Has your business suffered from supply chain disruptions and critical shortages recently? We need to look no further than the UK fuel shortage at the pump to realize how essential supply chains are for getting products and services to customers.
This business blog article is an overview of the automated TMS and how it can optimize shipping and logistics to keep the wheels of business rolling.
Now, more than ever, mitigating logistics concerns is a priority for most business owners. Companies are just beginning to recover from supply chain disruptions and critical shortages that make timely production and service possible.
What’s needed are long-term solutions that promote the integration of logistics functions that prioritize service delivery while still keeping costs under control.
In most cases, an automated transport management system (TMS) is your best bet.
What Is A TMS?
Transportation management systems (TMSs) are logistics platforms that optimize shipping and procurement. With the right system in place, manufacturing firms can keep producing and getting goods into customers’ hands faster and more efficiently.
Incorporating such a platform into your shipping and logistics capabilities provides greater oversight and transparency.
Therefore with a TMS, you’re able to gain valuable insights into day-to-day operations, troubleshoot problems to prevent potential bottlenecks, and improve compliance with ever-changing regulations and industry standards.
Such platforms allow you to streamline all delivery-related components of your business and ensure timely fulfillment regardless of geolocation or delivery methods.
You’ll also have greater oversight and control over warehouse, inventory, and supply chain management because you’re making data-driven decisions in real-time.
Business owners in retail, manufacturing, eCommerce or distribution will benefit from acquiring a TMS platform and integrating it into their supply chain. But, what should you look for in a comprehensive transportation management system?
In terms of technology, a TMS should be all of these things:
- secure and user-friendly
- integrate seamlessly with your inventory, accounting and other supply chain management platforms
- able to scale up or down to accommodate business fluctuations
Plus, to control costs and make the platform accessible for businesses of any size or industry. A TMS should also be cloud-based or available as a SaaS/PaaS.
When it comes to functionality and features, a robust TMS should offer support in three core areas:
- transportation optimization
- planning, strategy
What Does a TMS Need To Do For You?
There is no centralized standard for this type of platform, and with hundreds of developers trying to fill the niche, it’s essential to know what your business needs from a TMS before you go shopping for one.
Seek to understand the goals and requirements of your company so that you can better meet and manage client expectations.
Get all necessary stakeholders together and create a requirements statement finding answers to these fundamental questions:
- Do we need an on-premises or cloud-based/SaaS solution?
- Which TMS platforms support all modes and methods of shipping/order fulfillment for our company?
- Will our business engage in global trade or have plans for global expansion in the future?
- Which platform can be customized to conform to non-traditional business, special, or unique transportation/logistics requirements?
- Is the TMS solutions provider i.e. developer or vendor experienced in customizing solutions for similar businesses?
Not all platforms have the same features. For example, a TMS meant to work on a global scale might not be suitable for a business that serves a local or regional marketplace. Plus, would it be cost-effective to use a TMS that does more than your business needs, especially if the global feature pushes the price up?
How To Use A TMS
It’s one thing knowing your business could use a TMS system and quite another knowing how to do it efficiently to optimize shipping and logistics.
Order Planning and Execution
First of all, when entering a transportation order, the interface should be seamless, uncluttered, and easy to navigate.
There should be a mechanism to access an order overview across multiple platforms and departments regardless of geolocation or time of day.
Orders should also update automatically and in real-time as soon as an adjustment is made. Alterations and updates should be applied globally and immediately available to all stakeholders.
Comparison and Analysis
The TMS should also provide flexibility by allowing you to compare rates, shipping terms, and delivery times from multiple freight/shipping companies.
Routes analysis should be available to ensure the most secure and timely fulfillment across each leg of the journey.
Load planning should include information about factors that could lead to a delay and updated information about taxes, tariffs, or trade compliance.
Automated billing and custom invoicing should be baked in and generated according to the terms of each contract, shipment, and client/vendor. This can be enacted in conjunction with – or as a compliment to – advance delivery notifications (ADN).
Advanced Delivery Notifications
The ADNs can be auto-generated along with an eta as soon as an order ships, and you can configure notifications to provide proof of delivery once the shipment arrives at its destination.
Order Tracking, Tracing, and Event Management
Once the order is placed, and the shipment is en route, customers, and other stakeholders should track shipments and obtain timely information about possible delays and other issues.
This type of event management oversight should be available in real-time, from the central dashboard to warehouse managers, delivery drivers, and others via push notifications, text, and mobile platforms.
Business Intelligence and Analytics
The capabilities of your TMS should extend beyond the nuts and bolts of shipping. Platforms should support Big Data and other adaptive technologies to provide insight into your transportation management requirements.
With the right system, actionable reporting and analysis will allow managers and business owners to obtain vital metrics and information about operations at any point along the supply chain and at any point in time.
This type of reporting and analysis allows you to gauge efficiency and cost from vendor to vendor over time. That enables shippers and manufacturers to identify trends to save time and money, improve service levels, and devise other continuous improvement strategies.
Creating this predictable, service-friendly environment boosts productivity, fosters trust, and helps you create a more efficient, cost-effective business environment.
Beyond the Basics
In addition to these basic capabilities, your platform could benefit from some value propositions designed to improve service levels in specific areas and help you become more competitive. This is especially important now that we’re living in a time when everyone offers some sort of delivery model.
For example, a customizable expected event function can be implemented to measure actual performance against promises. A real-world application could include creating an event for a specific tracking or order number to ensure delivery on the promised terms. Such features improve accountability and transparency, which generates customer loyalty and consumer confidence.
The Future of TMS Solutions
Global behemoths like Amazon offer incentives like same-day delivery that are difficult for smaller businesses to match. In addition, shifts in consumer expectations, globalization, and changing regulations put three more strikes against the average company.
As a result, the future of TMS means developers need to create cost-effective solutions that are more feature-rich and accessible to businesses of all sizes. These solutions should incorporate cutting-edge technologies like machine learning that companies can leverage and integrate into other platforms.
Businesses, in turn, need to be willing to undertake digital transformations and make investing in technology a priority. You don’t need to compete with the Amazons of the world. You just need to do what you do to the best of your ability and use the right technology to make it possible.
Future TMS platforms should include such cutting edge technology as:
- AI and other adaptive technologies
- IoT fleet operation and monitoring
- Cold chain management
- Digital assistants
Transport management systems are a vital part of how businesses can optimize their supply chain and logistics. There are other factors, too, as noted with the UK fuel crisis, where the lack of personnel, i.e. truck drivers, has driven a vast bottleneck between the source and end-user.
When it comes to business, time is money. Control what you can by strategically implementing transportation tech solutions that give your business a competitive edge. You may not prevent all disruptions to trade, but when it’s business as usual, you’ll be in a position to act quickly and reduce time-to-market ratios.