Transportation Management Software (TMS) was once considered a solution for gigantic retailers or large CPG brands, but that’s no longer the case. Shippers and intermediaries of all sizes can benefit greatly from the increased functionality and simplified processes offered by a TMS.
In the age of the digital supply chain, TMS has become a necessity for shippers and third-party logistics (3PL) providers alike—but not all models are made the same. While many Tier 1 TMS solutions offer similar benefits and functionality, the costs and customer service levels between them often vary wildly. Then, of course, there are the slew of outdated TMS solutions still for sale on the market that can no longer handle the needs of a modern supply chain.
What to Look for in a TMS
Despite the changing needs and constantly increasing pace of the supply chain sector, however, many stakeholders still hesitate to make a TMS investment. Many who need a TMS continue to think that they can’t afford one, and because of this, some logistics professionals are still clicking through pages on spreadsheets and faxing bills of lading, while others are simply struggling with outdated and unsupported TMS solutions that have been outgrown by their organization.
Whatever category you fall into, here are four factors to consider when shopping for a TMS:
1. Cost. Prices between TMS solutions run a pretty wide range and account for a variety of factors. Some may want a flat fee while others will have recurring or cost-per-transaction models. The key to evaluating pricing models lies as much with the buyer as with the seller. Go into your search knowing what services you need and what you can afford.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t have to go broke on the up-front investment. The days of on-site legacy supply chain solutions are behind us. It’s no longer worth investing in large, up-front hardware investments and software customizations for a TMS when Cloud-based Software-as-a-Service subscriptions can offer the same options at a fraction of the price. Also, make sure to consider where your business will be in five or ten years, and choose a solution that can be scaled later without breaking the bank.
2. Functionality. Most TMS providers will promise a similar set of functions and capabilities. Much like cost, however, the question of functionality is a loaded one. You can’t just account for what you need right now, but also what you expect to need over the next few years at a minimum. The biggest advantage of modern Cloud-hosted solutions is that they can scale and grow with you far more easily than an on-site hosted solution will.
If you have other B2B software, then you must be sure that your new TMS will integrate properly with those solutions. The best software will also be wholly customizable, because every operation has its own quirks and idiosyncrasies that need to be accounted for. As far as the basics go, however, you’ll also want to make sure that you can track carrier performance, access the best real-time rates, have real-time visibility of your shipments, and have access to carriers within all the transportation modes that you use.
3. Implementation. You’re not shopping for a new TMS because you want to streamline your transportation operations next year or the year after. Most likely, if you’re looking for a new TMS, it’s because you’re already having problems and you want a solution as soon as possible.
To that end, make sure that you choose a provider that can provide full implementation in weeks or months. There’s no sense in risking operational downtime on something that’s supposed to be streamlining your operation. A quality TMS provider will respect your operation and have the expertise to integrate their solution into it as quickly as possible.
4. Customer service. The best products in the world aren’t worth anything at all if they aren’t supported by a great team. Your software provider shouldn’t just be that vendor you buy solutions from now and then—they should be a partner. When you invest in a solution from a true partner, that partner will invest in you in return by always being there to answer questions, address problems, or tweak the solution as needed.
Ask around about the software vendors you’re considering. Look for case studies and online reviews. Make sure you won’t be forgotten among larger competitors, or swindled into buying upgrades or services you don’t need.
Shippers are currently faced with tight capacity across modes. Without a state-of-the-art TMS to provide up-to-the-minute information on carrier availability and rates, shippers and logistics providers alike may find themselves hemorrhaging money from their transportation budgets.
The 360data TMS offers all the functionality of a Tier 1 TMS, yet remains affordable for small- and medium-sized operations, and can scale with you as your business grows. To learn more about how 360data can help streamline your transportation operation, please contact us.