The market changes underway have heightened demand for certain TMS capabilities. Visibility. In the early years of the TMS market, the goal was a “glass pipe” to see inventory at all times, says Jordan Kass, president of managed services for TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson. Now, this capability is table stakes. Shippers expect to monitor inventory throughout its journey, including when it’s in transit. Efficient, reliable connectivity has also become critical, as it makes it possible for shippers and carriers to obtain updates in close to real time, Kass says. They then can quickly act to, for instance, mitigate the impact of a delayed shipment. The ability to automate business processes has also become more important, says Kenneth Sherman, president of IntelliTrans, which offers a SaaS-based TMS. The increase in supply chain disruptions has driven up the number of exceptions among shipments. To effectively handle them, companies need to automate as many processes as possible, so they have the resources to easily identify and handle exceptions. Inbound logistics. Shippers also are more interested in getting involved in the management of the inbound side of their supply chains. “If you don’t get the raw materials or empty containers, nothing will be going out,” Sherman says. TMS technology is changing to meet these demands. It’s becoming more real- time, more predictive, more automated, and more visible, Kass says. One sign of this is the shift from the early- to mid-2000s, when many TMS solutions connected to customers’ enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and to carriers via electronic data interchange (EDI). Shipment updates and other information might transmit hourly or daily. Today, most TMS solutions connect through application programming interfaces, or APIs. Updates typically
TMS solutions, such as the one offered by Blue Yonder, manage both inbound and outbound transportation, track and trace shipments, and provide real-time visibility and advanced routing and container optimization based on real-time inventory, orders, and resource availability.
business decision-making based on the functionality of the TMS,” Wilson says.
occur several times per hour. The speedier updates allow for more informed decisions. In addition, it becomes possible to layer in predictive analytics, and more accurately forecast delays. The shift to cloud-based, software-as-a- service (SaaS) TMS solutions simplifies deployment and reduces upfront and ongoing maintenance costs, says Chris Martin, vice president, shipper solutions, with Trimble Transportation, a provider of transportation solutions. SaaS platforms also typically are easier to integrate with other IT systems. Some systems have been developed just for the small-business market, Kass says. Not only are they less expensive, but they often can be implemented without extensive IT support. Companies that operate internationally can more easily find a unified technology platform that covers much of the globe. In the past, many organizations would have to “stitch together of patchwork of TMS solutions,” Kass says. That makes it difficult to reach one version of the truth. Similarly, current TMS solutions are better able to manage today’s more complex supply chains, which often include multiple transportation modes, different geographies, and changing distribution channels. “A company should be able to leverage the TMS to solve evolving challenges and not limit
More TMS solutions incorporate tools that boost their intelligence. For instance, the TMS market is making greater use of artificial intelligence to increase efficiencies and reduce costs within shipper and 3PL operations, says Kate Leatherbury, director of domestic transportation solutions with Gebrüder Weiss. By leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) TMS solutions can monitor light, temperature, and location as goods are in transit. This helps ensure the integrity of each shipment. Say an IoT device detects light in the trailer after it has been sealed. That may indicate tampering or theft. Companies also are looking for cost savings on freight management and ways to simplify their workflows, regardless of freight mode, Martin says. This is driving interest in TMS platforms that can provide options to source capacity, as well as control costs and service levels. In another shift, more TMS systems design routes that allow drivers to return home at night more often, says James Peck, vice president and solutions advisor with Blue Yonder, a digital supply chain and omnichannel fulfillment company.
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52 Inbound Logistics • May 2022
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