Today, we're reviewing transportation management system (TMS) software logistics platforms. TMS platforms are widely considered one of the pillars of modern logistics, so it's a good idea to remain up to date on the latest trends when it comes to this tech cornerstone.
Nearly every business throughout the global supply chain uses transportation management systems. Any box or package that arrives on your doorstep likely benefited from a TMS. Just about every truck you see driving down the highway is probably using some form of TMS. For this reason, many supply chain professionals consider TMS software to be the backbone of the logistics industry.
TMS software is a tool that helps logistics providers optimize asset use and routing. Thus, it's safe to say that when the Ever Given famously became lodged sideways in the Suez Canal in early 2021, TMS platforms across the globe went haywire.
When the Ever Given Blocked the Suez Canal
Coming out of Covid, the global supply chain was already experiencing delays in many ports around the world. The subsequent blockage of the Suez Canal by the Ever Given was like gasoline on flames. Hundreds of vital ships were forced to either sit and wait or add nine days of travel time around the horn of Africa. It's no surprise that some estimates indicated the Suez blockage was holding up $400 million worth of cargo per hour.
The Ever Given blockage highlighted the double-edged reality of logistics. On one hand, logistics makes the global economy go around. On the other hand, the global supply chain relies heavily on the efficient execution of many moving parts. The Ever Given serves as one extreme example of what can happen when execution goes sideways.
Thus, smart organizations have come away from the Suez blockage and the port delays having learned a lesson or two. In my opinion, the biggest lesson is that the system is too complex to not rely on the power of technology any more. In short, you must ensure your supply chain is resilient.
We also saw this during peak COVID. Many of us basically survived thanks to our tech and the global supply chain (and Netflix). We feel this connection with tech and the supply chain in our personal lives. We see this relationship play out on the global stage. So, let's apply what we've learned in those arenas to our businesses and ask: Is your TMS everything it could be? Is your supply chain resilient enough?
Let's take a look at some of the leading TMS software logistics platforms and find out. Here are the TMS platforms we'll look at today:
- TMW Suite
- McLeod Software
- Tailwind Transportation Software
- 3G TMS
- GTG Technology Group
- SAP TMS
There's a TMS for Everyone and for Every Type of Freight
First of all, let's cover the basics. What's a TMS?
In general terms, a TMS is category of software as a service (SaaS). Transportation management system software helps companies plan and execute the physical movement of goods across the supply chain. Therefore, shippers, carriers, manufacturers, retailers, distributors, wholesalers, and third-party logistics firms (3PLs) alike are all typical prime candidates for TMS software.
This can include every mode of shipping; over-the-road (OTR), full truckload (FTL), less than truckload (LTL), dedicated fleet, small package or parcel, ocean bound, rail, and intermodal freight. Essentially, anytime the transport of goods happens, TMS software supports, manages, and helps you optimize each transaction.
It's worth noting that TMS platforms can either be located on-premise or in the cloud. The major difference between the two options is access to the system. With on-premise systems, you must be in the office to access the servers. By contrast, cloud-based TMSs allow for remote access.
Many of us became veterans of remote work during COVID. Remote access to the cloud-based TMS platform offers flexibility. If we're talking about supply chain resiliency, then cloud-based flexibility is a no-brainer.
How Does TMS Logistics Software Work?
TMS platforms incorporate several aspects of a company’s operation and supply chain in order to drive toward a competitive advantage. A TMS builds a database of historical information and then feeds that information back to its users. Thus, TMSs allow companies to use a data-driven decision making process when analyzing shipments in real time. In other words, TMS supplements human potential with the power of tech.
What Are the Key Features of TMS Software Logistics?
Specifically, a TMS offers a host of attractive features meant to make life easier for the logistics professional. There are perhaps hundreds of TMS platforms on the market. But in general, they all aim to offer some combination of the same key features:
- Procurement, quoting, and cost management
- Load optimization
- Route optimization
- Carrier management
- Carrier contracts and secure information sharing
- Load tracking
- Visibility, reporting, and key performance indicator (KPI) tracking
- Integration with enterprise resource planning (ERP), warehouse management system (WMS), customer relationship manager (CRM), and other systems
- Settlement and audit management
- Automated invoicing
- Based in the cloud
Which TMS system should you choose? Base your decision on the size of your organization, which features you need, and your budget. That being said, let's take a measure of how several leading names in the TMS space stack up.
