What is a Transport Management System (TMS)? – Earn Charter

How to Choose the Right TMS Software

There are different TMS (transport management systems) on the market today, all offering different features and benefits.

They may look similar but they can work in different ways. To help you find the TMS software that’s right for you, it’s worth considering the following points to help you in your search for a new system and partner:

Priorities. What are your biggest challenges and issues facing your business? Understanding and documenting your problems will help you determine what you’d like a TMS to do that and what will make the biggest difference to you and your business. Ask your staff, partners, and customers for their opinions too, as a TMS can add value to you and to your customers and the way they work with you.

Timescales. How soon do you need a system to be up and running? How much time can you and your staff devote to the development and implementation of the system and training?

Resources. Who will be responsible for managing the project and making key decisions?   Which members of your team do you need to involve and do they have time to devote to the project to support you? Do you know anyone outside of the business who can work with you to help support you through the process?

Functionality. Will the transport management system give you the flexibility to work the way you want to work?  For example, traffic planning: will you have the flexibility to plan deliveries by resources (drivers, vehicles, sub-contractors) or by load?

Niche market. Do you work in a niche market such as waste? Does the TMS include functionality specific to your sector and will it support your processes such as waste transfer notes? Do you work in a pallet network and what level of integration does the TMS offer?

Licenses. Cloud-based applications can be available per user or per vehicle. Some vendor licenses are per user and some are concurrent and so it’s good to know how many users you’ll need and how quickly additional users can be added if your needs change.

New feature releases. Does your chosen provider have a roadmap in place for ongoing developments in their TMS ecosystem or are they standing still? Look at how they’re progressing and ask what level of investment they make to future-proof their system.

Access. Do your users need remote access to the software from anywhere? If so, a cloud solution may better meet your needs.

System maintenance and updates. If you host the software, do you have in-house expertise to resolve issues if they occur? If not, a cloud-hosted solution may be best for you.

Support. What support services does your TMS provider offer for both users and technical support? Does the provider produce their own software and offer local support for users?

What to Look For In a Transport Management System

Earlier in the article, we mentioned the eight key capabilities to look for when choosing a TMS, namely: job creation and planning; route planning to avoid over-committing your fleet; visibility and exception alerts for all consignments; POD and invoicing, to help you improve cash flow; real-time reporting to inform business decisions; centralised customer records to drive better service by all your employees; mobile apps for drivers to allow for easier, electronic communication; and cloud-based customer portal for easy job entry, increased visibility of job progress.

Depending on what your business goals are, you may need a TMS with extra features to provide additional visibility, such as:

  • Integration with warehouse management systems for stock control and tracking of consignments within the supply chain
  • Integration with garage workshop management software for an overview of vehicle upkeep, maintenance and repair progress and cost control
  • The option to select carriers and rate their performance and efficiency

Your TMS provider should offer solutions that align with both the current and future needs of your business. Make sure your provider has the solutions you need for every mile of your journey ahead.

Consider the following when choosing a provider:

  • TMS solutions on cloud or servers
  • Out of the box or bespoke
  • Access to add-ons Integration capability
  • Ongoing service and training

5 more essential tips to keep in mind when choosing A TMS 

  1. Understand your needs. Don’t pay for features you don’t need. Find a transportation management system that enables you to scale and add functionalities as needed.
  2. Keep integration in mind. Look for a TMS that integrates with complementary tools, your WMS, accounting software, and ERP.
  3. Compliance is essential. Avoid errors that will cost you money by choosing transport management software that complies with all regulatory requirements, and automates as many of these processes as possible, minimising the chance of human error.
  4. Get a proven system. Ask your TMS provider for case studies on how they’ve implemented systems at companies like yours. Real-world examples of how specific needs were met can help you choose the right transport management system.
  5. Analysis. A good TMS helps you get things done. A great TMS will show you how to do them better. A modern TMS can help you plan routes, manage drivers, and avoid potential pitfalls before they happen.

How Much Does a Transport Management System Cost?

The cost of implementing and running a TMS software will be based on your business’s needs and usage each month. With a cloud-based system, you only pay for what you use.

Implementation: The cost of implementation will depend on two factors: The company supplying the TMS, and whether you implement a licensed or cloud-based system.

Licensed TMS buyers would have to load the software on their network servers or on their outsourced hosted networks.

If the TMS is on an outsourced server, using a high-speed fibre connection into your facility ensures that operators work on stand-alone devices. Hosted licensed TMS are only as fast as the servers that host them. Slow response times will result in a lot of user frustration and lost revenue if not set up correctly.

Either way, there is an additional cost to be considered when purchasing a licensed TMS software package.

Transport Management Systems (TMS) Training

Training is critical and should continue not only until every person who will be using your system is fully proficient, but also in the months and years ahead, especially as new staff members join.

It is important that a help desk is available to provide you with ongoing software and IT assistance. Ideally, you should have a dedicated contact person who is always available for advice and support when you need it. To make the most of your investment, your provider should keep you up to date with new features that allow your system to adapt as your business changes and grows.

How Long Does It Take to Implement a TMS?

TMS implementation usually takes 1-2 months for smaller shippers and 3-6 months for larger, more complex networks. On-premise implementations and installations that include a complex migration from legacy applications, can take up to 12 months. It’s vital to understand these realistic timeframes.

If the strategy and selection projects proceed smoothly, then there is a greater chance that a TMS will be implemented faster and within budget.

The Future of Transport Management System (TMS)

Across industries, it is becoming increasingly challenging to meet rising customer expectations and stay compliant with ever-changing regulations. It’s no different for transport operators, and transport management solutions that address these challenges have never been more crucial. To help hauliers future-proof their operations and remain viable amid tough competition, TMSs must keep innovating. Here are some of the ways intelligent technology will enhance transport management systems:

AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly becoming a market differentiator. Companies that use AI and TMS systems together are more likely to have a larger share of the market. AI can enable everything from self-driving vehicles and warehouse management, to allowing management to make the best and most informed decisions possible.

Machine Learning

When applied to trends and historical data, machine learning can help a TMS predict transit times with a higher degree of accuracy. They can also help users identify possible risks, plan their capacity, work out the most efficient route, and much more.

Internet of Things

Internet of things (IoT) devices have made real-time fleet monitoring commonplace. IoT sensors and devices enable in-transit views, real-time route updates, and asset monitoring. This allows hauliers to lower fuel and maintenance costs, speed-up delivery timeframes, and improve driver safety.

Blockchain

Blockchain technology helps build complex connections between freight brokers, forwarders, hauliers, and customers, making intelligent track and trace, increased transparency, and visibility across the supply chain possible.

Blockchain technology can also be used in cold chain management. When different temperatures need to be maintained at various checkpoints along the supply chain, blockchain solutions can monitor the temperature across the entire supply chain. This means that the haulier and everyone along the supply chain can get real-time information and updates.

Read more: The Future of Road Haulage

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