Stay Ahead of The Curve

April 10, 2009
The next generation of transportation management systems (TMS) can help your shipping operation run like a well-oiled machine. Here are five things to consider before selecting one.

If you think the role of a transportation manager is complex today, "be prepared for a future of even more complexity," says Richard Douglass, global manufacturing industry executive at Sterling Commerce, a Columbus, Ohio-based software company.

That's why now is the time to examine the next generation of TMS products, which "offer advanced technology, quicker ROI and more frequent product updates to enable manufacturers to stay ahead of the curve with their shipping operations," according to Douglass.

"With a TMS in place, companies can gain operational efficiencies and reduce costs by leveraging planning capabilities and collaborating more with carriers," Douglass notes.

When selecting a TMS, Douglass offers five tips to help transportation managers get the most out of their purchase:

  1. Consider software as a service (SaaS).
    The question no longer is: "Should I adopt a TMS?" Rather, "How quickly can I get a TMS implemented?" SaaS is designed to run in a multitenant environment in which customers (shippers) are hosted on a single up-to-date version of the system. With no capital expenditure costs, easy integration and quick configuration, shippers can implement the system quickly and benefit from an accelerated ROI.
  2. Evaluate planning capabilities.
    TMS planning tools improve asset utilization and help smooth out demand and supply challenges. For example, they assist in load optimization to help consolidate orders into single shipments, make best-cost modal decisions and enable shippers to build multistop, multipickup routes. With the help of a TMS, companies can take a holistic approach to planning and create one centralized plan across all facilities, including inbound and outbound transportation moves.
  3. Look for connectivity to an established carrier community.
    The hardest part of implementing a TMS is the on-boarding of new carriers, so look for a system that brings a large, established community of carriers for instant connectivity. With instant connectivity to a community of carriers, shippers can create different tendering strategies with carriers and use routing guides to drive the process where carrier volume commitments exist. For ad-hoc shipments, shippers can take advantage of the "spot market" and excess capacity to reduce costs. To ensure that nothing is missed, proactive notifications generated by a TMS track all shipments that are covered by a carrier.
  4. Leverage the carrier community to collaborate.
    By sharing more information in real time, shippers and carriers are able to schedule appointments in a self-service manner. Providing information on the number and type of dock doors at each facility, the available equipment and the hours of operation helps smooth the operation of inbound shipments and reduces both costs and delays.
  5. Consider integrated yard management for additional efficiencies.
    An integrated yard-management system can provide visibility into the trailer pool for both shippers and carriers, enabling optimal planning of resources and result in faster turnaround of deliveries.

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