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10 Features a Successful Transportation Management System Must Have

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In a world where efficiency is king, the transport and logistics sector cannot afford to lag behind. A robust Transportation Management System (TMS) serves as the backbone of successful logistics management, enhancing both efficiency and effectiveness. But with a myriad of solutions on the market, what exactly should you be looking for in a TMS? In this blog, we explore the top 10 features that a successful Transportation Management System must have. Whether you’re a logistics veteran or new to the field, this guide will help you understand what constitutes a top-tier TMS. Let’s dive in!

In the bustling landscape of the logistics sector, a robust TMS is no longer a luxury but a necessity. As the gears behind the smooth functioning of supply chains, a TMS shoulders the responsibility of managing and optimizing transport operations. With the rise in globalization, the complexity of logistics has grown exponentially. Now more than ever, companies are demanding transparency, speed, and efficiency in their logistics operations, and a robust TMS is the answer. A top-tier TMS not only streamlines operations but also overcomes common challenges in the industry – from managing multiple carriers to ensuring timely deliveries. In an industry where time is money, a TMS puts you back in the driver’s seat, giving you the power to steer your company towards success.

As a supply chain or logistics specialist, you want to guarantee that your stakeholders are pleased from suppliers to customers. Overwhelming data, laborious processes, and costly mistakes are rapidly becoming a thing of the past, with fewer and fewer businesses implementing transportation management software. 

Transportation management software allows for the tracking of the whole supply chain. It helps you collect accurate and organized data from when your product is created or sourced until it is delivered to your end consumer. The following essay looks at the top characteristics to look for when selecting a transportation management system. 

1. Fleet Administration

Principle of geolocation with GPS. Data transmitted on real-time by telecom satellites or GSM/GPRS network. Éric Chassaing – Own work CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED

Effective Fleet Administration is at the heart of a stellar TMS. It’s crucial to have a comprehensive overview of your fleet’s operations, including tracking vehicle locations, optimizing routes, managing driver schedules, and maintaining vehicles. This capability allows you to respond proactively to real-time information and make informed decisions, resulting in improved efficiency and reduced operational costs. An advanced TMS should also provide an easy-to-use interface for managing these tasks, making fleet administration a breeze rather than a chore. By arming you with the right tools, a top-notch TMS empowers you to keep your fleet running smoothly while simultaneously keeping an eye on the bottom line.

TMS allows you to see and operate your assets on a single platform, whether you have a private fleet or use a shared carrier network. Although not all TMS providers offer comprehensive fleet management tools, you may assign drivers and equipment and handle dispatch and driver financial settlement. If you use specialist fleet management software, you may even manage fuel usage and environmental effect, keep track of vehicle inspections, and remotely operate the truck.

2. Load Forecasting

Predicting freight loads accurately is another critical feature of a robust TMS. Load forecasting allows you to anticipate the volume of shipments, their locations, and the resources required to handle them, facilitating effective planning and allocation of resources. Predictive algorithms powered by artificial intelligence can analyze historical data and significant influencing factors such as seasonal trends, holidays, or promotional events to generate accurate forecasts. This aids in avoiding overbooking and underutilization, resulting in optimized operations and increased customer satisfaction. An excellent TMS would also provide intuitive visualization tools, simplifying the interpretation of forecasting data to drive strategic decision-making.

You may plan the loading space of trucks, trailers, and containers and obtain an estimate of the available loading space while taking maximum loads and weight into account. You can, for example, input information about your car dimensions and preserve it for future reference, which is known as master data. The freight order contains information on the item dimensions. Some TMSs have a 3D load plan function that allows you to view and modify the load distribution and space usage. 

3. Dock Operations and Dock Scheduling

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Efficient dock operations and dock scheduling are fundamental for a successful transportation management system (TMS). This feature is designed to streamline all activities related to the loading dock, reducing idle time and ensuring seamless integration of inbound and outbound operations. Scheduling docks can minimize congestion, enhance operational efficiency, and improve delivery speed. A good TMS allows for real-time scheduling, providing a detailed view of dock availability and capacity, and enabling carriers to self-schedule their arrivals and departures. Furthermore, it should offer live updates and alerts on any changes or delays, ensuring all stakeholders are synchronized and the entire process stays on track. The synchronization of dock operations and scheduling can significantly reduce detention and demurrage costs, maximizing profit while ensuring customer satisfaction.

Shippers spend most of their time booking dock appointments while truck drivers squander time waiting for their turn at warehouse docks. When a TMS integrates with a Warehouse Management System, it may include dock scheduling and load sequencing in the transportation plan. You have an excellent overview of all warehouse and transportation restrictions. You can build more precise schedules, apply your business rules and regulations of each site, and always have a load status available to you or your customers. 

4. Route Analyzer

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A Route Analyzer is another indispensable feature of a top-notch TMS. This functionality allows for the optimization of routes based on various parameters, such as shortest distance, lowest cost, or minimal time, ensuring efficient use of resources. It takes into consideration real-time situational factors like traffic conditions, weather impacts, and vehicle constraints to suggest the most efficient route. This feature is particularly important for businesses with multi-stop routes as it can significantly reduce fuel consumption, lower vehicle wear and tear, and improve delivery punctuality. With a route analyzer, companies can enjoy increased operational efficiency, reduced operational costs, and enhanced customer satisfaction due to timely deliveries. In a nutshell, a well-programmed route analyzer leads to smarter decisions, better route planning, and overall improved logistics performance.