Trimble's TMW TMS has been a staple in the TMS market for years. But that doesn't mean it's resting on its laurels. Instead, TMW is a loud proponent of cloud-based systems as the future for all TMS platforms.
According to TMW's website, TMW's cloud-based world view matches its theme of resilience. The focuses are remote access, right-sizing for each company, increased data security, and decreased IT costs.
McLeod is a well-known, established name in the TMS market. As such, McLeod focuses its TMS on four specific segments of the logistics world: truckload carriers, private fleets, 3PLs and brokerages, and LTLs. McLeod positions its LoadMaster and PowerBroker tools as the ideal all-in-one package.
Each segment benefits from McLeod's tool kit of features. McLeod also collaborates and integrates with a number of leading external software providers. The result is that McLeod offers a very customizable TMS in a user-friendly package.
Tailwind Transportation Software
Tailwind is a trusted name in the cloud-based TMS market. As such, Tailwind offers a measure of customization between its three levels of offerings: Pro TMS, Enterprise TMS, and Unlimited TMS. If you're unsure which option is best suited for your company, Tailwind offers a product comparison tool on their website as well as free trials.
In addition, Tailwind features customizable documents that allow you to accommodate your specific needs. Tailwind also collaborates with several external software providers to fortify its product features.
3G TMS is an up-and-comer to the TMS market. It's garnering a lot of good reviews. According to the company website, 3G TMS markets itself as a multimode solution for large and mid-sized shippers, 3PLs or brokers, and forwarders.
3G TMS is vocal about the reality that any new tech introduction requires mental effort from your organization. As a result, 3G TMS emphasizes streamlining the integration process.
Also, like the other names on this list, 3G TMS is outspoken about its technology partnerships. This theme of collaboration is a good indicator that you're dealing with a resilient company. In short, it shows a company is self-aware and willing to outsource areas of weakness. The benefit for customers is a stronger TMS logistics software product.
GTG Technology Group
GTG Technology Group is a TMS platform that focuses on being the best in the business when it comes to intermodal freight transport and drayage. As such, GTG has a product catered specifically for those two niches. If your business is either intermodal or drayage, it makes a lot of sense to work with a TMS logistics solution that's built for the nuances of your niche.
GTG is entirely cloud-based. The company also places great emphasis on initial integration and the introductory trial phase. This helps give you confidence that everything will be streamlined when the system goes live.
SAP is a large and robust company that was one of the earliest names in enterprise software. If your organization uses other SAP systems, like their enterprise resource planning system, then it makes a lot of sense to integrate SAP's TMS. On the contrary, if you don't use SAP elsewhere, it may not make sense to onboard their TMS.
You may think SAP offers on-premise solutions only, but it also has a cloud-based TMS.
Here's a pop quiz. What do each of the TMS providers we've covered have in common? Vector.
That's right! Each company on this list is partnered with Vector. Vector is a digitized document software technology company based in Silicon Valley. As such, it's an industry leader and frontrunner in the digitized document and paperless office space.
It comes as no surprise that so many TMS software leaders want to collaborate with Vector. Vector's driver workflow software, including driver check-in, bill of lading (BOL), document scanning, mobile app, and automated invoice capabilities are attractive features to TMS software companies and the logistics industry alike.
Logistics industry folks know better than most that disruptions can upset the flow of goods at any time. The best response to that reality is to get proactive. Review your TMS, and look for ways to streamline things.
Let's face it, the next Ever Given is already a given. Prepare yourself with a robust and resilient TMS.
This post was written by Brian Deines. Brian believes that every day is a referendum on a brand’s relevance, and he’s excited to bring that kind of thinking to the world of modern manufacturing and logistics. He deploys a full-stack of business development, sales, and marketing tools built through years of work in the logistics, packaging, and tier-1 part supply industries serving a customer base comprised of Fortune 1000 OEMs.