Gaining greater supply chain visibility and control through transportation management systems


By Fredrik Lindhagen, product director, nShift

Ongoing geopolitical events and a challenging economy mean that today, more than ever, supply chains are especially vulnerable to disruption. The impact of this on demand planning is significant.

Poor or late visibility into channel inventories, an inability to respond to customer inquiries on shipments, arrival dates, or available inventories, and consistently inaccurate demand forecasts are listed among the top operational challenges.

It’s crucial, therefore, that organisations have end-to-end transportation visibility – an understanding where products or supplies are at any given moment. Right now, three in five supply chain organisations are likely to have a Transportation Management System (TMS) to manage their transport operations.  That figure’s likely to grow considerably in the years to come.

Changing nature of TMS

TMS help supply chain leaders manage disruptions and mitigate risks. They form an essential part of the infrastructure of manufacturing and logistics operations everywhere, providing crucial visibility across the entire supply chain.

Recent developments in global conditions mean the nature of TMS is changing. Expanding and improving an organisation’s connections to carrier networks and increasing its transportation efficiency were once the key priorities. More recently, improving transportation visibility has joined carrier efficiency as key drivers of TMS adoption. Shifting consumer expectations have been an important factor, too. Customers now expect the delivery experience to be glitch-free and will abandon any businesses that fall short.

It’s vital, then, that warehouses have a reliable TMS at the heart of their delivery process, seamlessly incorporating carrier management, tracking, analytics, and returns capabilities.

Adoption of TMS

In addition to the disruption mentioned above, cost optimisation, and the replacement and upgrade of legacy ERP and other solutions with the latest technological advancements, have also seen a change in the way TMS is adopted.

In Manufacturing & Logistics IT Magazine’s recent special technology report, Capgemini Invent UK’s Dominique Pesez describes how the high costs of implementation and maintenance meant TMS applications were historically the domain of large companies. Over the past four or five years, however, the adoption of software-as-a-service (SaaS) and integration of modern technologies including AI and machine learning has made TMS systems more accessible to – and cost-effective for – small to mid-sized operations.

Five simple steps

A TMS provides full visibility and control over the supply chain, helping companies in the following five simple steps:

Step 1 – Prepare: consider a modular SaaS solution that focuses on transportation execution processes, providing support in the areas of transportation planning, execution, visibility, event management, and analytics. Prior to implementation, businesses can take their pick of methods with which to integrate the solution and its modules with their own back-end systems and use prepared templates to bring them up to speed, quickly and accurately.

Step 2 – Execute: a modular TMS enables organisations to plan transports, book carriers, print labels and documents, and send notifications through multiple channels for the optimal delivery experience.

Step 3 – Control: a TMS offers secure, easy, customisable access to all an organization’s shipment data, for anyone who needs it, key to achieving transportation visibility.

Step 4 – Analyse: using an integrated business tool to transform information on products and their whereabouts into valuable insights will enable organizations to make data-driven decisions on all areas of the supply chain – both in real-time and during planning for the future.

Step 5 – Improve: Together, the previous four steps will enable organisations to simplify the supply chain, reducing freight spend and inventory, while increasing operational efficiency and sales.

What lies ahead

Transport management systems are already cost-effective, scalable, and flexible, offering manufacturers and logistics operations a greater degree of assurance over the entire supply chain, confident that their goods will be dispatched correctly, to arrive at the right time, regardless of potential disruption.

TMS will continue to evolve over the coming years, further enhancing efficiency in areas such as demand planning and predictions, carbon emissions tracking and reporting, and real-time visibility. Emerging technologies, changing market dynamics and customer needs will undoubtedly lead to significant advancements in TMS. Indeed, artificial intelligence (AI) is already having a considerable impact, enabling more proactive, data-driven decision-making, risk mitigation, and optimization of operations.  

As TMS are more widely adopted over the coming years, we can expect to see supply chains become smarter and more productive, more resilient to unforeseen events, and more responsive to the needs of businesses and their clients. In short, its value to manufacturing and logistics IT organisations is only set to grow.

Find out more about nShift Transport Management System 

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