A transportation management system (TMS) is a logistics platform created to support the physical transportation and shipment tracking of products between stakeholders. Over the years, this basic concept has evolved to include a complex ecosystem of vendors, carriers, suppliers, warehouses, retailers, and other parties, all with their own set of operations and constraints.
That's why today's shippers and logistics service providers need to be able to orchestrate the entire supply chain, logistics flows, and all the transportation steps in a multi-party business network. Simply optimizing one's own fleet or their own sites is not enough; businesses need to connect to the others in the network and ensure they can manage, control, and optimize each order flow from an end-to-end perspective. That requires going way beyond traditional ERP systems, warehouse systems, local carrier or fleet management systems, and even legacy transportation management systems capabilities.
The legacy TMS has limited functionality and restricts capabilities to batching orders with limited order-level reporting and speed. Next generation systems, or a TMS as part of a multi party orchestration platform, unifies the greater partner and systems landscape to enable versatility and better responsiveness. You can think of it as a "TMS+" that collaborates with ERPs, WMSs, and other systems and carriers to manage flows from an end-to-end perspective - whether that’s an outbound flow related to sales orders, inbound flows and purchase orders taken from suppliers, or return order flows.
Such holistic, network-wide visibility and control creates opportunities to optimize processes across business units that would otherwise be overlooked. By collaboratively working toward shared goals, such as, for example, utilizing full truckloads and improving time performance, stakeholders can mutually benefit and improve operations.
Here are a few additional examples to demonstrate specific applications for TMS optimization:
- After-sales flow management for reverse logistics
- Real-time rate quotes from carriers via API
- Parcel shipping (instead of batches), allowing greater flexibility and speed
- Integrated dock planning and appointment scheduling
- Multi-modal transportation and seamless integrations with carrier portals and your warehouse management system (WMS) or multiple systems