Five questions to ask Transportation Management System vendors at a conference

January 13, 2023

Should you buy a TMS system for your shipping department? Questions to ask TMS vendors at a conference.

 The fast-paced shipping industry does not like downtime. During the seasonal slower winter months, however, transportation management teams usually head to logistics conferences to stay up to date with colleagues and industry trends.

Why go to a trade show and conference?

In-person conferences still have relevance in an age that supports working remotely. The benefits from attending a conference can be grouped into three broad categories: networking, learning, and research.

Networking. Meeting people in person at conferences cannot be easily quantified. A casual conversation with strangers, friends, or acquaintances can deepen connections with everyone the transportation management team meets: peers, consultants, vendors.

These conversations also lead to knowledge that cannot be gleaned while surfing the internet.

Conference attendees share a wealth of information that can help transportation management teams gain a better understanding of what each department within a supply chain faces with regards to logistical challenges

Learning. Breakout sessions at conferences offer everything to those interested in increasing industry knowledge and skills. For instance, individuals can learn new skills, such as how to use a specific product or handle a process better to increase efficiency. They can also learn how to incorporate new processes into existing ones. Supply chain managers can learn how to incorporate sustainable practices within a supply chain to improve the triple bottom line: profits, people, planet. Or transportation management teams can learn how to pitch the newest digital transformation idea to senior management.

Research. Logistics conferences are also opportunities to research products and services that can help shipping departments streamline processes and increase efficiencies. Those looking to invest in new cost-cutting and time-saving transportation management systems (TMS) can conduct research while networking and attending educational sessions. A well-attended trade show hall offers many opportunities for participants to engage TMS vendors about their products, services, and support.

Should you buy a TMS system for your shipping department? Whether a shipping department should invest in a new TMS depends on a number of factors.

If a shipping department is still dependent on manual processes, the transportation management team should seriously consider automating up to 98 percent of their processes with a cloud-based TMS system. Streamlining processes to increase efficiencies and reduce transportation costs is one of the main reasons for doing this. Another is to reduce the cost of human error caused by repetitive tasks that could be easily performed by instances of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

  • Obsolescence happens quickly with dedicated servers located at or near headquarters. To avoid the problems inherent in maintaining legacy systems, transportation management teams need to research and evaluate a TMS system in the cloud that is both flexible and scalable.
  • Another reason to consider a new TMS is whether the vendor and its product meets the needs of supply chain management. Not all TMS systems are the same. Some systems are easier to use, can perform more functions than others, and offer robust reporting capabilities.
  • Not all vendors are alike. The best ones offer a unique set of services that allow for a seamless transition from the old system to the new, and support is viewed as an ongoing process of continuous improvement that benefits all customers.

So, transportation managers need to keep in mind why they are looking for a new TMS system when walking a logistics trade show floor.

They also need to keep in mind the questions that will help them evaluate TMS system vendors before deciding to invest in a new system.

 

Five questions to ask conference vendors before investing in a new TMS system

1. How will the TMS help shipping departments streamline processes and reduce shipping costs?

There is no point in selecting a TMS vendor if the new system is not going to help the shipping department reduce freight costs, which can account for up to 50 percent of a shipper’s operational costs.

In addition to reduced freight costs, shipping departments should expect a substantial increase in cost-efficiencies that improve a company’s bottom line. For instance, load planning and route optimization software will improve loading times and delivery times, reduce fuel costs, eliminate demurrage and detention fees, and increase driver safety.

Other cost-effective measures that come with deploying the best cloud-based TMS include a money and time saving procurement process that includes Rule 11 for rail freight, a more efficient freight bill payment and audit system, and better communications and improved relationships with carriers and customers.

2. How well does this TMS integrate with other enterprise systems?

Integration may be one of the biggest reasons shipping departments are unhappy with their current TMS vendor.

A supply chain consists of a network of many systems, including enterprise resource planning (ERP), warehouse management system (WMS), carrier systems, and internet of things (IoT) devices. The best cloud-based TMS vendors have readily available application programming interfaces (API) that connect all the integration endpoints, ensuring better communication and visibility throughout the supply chain enterprise.

3. What kinds of reporting does this TMS generate?

Shipping departments can expect two types of reporting from the cloud-based TMS systems.

First, the system dashboard should display key performance indicators (KPIs) in real time so transportation managers can make informed decisions on the fly.

Second, the system should offer robust reporting capability so transportation managers can find hidden opportunities that lead to timeless cost efficiencies.

The best cloud-based TMS systems provide up to 13 months of access to robust analytics and reporting. By using machine learning (ML), the granular reports help shippers gain powerful insights into supply chain performance without having to perform time-consuming procedures to access and external business intelligence (BI) tool. Business analysts can access tools to analyze trends and develop forward-looking projections. Supply chain data scientists can develop predictive analytics.

4. What will it take for a shipping department to implement a cloud-based TMS system?

No one in the transportation logistics industry has time or resources for a lengthy cycle of planning and implementing an upgrade from spreadsheets and whiteboards to a new transportation management system.

A project of this kind requires partnering with a TMS vendor who can make the process as seamless as possible—from pre-planning to training and support. So, instead of an implementation that can take as long as 12 to 18 months, shippers need to look for a vendor who can get you up and running in as little as 60 days.

5. How does the TMS vendor support its customers once the TMS system is online?

A TMS system is only as good as the customer support team that supports it. Therefore, the customer support team needs to be responsive to the needs of their customers.

First, the system itself needs to be intuitive.

Second, the vendor needs to offer different kinds of training to meet the needs of a diverse and distributed transportation management team.

Finally, the TMS development team must be responsive to the needs of their customers. This type of responsiveness requires listening to reviewers’ comments and incorporating code improvements into subsequent system upgrades so that all shipping clients of manufactured industrial freight can quickly realize big savings in freight spend.

Stop by our booth and ask us your questions at an upcoming trade show.

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