Posted On August 12, 2020
Supply chain managers and shipping teams make big decisions every day, often with help from a TMS, or transportation management system. But with tons of options and numerous factors to consider, choosing the right TMS for your company can be a difficult decision in and of itself.
Most of the time, companies get their TMS through three main channels: a free or paid subscription-based TMS; purchasing the technology as part of a contract with a third-party company; or through a non-contract partnership with an outside company like Flat World. (Our TMS, Pipeline, is available for all Flat World clients to use.) But no matter which avenue your company pursues, a handful of major factors should always be considered:
Carrier and Shipping Options
A TMS helps companies plan freight movements and shop across carriers, but that doesn’t mean that all TMS include all carriers. Some TMS companies might have financial interest in what carrier is awarded the freight, meaning you could be missing out on better deals.
On the other hand, some companies don’t want to use certain carriers for specific shipments. In those cases, having a TMS that won’t populate those carriers’ shipping options in searches can help prevent costly mistakes.
Beyond carriers, a TMS should also be able to provide options for different shipping modes, allowing you to choose between parcel, LTL and TL, depending on your needs.
One of the biggest benefits of any TMS is its ability to report on a company’s efforts. Depending on how your business operates, you might want a TMS that can pull custom reports or push the data into other software. A TMS that manages and saves data but doesn’t make the data easy to access, translate, report or use across departments isn’t performing for you like it should.
Data security has become an important factor in every industry—including shipping. Just like other tech platforms and SaaS products, a TMS can be breached, compromising customer data. Do your homework ahead of time to make sure your TMS has systems in place to halt breaches and protect client data to prevent headaches (and lost business) later on.
One more thing on data security—you know the old saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch?” That’s especially true for companies using a free subscription-based TMS. Ask yourself, if you’re not in a financial business relationship with the provider, what is the TMS company getting in return for using it? Research where your company’s data may be ending up and how it might be used.
It’s one thing if a TMS can meet the demands of a business today—but what about a year from now, or five years into the future?
Because transportation management systems often require a big investment (of time, finances or both) it’s worth investigating whether a potential TMS can evolve with your company. Think about your business’ roadmap and what needs you might have down the line. Is the TMS you’re considering capable of expanding to more distribution centers, integrating with new tech platforms or providing custom reporting?
Let’s face it: sometimes technology fails. And while you might not be able to predict crashes or hacks ahead of time, emergency backup plans can help decrease damage.
For example, the processes and data in Pipeline (Flat World’s TMS) utilize multiple redundant servers across the country so we can revert to data from 10 minutes ago in the event of an issue without skipping a beat. Our customer service teams are also available to guide customers through any problems that come up. Your TMS provider should have systems like these in place, too.
We’ve touched on this one already, but it’s worth noting again: a TMS should play nicely with others. That includes the ERP (enterprise resource planning), WMS (warehouse management system), order processing system and your company’s website. Preferably, that integration can be supported by your TMS provider in a timely manner, not outsourced or added to a long waiting list.
And finally, how easy is the TMS easy to use? Depending on the size of your company and what system you choose, implementing it within your company and getting team members trained could take a few hours or a few months. If it’s the latter, you may want to ask the TMS provider whether they can provide training resources to get everyone on board.
Do you have questions about Pipeline or choosing the right TMS for your company? Let’s talk!