The Complete Guide to Transportation Management Systems

Transitioning to a robust transportation management system (TMS) has become essential for supply chain survival and success.

Out of thousands in the market, these 8 leading options provide sophisticated routing, visibility, analytics and integration to maximize logistics efficiency:

  • Oracle TMS: End-to-end solutions for complex global operations
  • Manhattan: Advanced optimization across integrated distribution networks
  • MercuryGate: Rapid ROI for mid-market manufacturers and wholesalers
  • SAP Transportation Management: Feature-rich with deep ERP integration
  • Blue Yonder: Next-level automation through AI and machine learning
  • Generix: Affordable on-premise or cloud options for SMBs
  • UltraShipTMS: Specialized parcel shipping and execution tools
  • Kuebix TMS: User-friendly SaaS built for freight brokers

This comprehensive guide will equip you to:

  • Grasp the far-reaching benefits of transportation management systems
  • Map out top TMS software vendors and key capabilities
  • Navigate the entire TMS evaluation and selection process with 6 actionable tips
  • Avoid critical mistakes that derail implementations
  • And ultimately determine the best TMS investment for positioning your supply chain for long-term success

Let‘s get you on the road to supply chain transformation and dominance…

What Are Transportation Management Systems?

Transportation management systems help companies move freight from origin to destination efficiently, reliably, and cost effectively. These systems schedule and optimize loads, routes, labor, and equipment to provide end-to-end shipment visibility that traditional methods lack.

As the global supply chain expands in complexity, over 70% of shippers now use TMS solutions yielding substantial year-over-year cost reductions:

Year Annual TMS Savings Reported
2021 14.8%
2022 23.1%

By 2027 industry analysts project over $21B will be spent on transportation management tech annually. Top drivers include proliferating customer delivery demands and margins pressured by rising transportation costs.

Integrating a TMS centralizes logistics data and activities to enhance control and decision making.

Key Capabilities Include:

  • Optimization – Advanced algorithms efficiently route trucks or plan container shipments

  • Execution – Systems dispatch driver assignments, verify compliance, manage claims

  • Visibility – Real-time tracking with sensors and IoT connectivity

  • Analytics – Dashboards with actionable insights into carrier efficiency, costs and performance

  • Integration – Links to warehouse systems, order management, accounting and more

Transportation management empowers your business to meet customer demands reliably and profitably.

The Value Promise of Transportation Management Systems

Let‘s explore 8 ways implementing a TMS transforms your transportation operations:

1. Increased Supply Chain Agility

TMS connectivity provides real-time visibility across trading partners so shipments redirect rapidly to meet priority orders or rush deliveries. Updates propagate across the ecosystem instantly, increasing responsiveness.

2. Lowered Logistics Costs

Optimizing routes and consolidating LTL shipments into full FTL truckloads reduces mileage and makes assets sweat. Balancing load mix with revenue management maximizes yield. Most shippers reduce freight spend 15-30% within a year of TMS adoption.

3. Improved Customer Service

Order tracking and cargo ETAs improve dramatically, enabling proactive communication of delays or exceptions directly to customers. This increases satisfaction and sales.

4. Higher Labor Productivity

Automating planning, routing, carrier communications and payments eliminates manual efforts allowing staff to focus on high value engagements that build client relationships.

5. Increased Safety & Sustainability

TMS analytics identifies unsafe driving so managers coach drivers. Route optimization lowers fuel costs and CO2 emissions by minimizing transportation mileage.

6. Enhanced Procurement Leverage

Bidding workflows standardize RFP processes for carrier contracts. This unlocks 10-15% lower negotiated rates through competition on an even playing field.

7. Reduced Regulatory Risk

Restricted party screening and export clearance features confirm shipments comply with trade, security and customs regulations, preventing violations.

8. Predictive Operating Plans

Machine learning uncovers trends from data to enhance demand forecasting accuracy. What-if modeling allows forward-looking scenario preparation.

With tremendous upside potential, let‘s explore top TMS solution providers leading the industry.

Top 8 Transportation Management Software Systems

I‘ve synthesized market share, capability depth, and peer recommendations to curate this list of leading options catering from small business to global enterprise needs:

System Overview Ideal For
Oracle TMS End-to-end solutions for global, multi-modal logistics Large enterprises like Toyota Tsusho running Oracle ERP
Manhattan TMS Advanced optimization across integrated distribution networks Food, beverage, retail leaders with Manhattan WMS
MercuryGate Specialists with rapid TMS implementation & adoption Mid-market manufacturers & wholesalers
SAP TM Mature solution tightly integrated across SAP platforms Consumer goods value chains standardizing on SAP
Blue Yonder AI-based platform automating planning through execution Data-driven custom supply chain integration
Generix TMS Affordable on-premise or cloud options for SMBs Growing small/mid-sized businesses with budget constraints
UltraShipTMS Specialized parcel shipping and execution tools Third party logistics providers (3PLs) and freight brokers
Kuebix TMS Intuitive community load matching and rating SMB shipping managers who value ease of use

Now that we‘ve covered transportation management landscape leaders, let‘s explore how to scope requirements.

