To improve their logistics management and reduce their overhead costs, freight brokers, transportation providers, and other logistics experts should invest in a transportation management system (TMS) to best suit their needs.
While in the past a TMS might have been a luxury only large logistics providers could afford, today a TMS platform has become much more available. The right TMS system will provide a competitive advantage to the logistics provider and help attract new customers, and increase the company’s bottom line. However, sifting through potential vendors and choosing the right TMS solution that will fit your organization is easier said than done.
The TMS evaluation criteria will become incredibly important during the decision-making process, as it will help you separate the good from the average systems. To do this, you will need to ask the TMS vendor the right questions to increase the potential ROI and reduce risk.
Before Asking Vendors, Ask Yourself What You Want and Need
While every TMS vendor is looking to gain as many customers as possible, not all TMS solutions are the same. These platforms share most standard functions such as increased supply chain visibility, improved freight cost, basic invoicing, load management, or one-touch freight tendering. Other platforms, however, offer more advanced functionalities such as self-service client portals, end-to-end automation, analytics, instant rating capabilities, direct API/ EDI integrations, carrier onboarding and compliance, and more.
Some systems also offer cloud computing capabilities, greatly increasing the value and lowering the TMS implementation’s overall risk. As such, the best way of ensuring that you will not fall victim to an underperforming TMS solution or an overperforming marketing campaign is to start by asking yourself what you want and need from an ideal transportation management system.
Since no one solution will fit all businesses, making a hasty decision can cost your organization both time and money. Nobody is looking towards a short-term TMS implementation that will only need to be changed later down the line. Before making any decisions, consider these questions to ask yourself and the ideal TMS system.
What’s wrong with your current transportation management system?
If you already have a TMS solution installed and operational, it will act as an excellent frame of reference to help you determine what the new solution will need to bring to the table. Spend some time collecting data from users of your current software solution to find out what is and isn’t working for them.
Will it work on your budget?
While the more expensive TMS software will typically come with additional functionalities, they may not always be the best alternative for your logistics service organization. The right TMS should meet your needs while also allowing for scalability. Just because a product costs more doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be a better option for you. Smaller companies may do fine with a less expensive solution without the need to invest in unnecessary functionalities that come with a more expensive alternative.
What are your biggest needs and pain points?
Ultimately, everything boils down to what causes your businesses the most issues. Is it the multiple freight discrepancy? Problems with your shipment and/or supply chain visibility? LTL rates? Whatever the biggest issues are, they should be at the forefront of your search when looking for a new transportation management software.
Does the TMS work long-term?
Finding transportation management software that solves all of the company’s immediate problems is great. However, it should never be the final goal. As your business is taking on new clients and expanding, the TMS should also grow with you. When choosing a new TMS, you will need to factor in any future growth.
What Questions Should I Ask Vendors When Evaluating TMS Products?
Before buying a new TMS solution, you should use the above vendor selection criteria to guide your Q&A session with the TMS provider. After all, who is in a better position to tell you about your future solution than the people who will be selling it to you? You can cover all of the features that you need, as well as the deployment and any other infrastructure requirements that you might have. These questions can be as broad or as detailed as you’d like, as long as you will include the following:
Will this technology become obsolete, or is it updated regularly?
No matter how state-of-the-art a software solution is, given enough time, it will eventually become obsolete. However, if the TMS provider performs regular maintenance and updates to its solution, you will always have access to the latest functions and technologies. Regardless of whether these updates are done manually or automatically, freight brokers and other logistics service providers should consider the potential downtime needed for updates. That said, the best systems use cloud computing, which will push any system updates during off-hours, thereby minimizing or even eliminating the need for any downtime.
What’s their level of customer support?
Another critical area that, unfortunately, very few consider when looking to get TMS software is the vendor’s level of customer support. Sooner or later, you will encounter an issue that cannot be resolved in-house by your staff members. You will need to talk to an expert customer support rep as soon as possible otherwise risk losing business. Depending on your operation’s size and scale, you should consider how long you can wait for a response to your problem. While Interactive voice response (IVRs) solutions can handle many issues that may arise, it’s always better to seek a TMS vendor with real-person customer support available. This is the only real way to guarantee that you will get the answer you need at a moment’s notice.
Besides, customer support is critical in helping you set up and learn to use the new system. You should always consult the vendor regarding their onboarding process and how they will guide you through any of the issues that may arise. It would be best if you also asked them about any tools and self-learn resources available.
Does the software integrate with your supply chain?
Whenever implementing a new TMS package, one thing to keep in mind is understanding how the solution will impact the rest of the supply chain. When you’re talking to the software vendor, ask them how their solution will integrate with the other software solutions you have in place, like warehouse management, or an ERP system. Unless you are just now starting, you will want a system that fits your existing infrastructure.
Is this a modern solution that meets the needs of my business?
Whether you are a freight broker managing a massive truck fleet or a global warehousing operation or a small domestic business, you will most likely have different needs. You should always make sure that the solution will meet the needs of your business.
Does the TMS system link to a carrier network?
Helping you to move freight is among the most important and basic functionalities that a TMS will provide. Some vendors will also have connections with various carriers that can help you move cargo faster and get products at their end-destination without encountering any issues along the way.
How intuitive is the TMS?
The more intuitive and user-friendly a system is, the less training and onboarding is required to get your operation up and running at 100%. By choosing an easy-to-use system, you will be saving a lot of time, money, and resources over the short- to mid-term.
Finally, you should always inquire what sets their system apart from their competitors’ platforms. Also, make sure to continually review their system functions early on in the evaluation process, so that you won’t be wasting time asking questions that have already been answered in their onboarding documents.
While most transportation management solutions should provide you with basic features to help you manage your loads, keep in mind that only a handful actually help users scale their operations and gain a competitive advantage.
As a cloud-based solution, Tai Software is one such example that makes use of artificial intelligence to provide its users with a centralized platform that can automate the shipping and accounting process and help freight brokers scale.
Tai Software will analyze millions of data variables in real-time and allow companies to increase their efficiency within the transportation and freight industry. It’s a solution that addresses every aspect of the shipment lifecycle, making it a great TMS software platform for freight brokers, 3PLs, freight forwarders, and large shippers alike. Request a free demo today!