Ask the Experts
We’ve built a top-rate team of deeply experienced transportation and technology professionals who are passionate about logistics, helping customers improve their operations, and building transportation software that truly delivers a substantial return-on-investment.
Have a question for our team of experts? Send it in. Meanwhile, here are some of the latest Q&As we’ve received that may be helpful to you.
We’re planning on adding a TMS system with planning & Optimization. What should we be looking for to get the best results?
Eventually, these algorithms evolved into the first “transportation management software” or TMS systems that combined rating with multi-stops, pool points, and shipping directly by LTL.
First, it’s important to look for a TMS solution where optimization modeling tools and the execution tools are both on the same software platform.
Some TMS systems offer an optimization modeling tool as a standalone tool that creates a plan which is then imported into another system to book the freight, etc.. The risk here is that load plans created using a standalone planning tool are obsolete the second a customer makes changes to their delivery request.
We designed 3Gtms TMS software so that all load plans can be adapted in real-time and remodeled as real-world changes come into play. When a customer reduces or triples their order quantities, for example, or changes delivery dates or locations, 3Gtms software can absorb the changes and come up with the most-cost effective load plan that meets the new constraints.
Why is transportation management so complicated? Can software really solve the challenges?
Transportation management today is complex because of the number of constraints that have to be part of the initial planning cycle and acknowledged in the TMS system’s optimization algorithm. It sounds simple – service level — when, where and how a customer wants his delivery — is the most important goal and the only issue that matters to the customer.
Examples of constraints might be routing orders using equipment that provides temperature control, or freight that requires a flatbed, or products that need special handling. In any given shipment, there may be tens, or hundreds or thousands of constraints that have to be recognized in the planning of the shipment.
It’s up to the TMS system to work successfully within constraints. What separates one TMS from another is in the way it manages and works with these constraints — within the algorithms embedded in the TMS. Any one of these other constraints, if not part of the algorithm, can ruin the ability to meet the customer’s service level.
The other challenge that complicates transportation management is change. A TMS system is only as good as its ability to incorporate real-world changes into its decisions. This is why 3Gtms has built its TMS system as a single-platform planning and execution system that works together in real time to manage a company’s freight.
What are the key factors for a successful TMS project?
Despite delivering one of the biggest ROIs of any logistics software, TMS systems are notoriously difficult to implement and often result in failed projects. In other words, a TMS that actually gets implemented will probably perform well, but most run past timelines and miss key functionality deadlines – and severely impact a company’s ROI.
The good news is that the most common reason for these project failures such as – poor communication, loosely defined success criteria, lack of commitment/sponsorship/appropriate staffing and simply trying to do the same with a different technology – can all be mitigated with a well-defined project charter and a strong partner in your TMS provider.
Having a well-documented, socialized, and accepted business case that clearly defines the perceived value of the TMS and from where that value will be derived is an important first step towards success.
Committing resources with the appropriate skillsets and time commitment at every level – from an executive sponsor to IT staff, to business owners & superuser(s). The availability of deeply skilled resources and subject matter advisors in both business and IT. will help to ensure that your TMS implementation goes smoothly and stays on track to achieve your expected goals in the desired timeline.
Setting a realistic timeline to achieve your goals is a critical factor. The timeline should allow flexibility for potential changes and impediments – they always happen – and have change management and risk management built into the project charter. Strong Project Management to manage scope, timeline, budget, resources, risks, and change management is an absolute must for successful projects. If there are business drivers that require a more rapid timeline than what is likely possible, consider a phased approach that carves out a segment of the business for the initial go-live with a clear path to achieve the future phases.
Document & Train, Document & Train, Document so more!!! – Current processes, “to-be” processes, timelines & restrictions to the timeline, project charter & business goals, task lists, issues logs, decisions, standard operating procedures & training documents are all necessary to ensure that all participants in the project remain aligned and well-informed throughout the project. In addition to this documentation helping to guide the project to success, this documentation is helpful after the project is completed to answer those “why did we do <insert question here>?” that will inevitably come up.
Finally, choosing the right partner to guide you through your implementation will help to ensure the success of your project. 3Gtms implementation team is staffed with Transportation EXPERTS with DECADES of experience in both TMS implementations and Logistics Operations. Our world-class implementation methodology & tools have been meticulously designed based on this rich expertise focused on robustness & flexibility, to ensure a successful project and unprecedented customer satisfaction.
How often should I be checking the health of my existing TMS implementation?
As your business changes, it may also be necessary to adapt the configuration of your TMS system. Upon initial implementation, it is likely that your TMS was tuned to your current business environment at that time. Any change to that – more volume, less volume, different model mix, accumulation of historical data, changes to carrier base, changes to product mix, changes to customer service levels are just some examples of a plethora of business factors that could impact the performance of your TMS.
