Transport management system and associated technology, such as GPS, is increasingly integrating our complex, globalised shipping industry.  However, some companies are still hesitant to invest in a TMS system for a variety of reasons, such as: fear of lack of value added, lack of comfort with technology, overwhelmed with choices available, lack of in-house expertise or IT strategy, fears about budget over-reach.

Nevertheless, many business leaders are already happy with the ease of email, smart phone apps and messaging services that have overtaken the time consuming fax for order confirmations and status updates. Instant communications that are cost-effective are helping move product faster, but lacking an overarching IT strategy are leaking profits for freight brokerages, freight forwarder services and international shipping companies.  Collating and integrating data systems for monitoring performance and strategic planning is the greatest step forward companies can make in anticipating demand and controlling costs in sophisticated supply chains.

Transportation infrastructure and greater access to capacity can now enable shippers to track super tankers wherever they are in the world and scrutinise cargo details for last minute destination changes and warehousing capacity planning. Connectivity across supply chains mean companies can minimise cash tied up in unnecessary transportation with greater data insights.

Making savings through tactical and operational changes on the fly can shave costs off freight rates and ultimately improve competitiveness. The efficiencies offered by making transport and logistics systems smarter make choosing a transportation management system(TMS) a key factor in business success more than ever before.

As more companies seek to leverage their staff expertise and simplify administration burdens, TMS needs to be seen as an essential strategic and operational tool.  Bringing more efficiency from your supply and delivery chains, through greater transparency, companies are able to divert resources to service development and diversification.

Of course, many businesses are already fully immersed in legacy systems that are no longer fit for purpose, slowing down administration, risking costly compliance errors and lacking forward planning enhancement opportunities. What stops companies taking that vital step of investing in the right TMS for them may be fear of the unknown, including unanticipated development costs, fear that software may rapidly be superseded by the next best solution, lack of understanding of how to get started with their IT project…

Given the numerous factors involved with your daily operations, with each business being unique, comparison between generic systems can also feel like a mismatch.  This makes partnership with the right IT partner just as important as selecting software with the features and benefits of TMS software to suit your business objectives.

TMS software providers with expertise in the freight forwarding and logistics sector makes initial discussions all the more easier.  Specialists will get to know the detail of your company now and what your future aspirations and overall vision are in order to move you closer to your plan.

An initial transport management software needs assessment will factor in detail such as the size of your organisation, the locations you serve, preferred modes of transport, customer profiles, current delivery systems you use and what you hope to achieve from your technology investment. Following an end to end review of your business, tailored recommendations can be made.  This could include staged investment via modular software which can be gradually scaled, or even later developed to customise solutions to your development needs.

Another key consideration when choosing between the modular and customised TMS route is how complex are your supply and distribution chains are now and looking to the future.  The best TMS systems providers will be flexible enough to offer solutions serving a wide variety of purposes. A good IT project partner will offer a thorough analysis and business case for more sophisticated options and will be concerned with the long term, rather than turnover of inadequate systems short term, merely because they are cheaper.

Making IT investment decisions based purely on price up front could prove costlier long term.  For companies with international presence, wide ranging inventory and business complexity, comprehensive systems will work best and may require forward planning and staged roll out.  Risks of cutting corners include stymied cash flow, lost opportunity and time wasted fixing problems.

Bear in mind all potential system users, including supply chain partners, when choosing your ideal transportation management system.  A varied level of technological literacy may require you to invest in system training by your provider.  Where partner businesses are concerned, ensuring compatibility of data sharing formats will save time and headache and enhance your company’s professionalism.

Given that the best TMS systems will help you in anticipating demand, forward planning for different scenarios and help managers make more informed decisions, another important factor in choosing your new system is reporting capabilities.  Developing performance metrics in partnership with your software provider means that you can identify areas where you are losing out on efficiencies.  Real time data from transport patterns, for instance, can suggest changes of third party logistics suppliers, or adjustments in capacity, redirection of cargo and much more.

Take some time in listing your business needs should not paralyse you with overwhelm, because while you procrastinate, you can be sure your competitors are moving forward with their IT upgrades. No longer is gaining the edge dependent upon in house staff expertise alone. The margins for efficiency are increasingly in automation of processes and software solutions currently beyond your imagination. The options are still evolving, but speaking with a professional TMS partner will help you navigate pitfalls and empower you to make the right decision that will enable you to move with changes happening in your industry and keep abreast of technological innovation.  It’s really as simple as starting the conversation about your ideal TMS system