The Transportation Management System of Tomorrow is Here Today

By Mike Dieter, CTO, Transplace

Mike Dieter, CTO, Transplace

Transportation Management Systems (TMS) have always been about managing customer shipments at the lowest cost. But as supply chains have become more global, multimodal and complex, this goal has become increasingly more difficult. Yet as the supply chain has evolved, so has TMS technology. 

Where tracking a shipment in real-time was once the next frontier of supply chain management, today’s TMS allow organizations to combine data from multiple sources and apply it to deliver a real, sustainable impact on their logistics and supply chain operations. Further, gathering data and monitoring shipments is only the beginning. Some systems can even help predict the future and alert shippers of potential disruptions and allow them to proactively take steps to address those disruptions in order to maintain smooth operations and high levels of customer service.

Gone are the days of having a TMS that only allows you to create a shipment and track it. This next-generation TMS technology provides organizations with greater visibility and control over their supply chain than ever before.

What a Next-Gen TMS Looks Like

Today’s TMS technology allows shippers to access and leverage valuable data, including the ability to integrate internet data with logistics data. A true “TMS 2.0” incorporates a comprehensive, graphical view of all shipments and dynamic dashboards of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), including on-time arrivals/departures and carrier performance. Additionally, relevant information from the web, including weather and traffic alerts, can now be integrated with shipment data to give organizations a 360 degree view of their entire transportation network at all times. This “control tower” approach to transportation management gives shippers a singular, all-encompassing, real-time view of their supply chain.

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Data and Software: A Powerful Combination

Data is more prevalent now than ever before. However, accessing that data (both internal and external), analyzing it and making it actionable has remained a challenge, especially in the fast-moving world of the supply chain. In this next-gen TMS, software and data are finally being combined to better access and utilize important supply chain data–enabling organizations to realize better, more efficient operations.

For example, not all carriers have the technology to transmit pickup, delivery or in-transit data to a TMS. That information might be accessible via the carrier’s website. In that case, a TMS featuring software robots–a type of “web crawler” similar to what Google uses to constantly scour the internet for relevant data– can be programmed to collect status information from carrier websites and update the shipper or customer’s system. The robot can go to a carrier’s website, insert an ID number, gather the latest shipment information and automatically update the system.

These robots are not only looking at carrier sites and gathering status information–they're also doing the menial operations work that take up so much of an employee’s precious time, such as receiving and inputting order information. Using these robots to open customer orders and input the purchase details into the system allows employees to focus on more pressing tasks, such as taking care of problem shipments; and saving that time can be extremely beneficial for companies lacking the budget to scale during busy shipment seasons. The use of software robots gives a transportation department additional bench strength to track and trace shipments when more human capital is needed or when a shipper’s system is not fully integrated with its business partners.

The Future of Predictive Analytics

The advancements in today’s “TMS 2.0” now enable shippers to use predictive analytics in order to make better, more informed decisions. Predictive analytics can give shippers a global view, telling them where active shipments are, and providing key metrics by carrier, lanes and more. Shippers want to find out if a shipment is going to be late before it actually happens. If there’s a blizzard in the northeast, they want to know if their shipments going to New York are going to be delayed and proactively adjust. Predictive analytics allows shippers to be proactive, not just reactive.

Additionally, advances in Business Intelligence (BI) tools now allow both shippers and their logistics partners to pull data and create customized reports. With new TMS, there are available databases specifically for shippers to access where they can customize their own reports. These “self-service” type of reports are dynamic and can drill down into specific shipments, regions and lanes by accessing data warehouses full of this information. By exposing shippers to more data quickly and easily, you’re giving them the tools to help make better decisions and establish operational excellence throughout their supply chain.

Drive the Supply Chain Forward With a Next-Gen TMS

In the present day scenario, complex, fast-moving supply chain, shippers need tools that enable them to make smart, data-driven decisions and proactively address potential disruptions. As software and data are finally being integrated into a graphical, real-time view via a control tower, this next-gen TMS will help shippers keep pace with today’s changing landscape and take their supply chain operations to the next level.

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