Make 2016 the Year of the TMS

2016 is finally here, and there’s a good chance you’re working hard to stick to your New Year’s Resolutions. Everyone wants to better themselves, right?

Hopefully you’ve taken that same approach with your business. One area that always seems ripe for improvement is the supply chain, and one of the best ways to accomplish that is with a transportation management system (TMS).

For most companies, the opportunity is there. One recent survey indicated that just one-third of shippers are currently using a TMS – a powerful weapon in the logistics arsenal that has been proven time and again to deliver a strong ROI.

While it might seem too late for such an ambitious undertaking in 2016, the power of Cloud computing means you could have a TMS up and running a few short months from now.  

The Cloud has become the great equalizer in supply chain software thanks to the speed, simplicity and savings it delivers. Just a few years ago sophisticated logistics software was reserved for only the largest and wealthiest companies. But today the Cloud enables small- and medium-sized companies to take advantage of the same technology as the big guys.

The Cloud has taken the traditional software buying process and turned it on its ear. The shift from complicated, on-premise systems to hosted, SaaS-based solutions has made everything from procurement to implementation much simpler thanks to:

  • Cost – No longer do you need to get buy-in from your bosses on the big capital outlays that come with on-premise solutions. Cloud software is subscription-based and can be funded through operating expenses with little upfront cost.
  • Complexity – Cloud-based solutions are largely plug-and-play and hosted off-site, so they don’t require deep involvement from your IT department. In addition, the best solutions are template-based, which makes it easier for employees to learn the ropes and get started.  
  • Speed/ROI – For the reasons outlined above, implementation times are reduced to just a couple of months. And we all know that the faster you’re up and running, the sooner you’re saving money. While your competitors grapple with byzantine RFPs for complex on-premise solutions, you can be banking your transportation savings for your next round of supply chain improvements.

In addition, a cloud-based TMS solution is inherently scalable, so there’s no reason to worry about outgrowing your system. It easily grows right alongside your business.

If you’re serious about buying a transportation management system, however, you need to look beyond just features and functionality. While those are certainly important, the foundation of a strong TMS solution is its ability to connect with your carriers.

Some vendors require you to manually build out your carrier network, which can be difficult and time consuming if you work with more than a handful of carriers. Other vendors offer built-in carrier networks that are already dialed into hundreds, if not thousands, of carriers – with more being added all the time. Make sure to ask about this when talking to TMS vendors.

So it’s clear that a cloud-based TMS is something you can get up and running quickly for your business. Gone are the days when it took 18 months or more to slog through the purchasing process and actually get the software installed, configured and working properly.

But before you rush out there and take the plunge on a new TMS – or any piece of software, for that matter – here are few tips to keep in mind:

  • Identify the problems you want to solve today and target those – Don’t get distracted by gee-whiz functionality that addresses problems you don’t have. There’s nothing worse than a solution that doesn’t deliver much in the way of immediate benefit.
  • Approach the bigger picture incrementally – Find a solution that enables you to make small improvements on a regular basis and build out an overall strategy. You’ll lower your upfront costs and be able to point to your successes when looking to make additional investments.
  • Do your homework – If you take a hard look at what your needs are and do your research before you start shopping, it will make it much easier for vendors to focus on how their solution can work for your business. Better planning will lead to quicker buy-in from management and a faster implementation.
  • Stay away from disruptive technologies – Let the giant companies with their big IT departments roll the dice on the cutting-edge stuff. You don’t want to find yourself stuck with something unproven and ineffective.

So what are you waiting for? 2016 is here. If you want your company to bolster its supply chain this year, you should get out there and kick the tires on a TMS solution and learn how it can streamline your operations and make your business more efficient.

WaltHeilAs Vice President of Multimodal Transportation Solutions at Kewill, Walt Heil brings over 20 years of experience in supply chain and transportation management operations, sales and sales leadership. Prior to Kewill, Walt led the worldwide commercial efforts for the IBM Sterling TMS solution, providing strategy and executive leadership for IBM’s global supply chain execution portfolio. IBM Sterling TMS was born from IBM’s acquisition of Sterling Commerce in 2010, which had previously acquired Nistevo Corporation in 2006. During his tenure in all three organizations, Walt managed several sales organizations and led Sterling’s supply chain execution strategy for the North American manufacturing market. Walter holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Michigan State University.