It can be very overwhelming to select the right Transportation Management System (TMS) for your business. Although it’s likely a decision that you will only make once or twice for your company, your decision will have a significant impact on the way you operate and scale your business.
A modern TMS is used as the “operating system” daily by many individuals within the company, including freight dispatchers, agents, drivers, operation managers, warehouse, accounting/billing, sales and more. The challenge is selecting a TMS that enables all these individuals to get their work done, collaborate and work together without compromising your existing business operations, processes, and best practices.
It might be surprising to you that most TMS software packages are not industry specific and furthermore not customizable. In that regard, it is difficult to determine if a TMS will meet your needs without installing it and using it first.
Is the software a good fit? I don’t know about you, but I cannot buy a suit without having it tailored. Buying a TMS can be like buying a suit that was made to fit everyone and not being able to tailor it.
Because most freight companies have their own unique value propositions and requirements to support their processes and serve their customers. How can a company decide about purchasing such a critical system for their business with no option to customize it to their industry or corporate operations and processes? The majority of the available TMS solutions are a one-size-fits-all software.
But for most the harsh reality is a decision needs to be made based on many factors. In this article we will cover 7 of the most important factors to consider when selecting a TMS for your company.
It is hard to imagine a TMS software package that was built for all industries and all companies. It is presumptuous for a TMS software company to say that their software was built to serve all freight companies across all industries, and furthermore to discourage or not provide any customization to their customers. Most freight businesses have their own unique value proposition and workflow to serve their customers. A cookie-cutter TMS could significantly impede the ability to grow and run your business.
A TMS software is the “operating system” for your freight company. It should not inhibit or require you to alter your operations and workflow but rather it should enhance and improve your operations.
The TMS you select must have the flexibility to not only support your business requirements but to improve them.
Identify your unique business requirements and discuss it with your software providers during the demo to verify your TMS provider has the capabilities of making these necessary adjustments. Whether it is a simple change on the layout of a screen, a missing report, or something more complicated like a missing field, alert or other functionality, determine if your TMS is willing and able to accommodate your request with a quick turnaround. Remember, when you and your team begin to try out the system you are going to see how well it fits for your company. If your TMS provider is unwilling or unable to make those upfront changes during the sales process they certainly will not be able or willing to make the changes after you buy.
For most freight business owners, security and uptime is not an issue until it becomes one, and then it is too late. If your data is compromised, no one can rely on shipment information, pickup/delivery statuses, reports, and critical documents that need to be updated accurately on a regular basis. This can cost businesses hundreds of hours, thousands of dollars and more importantly its reputation and trust with customers and employees.
Choose a TMS with the most secure platform and the highest up-time for your Transportation Management System.
With a few simple internet searches, you can figure out a platform’s uptime, past security incidents and the investment in ransomware protection. Larger providers tend to take this more seriously and some even publish the health, maintenance, and incident history of each server in their hosted environment. Salesforce, for instance, provides a dedicated “Trust” website for service availability and performance of all its servers.
Choose the most secure platform with the highest uptime for your Transportation Management System
What is a TMS without automated processes? Just a pile of shipment spreadsheets which burdens users with routine and time-consuming tasks.
An automated TMS will improve operational efficiency and provide your company with comprehensive workflow optimization.
Automated alerts, document generation, tracking, ELDs, geofencing, load board integrations, EDI, email templates, driver/carrier settlements are just a few simple yet performance increasing automations you should look for. More advanced platforms let you use features such as point-and-click (without coding) to build business workflows on the fly.
Your TMS needs to facilitate collaboration and streamline communications across your company. Integrated messaging should be part of every workflow allowing visibility and collaboration across teams and customers.
Make sure your TMS is your messaging platform that provides the functionality to be your comprehensive record of truth for all communications across all teams and customers.
Email servers should be synced with the TMS, so emails are sent and logged within shipment records. Additionally other activities such as calls related to a particular shipment as well as fields’ changes need to be tracked within shipment records.
Synch your Emails with your TMS. Log all communications within Shipment records.
Many freight businesses do not know that they are able to set up roles, profiles, hierarchies, and user access levels using more modern transportation management systems.
Your TMS should support role-based profiles which provide each staff member with a system and data focused on their core responsibilities.
Setting up permission and access level hierarchies in a TMS provides clear focus and accountability. Leveraging user permissions and access levels within a TMS increases productivity and accuracy across the organization for every shipment. Additionally, it protects employees and customer’s sensitive data such as salary, age, revenue, commissions and more.
The data and visualization of key indicators needs to be accurately presented to the right users in a timely manner helping them with their key responsibilities in the most efficient manner. Analytics and reporting should be in the TMS. Using an external tool by building a data bridge and ensuring it is up-to-date and properly synced is problematic and costly.
Running your business without BI and Data Analytics is like driving a car without a dashboard. Your TMS must have integrated reporting.
Solid reporting tools with dashboards to illustrate KPIs on charts empowers decision makers to rapidly get the key performance data and make informed decisions. Besides increasing overall efficiency, it allows business owners to identify low performing areas quickly and take the appropriate actions to get back on track.
Your TMS must have BI tools for reporting and visualization on KPIs
Your team needs to be connected from the field to the front office, collaborating and working together using the latest data. Isolated and disconnected systems are hard to manage and keep the data up-to-date and in sync. Multiple points of failure are compounded across multiple systems.
Your TMS needs to support multiple devices including IOT to keep your team connected to your customer, supplier and to ensure success across every workflow.
When it comes to data entry, field staff such as drivers, warehouse workers and agents play an important role. When there is an incident with a shipment or equipment failure, field staff can start the process in the TMS mobile or portal. A connected team will streamline your operations and help you grow and scale your business.
It is not an easy task to choose the best TMS for your freight company. I hope that paying attention to these 7 factors will help you choose the right TMS for your company and make it your own. Freight businesses and their customers are constantly changing and growing; therefore, it is critical to choose a TMS that is customizable to help build the necessary integrations and automations.
Ashkan Shamili has over 16 years of experience in technology and freight transportation. His experience includes design and software development as well as leading international teams providing consulting services for Accenture, T-Mobile and HSBC. He also founded Arash Trucking where he quickly identified the gaps in the available customizable TMS software. Ashkan is the founder and current CEO of Freight Trans Manager (FTM), the leading TMS on Salesforce. He believes software must be customized according to business processes rather than business processes conforming to the software.
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