Transportation management systems (TMS) have been around for a good 25-30 years, but they’ve struggled with visibility for most of that time. Sure, the TMS industry has long talked about the visibility of their systems. But it’s only been in the last two or three years that we’ve seen measurable leaps forward in visibility capabilities.

Like the Princess Bride scene where one character questions another’s constant use of the word “inconceivable,” the term “visibility” is also up for debate in the TMS industry. Systems that are built on architecture from a decade ago will say they offer visibility, but it’s not the same thing as a modern system that has been reimagined to integrate with your internal systems and external partners, as well as to translate and act on that information.

In this article for Logistics Viewpoints, JP Wiggins argues that  TMS visibility doesn’t mean the same thing today that it did just five years ago. And if you’re considering a TMS and you’ve been in the industry for a while, be aware that the meaning of “visibility” has changed – it’s much improved, but much more confusing.

  • The TMS is now the centerpiece, connecting external partners and internal systems to provide full visibility into the flow of data and the tools to act on the data. Essentially, it acts like a transportation control tower that enables an intelligent “rally point” to bring together different sources, translate and cleanse that data, and automate or present actions as appropriate.
  • Today’s visibility capabilities can respond to exceptions and manage them automatically through process automation, so you can stop manually addressing every exception.
  • TMS visibility is now actionable, and can gather, combine and interpret inter-enterprise data from many sources and uses workflow automation to react. It can assess the past, monitor/react in the present and adjust for the future.

It doesn’t matter how many times a vendor says a TMS has “visibility” if the word doesn’t mean what you think it means. Read more at Logistics Viewpoints to understand the differences what visibility means today for a truly modern and reimagined TMS.