Internet of things, TMS

There’s a lot of buzz about the Internet of Things, or IoT. IoT refers to the physical network of vehicles, buildings, devices and other items that are increasingly connected. I also consider people and applications like an ERP or WMS to be part of the IoT.

A transportation management system (TMS) has always been applied across many company platforms, exchanging information with your carriers, vendors and customers. This mirrors how the IoT works and makes your TMS the natural rallying point for supply chain IoT data. With it, you have broader visibility into larger trends and analysis, as well as the data that better informs daily decisions. (Note: I’m not talking about big data. I’m talking about bringing in information to assist in the thousands of daily real-time decisions a TMS needs to make.)

How does it work? Everyone in your network has data to share, like vendors, distributors, cross-docks, carriers, warehouses, retailers and 3PLs. The trick is that they all have varying levels of technology and ways to communicate it. You’ll have to take data from manual sources (voice, email and text), self-service portals, classic EDI and API integration, and Web services.

That’s why it’s critical for a TMS to take and integrate data in any format, so the integration takes just a few hours to turn on. Nobody wants integration projects! Start with basic data transfers and move toward more automation gradually. Your TMS must be able to accept and leverage this information, and stay flexible to how you manage your business and network of data.

This access enables more automated functions and provides better operations and visibility while capturing data for historical analytics. The data helps you dynamically make better real-time decisions, such as which carrier goes to which customers, best level of service for an order, using additional modes like pool distribution, and better responding to disruptions. Getting to the details and using them in your daily routing is how to improve service and save money.

In the midst of all the discussion around the Internet of Things, keep in mind that you may already have a natural location for gathering the data from your network and partners. Your TMS is the perfect place to start making sense of the IoT.