“API” is one of those terms that get thrown around with abandon. Some vendors say things like, “I have an API for that!” as if an API is an app in Google Play or the Apple Store – you click a button and boom, it’s done.
Ahh, if it were only so simple.
API is an entirely new way of connecting
A transportation management system (TMS) is all about providing connectivity. In fact, few other supply chain management systems communicate with so many different parties; a TMS has to deal with your ERP, order management systems, warehouse software and finance; plus all of your trading partners, vendors, customers, 3PLs, carriers and more. There are also third-party data sources to consider like tariffs, rates, distance and tracking.
APIs create a direct connection between parties for instant data exchange. For a TMS, this means managing freight while dealing with all of the other systems mentioned above, so it quickly becomes complex. While looking at data from current 3Gtms customers, many have orders that get touched by outside systems well over 100 times during the move. These API “touches” involve basic things like customer order changes or tendering to carriers, but also data validation, status updates, tracking, inbound/outbound notifications, customer queries, warehouse details, as well as the normal order-to-cash from the OMS/ERP through finance.
All of these systems have APIs and can pass data – but that’s only part of the story. In this article for Talking Logistics, 3G’s JP Wiggins discusses why a modern TMS with advanced business logic is crucial for the other part of the API story. From the article:
A large part of the data that a TMS receives from other systems is inaccurate, unreliable or – most commonly – incomplete. With the amount of data your TMS deals with, there’s no physical way to manually operate a fully integrated process. To really maximize the point of APIs, your TMS needs to use business logic and process as much as possible – without requiring you to touch the data…The APIs only pass the data – you need a TMS with business logic to interpret and act on the data.
Read the full article to learn more about how a TMS can help you fully take advantage of APIs by bringing all of that data – which is often incomplete data – to a rally point for making intelligent, automated processes. It’s where the rubber meets the road.