A periodic “health check” of your existing TMS to the ever-evolving business environment is always highly recommended. An “untuned” TMS systems will often manifest itself as; degrading solution quality, degrading system performance, lack of reporting, visibility or business insight, poor user adoption/compliance to established operating procedures, dis-satisfied users, inability to meet service level agreements – just to name a few.
At 3Gtms we recommend a post-go-live Health Check in addition to ongoing annual health checks thereafter.
The post-go-live health check should occur approximately 2 – 3 months after go-live and should NOT be leveraged as an opportunity to roll-out “phase 2” new capabilities – though that may certainly be an outcome of a post-go-live health check. The post-go-live health check is focused on the current state and ensuring that the system is doing what it is intended to do. Does the plan match the reality? Are users adopting the system? Are they happy? Are you starting to realize the benefits you expected to see? Are you getting the support from your vendor that you need? Are there opportunities for further automation of processes or expansion of the TMS?
Annual health checks should be performed on an ongoing basis and should be part of your standard operating procedure. In addition to the items covered by the post-go-live health check, the annual checkup is intended to ensure that your TMS is still tuned appropriately for your current operating conditions as well as to identify potential opportunities to expand your TMS usage – either capabilities that were not in scope or required during your original implementation or new enhancements & features that have been made available — to achieve even greater value.
As part of our obsession with customer satisfaction, 3Gtms highly recommends that each of our customers make health checks a regular part of our partnership and journey together.
What are the most important things I should consider in selecting a TMS vendor?
Choosing the right technology partner for your TMS depends on a variety of factors related to your business such as types of users; IT landscape; scope factors such as – geography/regions, modes, complexity; functional needs (both current & future); cost & deployment model; and partnership with the provider.
What is the skill level and competency of your user community? Not just your internal users but external constituents. Does the TMS provider deliver a fast, effective, intuitive user experience for all users?
What is your IT landscape and more importantly, the availability of IT resources to participate in your project? Can the vendor easily connect to your ecosystem? Do the vendor offer tools and integration services that will accelerate the implementation and minimize cost? What level of ongoing IT support will be needed once your live? Can you adjust the system to adapt to changes in your business on your own or will you need the vendor to help with that? Is that support free or for a fee?
What is the REAL scope of capabilities that you require to support not only your current business but also to meet future needs as your business expands and grows? What business goals are you trying to achieve with a TMS and how many that change in the future? Don’t just leverage some “industry standard” RFP template that hasn’t been customized to your needs. Make sure that you’re selecting a solution that is a fit for YOUR business.
What deployment models does the vendor offer? How does that fit with your IT landscape?
How does the cost structure align with your business and your goals? Don’t just consider the cost of procuring the software and the initial implementation. Also consider the ongoing cost of support & maintenance, upgrades, enhancements, changes to your implementation, supplemental services, etc.
And finally, make sure you are choosing a vendor who is a willing partner in your TMS journey. 3Gtms takes pride in partnership with our customers and our obsession with customer satisfaction. Our TMS is designed for robustness & flexibility throughout the order-to-cash lifecycle. The software is supported by industry-leading Support, Hosting, Implementation & Integration methodologies and tools that enable us to realize our #1 goal of unprecedented customer satisfaction.
My company doesn’t understand the value of TMS. How can I build a strong business case to support it?
As the saying goes, “money talks” and therefore having a very strong ROI is paramount to a strong business case. Fortunately, TMS solutions are well-positioned to deliver the largest ROI of any other Logistics or Supply Chain technology investment.
First of all, evaluate the business goals and objectives for your Transportation Department and determine the capabilities that a TMS delivers that will help you achieve them. Is your business goal to reduce transportation spend? Perfect!! TMS can certainly enable up to 30% or more cost reduction through Planning and Optimization, but be realistic about the value the TMS can deliver in your environment and based on your operating constraints. Some of the areas where TMS can deliver Transportation hard dollar benefit include:
- Shipment/Load Consolidation & mode shifting
- Increase asset utilization
- Increase margins
- Improve freight bill audit
- Improve billing accuracy
- Reduce administrative costs
But don’t just stop with financial goals and objectives. Does your company have environmental sustainability initiatives? Great News! Many of the same TMS capabilities that deliver cost savings also carry with them environmentally-friendly practices including – reduce empty miles, increase asset utilization, reducing fleet that will help you contribute to reducing your company’s carbon footprint.
And finally, look beyond your Transportation Department for other initiatives in Supply Chain, Distribution or Customer Service organizations that can also benefit from a TMS. Reducing order cycle & lead times, reducing inventory carrying costs, improving service levels, and increasing order fill rate are all examples of overall supply chain initiatives that can be enabled with the right TMS.
No matter what your business case is, 3Gtms offers unmatched Transportation Planning, Execution, Visibility, Financials and Reporting capabilities to ensure the maximum value is delivered from your TMS.