Although planning is a TMS’s primary role, routing is not one of its strong suits. Many organizations utilize route optimization software to schedule and handle routing difficulties, which, unlike TMS, uses a variety of algorithms to compute the optimum routes. As a result, you’ll almost certainly need to utilize a mix of the following tools: Routing tools will extract massive amounts of data from TMS, allowing them to assess route performance.

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5. Analytics and Business Intelligence

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Analytics and Business Intelligence are critical features of a successful Transportation Management System (TMS). These tools offer insight into your transportation operations, identifying patterns, trends, and areas for improvement. They help in the collection, integration, analysis, and presentation of business information and also provide historical, current, and predictive views of operations. With effective use of analytics and BI capabilities, decision-makers can make well-informed decisions based on data-driven insights. For instance, you can understand cost-to-serve metrics for each customer, evaluate carrier performance, or identify freight cost reduction opportunities. Furthermore, these tools enable the generation of comprehensive reports that can be easily understood by stakeholders. In essence, to make your TMS more impactful, it should possess strong analytics and business intelligence features.

Business intelligence is the process of leveraging data to improve business performance. Some TMSs have an integrated BI infrastructure that handles data extraction, transformation, and warehousing operations on an end-to-end platform.

The most significant advantages of BI over traditional spreadsheets are real-time reporting and a plethora of bespoke reports that anybody on the transportation management team may produce for their own needs.

6. Carrier Selection Automation

Carrier Selection Automation is a vital feature in a robust Transportation Management System (TMS). This feature automates the process of selecting the best carrier for each shipment based on predetermined criteria such as cost, transit time, carrier performance, and capacity. Carrier selection automation not only saves time but also eliminates human bias and error from the decision-making process. It provides a fair and transparent method of distributing shipments among carriers, ensuring that performance metrics are met and costs are minimized. The result is optimal allocation of resources, improved service delivery, and significant cost savings. To leverage the full benefits of a TMS, look for a system with a comprehensive and user-friendly carrier selection automation feature.

Ideally, your transportation management solution would serve as your organization’s one-stop shop for order fulfillment, eliminating the need for carrier-specific workstations on the warehouse floor.

In a single solution, carrier selection for each shipment will be automated, and the technology will account for best value rates, your business regulations, and customer delivery preferences with each order.

7. Carrier Invoice Matching and Payment Automation

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Carrier Invoice Matching and Payment Automation is another must-have feature in a top-tier Transportation Management System. This feature allows the TMS to automatically match carrier invoices with shipment details, ensuring accuracy in payments and eliminating the possibility of overbilling. The automatic invoice matching process not only saves time in manual cross-checking but also identifies any discrepancies immediately. Furthermore, payment automation gives you control over your cash flow by scheduling payments based on your business’s financial plans. This feature enhances financial accuracy, improves efficiency, and reduces the operational costs associated with manual invoice processing and payments. When selecting a TMS, ensure that it includes this feature to streamline your financial operations and maintain accuracy in your billing and payment processes.

One of the reasons why a package shipping transportation management system is essential for your organization is that you never have to push it. When you start a new shipment, the transportation flow continues until it is completed, with no one needing to chase after a job.

Automated freight bill auditing is a critical task in completing this cycle. You may verify invoice correctness before issuing payment and discover possible savings by performing specialized audits on all carrier bills and automatically comparing shipment data with invoice data. 

8. Capability to Collect Benchmark Data

The Capability to Collect Benchmark Data is a crucial feature for a successful Transportation Management System. This feature allows you to gather and analyze data such as shipping rates, delivery times, and service levels from various carriers. It gives you the ability to measure your transportation performance against industry standards and identify areas where you can improve. By collecting benchmark data, you can make more informed decisions about your shipping processes and strategies. This data can also help you negotiate better rates with your carriers and identify opportunities for cost reduction. So when choosing a TMS, make sure it has robust benchmarking capabilities to help drive continuous improvement in your transportation operations.

Everyone wants to be able to negotiate better prices. A TMS collects carrier pricing and service information to provide you with the benchmark data you need for bargaining.

9. Real-Time Tracking

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Real-Time Tracking is an absolute must-have feature in a successful Transportation Management System. This capability provides you with live updates on the whereabouts and status of your shipments, ensuring you can monitor your goods from departure to arrival. With real-time tracking, you can quickly identify and address any potential issues or delays, improving overall efficiency and customer satisfaction. It enhances transparency in the supply chain and allows you to make proactive decisions to mitigate any risks or problems that might arise during transportation. In the age of instant gratification, customers appreciate being kept in the loop about their orders, and real-time tracking enables just that. So a TMS with real-time tracking can significantly boost your service quality while reducing uncertainties in your transportation operations.

TMS should enable track-and-trace capabilities for items as they travel through the network, providing a full view of each stage of the transportation process and making them easier to manage.

When selecting a TMS, ensure that it provides:

  • Increased monitoring and tracking accuracy.
  • Efficient management.
  • Automatic notifications for on-the-road occurrences.  

10. Security

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A robust TMS system protects the company from data breaches, has adequate backup mechanisms, and can meet growing performance demands as the company’s needs evolve. According to experts, a successful TMS should constantly ensure customer security and safety. Key statistics should be provided exclusively to authorized users, and outside users should access the system only via invitation. Furthermore, all user logins should be documented using an integrated access logging procedure. The events log keeps track of all significant events in the development of a shipment or cargo.

Conclusion

Don’t hurry towards implementing a TMS. As you can see, there is a lot to think about. And each company and leader will have its own set of priorities. So, before you choose a TMS, make sure it has the above-mentioned qualities. Then examine your company’s unique needs, because you want to guarantee that your software has all of the capabilities it needs to accomplish the job.

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