- Real-time inventory control and visibility.
- Cost and invoicing control functionalities.
- Logistics tracking software.
- Comprehensive reporting capabilities.
- Automated inventory management.
- Multi-device capabilities.
It Provides Precise Reporting and Embedded Analytics
Keep in mind that today’s business logistics improvement cycle requires evermore specific reporting. Going beyond the basics, good software will be able to gather data that was previously inaccessible to you. It should also be able to generate customized reports that address your specific needs and challenges.
In addition, it will need to integrate all critical solutions, delivering them to all stakeholders in easy to use formats. This, of course, includes mobile apps that facilitate access from anywhere and at any time.
Big data analytics combines your added visibility with other insights to provide you with the best actionable information. Such a feature will differentiate a good from a mediocre TMS. Take, for example, a scenario where you experience a regular shipment delivery delay. An average logistics tracking tool may provide you with the reason for the delay. An integrated analytics platform, on the other hand, will go beyond that by also offering you possible solutions to the problem. These may include things like alternative routes or different quotes from other providers.
Compatibility With Your Current IT Infrastructure
The chances are that this may not be your first logistics system. Also, you may have a range of other software for different applications already set up and configured. Any new additions to your current IT infrastructure should further streamline your system, not add to the problem.
As such, it will need to be compatible and adapt to your other logistics planning, database, reporting, and management tools. The new system needs to create a synergy and be open to the sharing of information with your other tools.
Scalability and Security
Similarly to the point above, your new system will need to be able to scale up based on the needs of your supply chain management software. Aside from managing a regular workload, it should also be able to handle periods of peak demand.
In today’s digital world, more and more companies are becoming dependent on technology for their day-to-day operations. Among these, we can include real-time supply chain visibility, tracking, and other such systems that many are moving to the cloud.
This way, they can better process large amounts of data, match all customer demands, and customize their logistics solutions to become more flexible. This, however, also means that this digital data needs to be secured. Look for a system that will provide enhanced security features.
Customer Service and Technical Support
Aside from the system, itself, you should also choose the TMS based on the people behind the scenes. Select a provider that provides you with a timely and highly responsive level of technical support. Nobody wants to deal with the classic “we are looking into the problem” reply. What you want, instead, is a team of trained professionals that will get on the issue as quickly as possible.
Every new piece of software will have a learning curve, meaning that technical support is almost mandatory during the transition process. If you have doubts or feel unprepared to make full use of what the software has to offer, you should be able to receive employee training sessions.
Never underestimate the usefulness of customer support service, as it is an integral part of the provider’s technical expertise.
Last but not least, you should focus your attention on the overall reliability of the system. The more reliable the system, the less likely it is to encounter any failures down the line. Granted, nobody can guarantee you that the software will work perfectly all the time since occasional crashes and undetected bugs can happen in the software industry.
What you should look for here is whether the provider is actively engaged in monitoring and fixing any and all software malfunctions with regular updates and patches. Cloud computing offers another level of reliability to the system since sensitive data is stored off-site on remote servers. This means that, in the event of a crash, security breach, accident, or any other kind of physical problem, this data will be safely stored elsewhere and readily available to you.
Logistics and transportation are undergoing rapid changes at an unprecedented rate. As you try to keep up or even be at the forefront of this change, it’s imperative that you choose the right logistics technology that will put you in a position to do so.
Remember that you are not only choosing a management system but a valuable partner that will be with you over the long-term. Don’t rush the decision and choose someone who will be able to satisfy all of your needs.
Logistics Titans is at your service. Our system will not only provide you with all the aforementioned TMS implementations, features, and benefits but it’s also free of charge. Contact us today for more information!