How To Choose The Right TMS

Selecting TMS software tailored to your operational maturity, business requirements and culture involves evaluating options across 10 key dimensions:

Core Functionality – Assess route optimization, visibility, scheduling and analytics tools relevance to your biggest transportation pain points.

Ease of Use – Platform navigation, workflow configuration and feature adoption require intuitive and flexible UX.

Technology Fit – Cloud foundation enables scalability with easy integration across critical business systems.

Implementation Timeline – The vendor‘s deployment track record and configuration approach must align to your agility needs.

Data & Analytics – Advanced machine learning and modelling capabilities should drive actionable operational insights.

Support Model – Check service responsiveness meets SLAs and customer success teams ensure adoption.

Roadmap Vision – Multi-year product plans should map to your growth trajectory and supply chain strategy lead indicators.

Total Cost – Price both predictable recurring SaaS fees and professional services customizations driving ROI.

Vendor Health – Assess financial stability, leadership quality, customer retention rates and partners.

Reference Calls – Trust but verify capabilities and vendor relationship claims through peer conversations.

This cross-functional scorecard facilitates objective discussions around must-haves versus nice-to-have capabilities.

Now let‘s walk through the step-by-step process to select the right transportation management system for your organization.

6 Steps to Select The Best TMS

Follow this phase-gate process to evaluate options matching your maturity, culture and growth vision:

1. Frame Objectives

Document 3-5 top transportation operation frustrations and the outcomes sought from transformation. Is it to reduce manual planning? Enable dynamic rerouting? Provide customer ETAs? Prioritize targeted capabilities.

2. Detail Requirements

Catalog 60-80 functional, technical and integration criteria weighted by tier-1, tier-2 and nice to have priorities. d

3. Shortlist Solutions

Leverage analyst reports and peer recommendations to identify 4-5 aligned options. Review competing TMS vendor websites and collateral against defined criteria to further narrow contenders.

4. See Demos

Schedule scripted demos for deep dives into platform navigation and configuration processes across prioritized capabilities. Identify gaps vs needs early.

5. Compare Options

Compile vendor scorecards normalized across importance weightings. Combining functional and technical dimensions facilitates smart tradeoffs based on priorities not biases. Review TCO models.

6. Select & Deploy

Secure executive buy-in by presenting evaluation findings tailored to financial and operational KPIs. SaaS solutions onboard quickly, so prepare systems, data and move to production.

Leveraging this diligent process reduces risks in landing the ideal transportation management recipe to fuel supply chain performance improvements for years ahead.

Now that we‘ve covered how to select the right TMS, let‘s switch gears to explore key considerations around implementing next generation solutions.

Transportation Management Implementation Guide

Getting maximum value from TMS investments requires setting the right foundations through the implementation process.

Follow these best practices to accelerate time-to-benefit:

Executive Sponsorship – Align leaders around objectives and success metrics upfront so challenges get promptly addressed later.

Phased Roadmaps – Rollout incrementally by geography or product line to build confidence. Large bang implementations risk prolonging ROI.

User Co-Design – Engage the warehouse, logistics and customer service teams to co-design optimal workflows and data visualization.

Measure Benefits – Establish process KPIs aligned to business value drivers so cross functional teams see the progress made through transformation.

Change Management – Overcommunicate objectives, educate through training, field user feedback regularly and course correct quickly.

Carrier Collaboration – Jointly design integration and data exchange approaches; provide support resources to get carriers seamlessly connected.

With the right foundations instilled across process, people and technology from the outset, transportation management systems start delivering exponential value within months not years.

Now let‘s glimpse into the future of TMS innovation.

The Future of Transportation Management

The TMS industry will continue experiencing explosive innovation through:

  • Predictive Analytics – Machine learning uncovers network capacity bottlenecks and estimates shipment ETAs with high precision.

  • Carbon Accounting – TMS solutions calculate total carbon emissions from transport movements while recommending offsets.

  • EV Optimization – Electric fleet charging, range and load impacts get incorporated into routing algorithms.

  • Autonomous Trucking – Human-free trailer transport emerges requiring coordination software upgrades.

  • Distributed Ledgers – Blockchain enables frictionless, transparent transactions between shippers and carriers.

  • Control Towers – Unifying transport, inventory and fulfillment provides end-to-end command of supply chain flows.

Established TMS providers and disruptive upstarts will compete fiercely on leveraging technology advancements to enable the self-optimizing supply chains of the future.

In Closing

With increasing logistics complexity and customer demands, seamlessly executing and tracking freight movements is now an enterprise imperative. Transportation management systems centralize planning through payment settlement to boost reliability, visibility and control across the ecosystem.

This guide has equipped you to grasp TMS benefits, evaluate top solutions against your specific needs and make implementation decisions that maximize value.

The time for supply chain transformation through transportation management software is now. I hope you pick the ideal platform for positioning your operations for the road ahead!

Now over to you – which solution provider is leading your shortlist? Reach out directly as I‘m happy to offer tailored advising on mapping TMS capabilities to your operational maturity and future strategic objectives.