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Software to Keep Your Shipments on Time

When the product volumes are high and shipping destinations many, things can quickly get out of control. Automating with a transportation management system will help.

If things go wrong and you are unprepared, you are in for a very tough time in trying to get them under control again. These kinds of mistakes in business mean delayed deliveries, lost revenue, and angry customers.

TMS systems and components are available from many major technology companies, including IBM, SAP, Oracle, and others. There's even a free version called TheFreeTMS.

Here's how to avoid that:

Planning — In order to ensure that goods reach their stipulated destinations in time, use technology to your advantage. Transportation management systems (TMS) provide you with a solution for your planning needs. They are able to connect carriers, shippers, and customers into a collaborative logistics network that is automated from end to end.

TMS software allows you to perform continuous and incremental planning, which means plans are automatically updated in real time for you and all your trading partners based on the changes in the business environment. TMS software can also be delivered as software-as-a-service, which means fewer IT resources, no upgrade costs, easy connectivity, and low total cost of ownership — ideal for the SMBs.

Contingency plans — No matter how good your plans are, at times they are subject to change. So, it is best to plan for contingencies. Using TMS, you can simulate contingency plans for delivery so that if the primary plan fails you will have a secondary strategy in place.

The advantage of simulating contingency plans is that you can also simulate the cost of these plans, and as a result, you know exactly how much additional cost will be required to deliver goods on time.

Monitoring & review — The human factor cannot be ignored. Even with the software doing bulk of the work, the most important task is left for the employees: to monitor the entire process and make changes whenever necessary. The changes that happen on the ground must be updated in the system.

If due to any unforeseen circumstances the actual plan is no longer feasible, the users must ensure that the contingency plan has been activated and associated costs have been analyzed. Changes to the delivery routes, schedules, vehicles, etc., must be communicated to the logistics team to ensure there is no information mismatch between the logistics personnel and the information in the TMS.

Usually, this process is done through EDI — an electronic data interchange. However, at times it must be done manually if your logistics provider is not integrated with your TMS.

The technology is paving way for the better management of the supply chain and transportation for the enterprise. It is up to you to decide if you want to opt for a technological change and reap benefits or stick to your legacy system and be vulnerable.

24 comments on “Software to Keep Your Shipments on Time

  1. Greg Riemer
    May 29, 2013

    Planning needs to starts at the implementation stage. Creations of client-specific KPIs developed in the analysis phase of a TMS deployment will lead to an on time network. This all starts by defining the client's perfect order and includes lane analysis, route guide setup, and continuous improvement plans. As you mention, this isn't possible without the right system/technology.

  2. Houngbo_Hospice
    May 29, 2013

    “It is up to you to decide if you want to opt for a technological change and reap benefits or stick to your legacy system and be vulnerable.”

    Most companies will opt for a technical change right away if they can offord it or understand the benefits it can give them. But it is not anly about about adopting the technology, but is also hiring and training the right skills to run it. If the learning curve is high, the rate of adoption migt be very low.

  3. ahdand
    May 29, 2013

    Good one indeed but I think that most of the features are available in this software are there in most of these tracking sites.

  4. Houngbo_Hospice
    May 29, 2013

    Greg Riemer,

    Planning needs to starts at the implementation stage.

    That's correct. This implies that the design and and implementation teams are able to think of most the different client's order scenarios during the analysis phase, and plan ahead accordingly.

  5. smasood
    May 29, 2013

    Hi Greg! 

    You are spot on. Planning needs to be from the implementation stage for a new deployment. KPI's are usually identified and agreed upon during the analysis phase of the implementation and a formal document is submitted as a deliverable by consultants. Later, these agreed upon KPI's are measured and performance of the system is analyzed accordingly. And, yes it wouldn't be possible to do all of this efficiently without proper use of technology. 

  6. smasood
    May 29, 2013

    Hi Hospice_Houngbo! 

    Opting for a technology deployment is concerned with both finances and the willingness to improve. Today, the benefit is that companies do have the choice to opt for freeware too. It might not be as sophisticated as the premium products but does much better than maintaining things on MS Excel. Furthermore, there are SaaS based tools also available and the cost is not very steep. 

    You also mention about the learning curve and I believe it is a very important aspect of the deployment. Training end users & key users is the responsibility of the implementation team and they make sure that they give enough training to these people so that they can manage on their own in the future. Usually, companies get into a support contract for the initial few months so that professional help is available alongside in-house resources. 

  7. smasood
    May 29, 2013

    Hospice_Houngbo: 

    I would like to add here that the analysis of the scenarios is done through mutual work by the implementation team and the in-house resources. At times there are formal sessions nominated for this activity as often it is termed as the requirements gathering or AS-IS phase of the project implementation. 

  8. Tom Murphy
    May 29, 2013

    Well said, Greg.  I wonder why this isn't consistent practice across the supply chain already.   Any thoughts on that?  It just seems like a “no-brainer” to me.

  9. Tom Murphy
    May 29, 2013

    Sohaib:  The notion of using SaaS and cloud computing for these sorts of functions seems like a logical course to me.   I can imagine how that would help smaller supply chain operations take a quantum leap in their abilities to manage risk and assure a smoother cash flow.

    Do others agree?

  10. Mr. Roques
    May 29, 2013

    What system do big companies like Amazon use for tracking shipments? 

  11. ahdand
    May 30, 2013

    There are many tracking sites but I think it differs based on the client isn't it ?   

  12. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    May 30, 2013

    Planning for contingencies is critical. What are the most common snafus that come along in these instances? Does this software help organizations spot early warning signs of these problems earlier?

  13. Daniel
    May 31, 2013

    Sohaib, SaaS based applications are available in tracking the products/goods from production environment to the facilitation or final destination place. All such tracking is based on human intervention (keying the details) and we in supply chain looking for a fully automated system with some tags like RFID or NFC. This will help for auto updation in system and can be tracked from remote sites.

  14. smasood
    May 31, 2013

    Tom, the notion appears to be logical and straightforward but still there are a lot of firms out there who are still doing things the old fashioned way. For SMB's such tools can make enormous difference not only to cash flows and profit but also in maintaining better supply chain practises. 

  15. smasood
    May 31, 2013

    Hailey, the contingencies in this part of the world are mostly because of the inconsistent political and law & order situation. The most common scenarios include strikes, labor unrest etc. In these cases at times the land route gets blocked and the delivery system gets choked. In these cases the software can help in running scenarios for delivery accounting for the delays. If the delivery is extremely urgent and cannot be delayed a simulation for air frieght costing & delivery can also be executed. 

  16. smasood
    May 31, 2013

    Jacob, RFID based tracking systems are also available on the SaaS platform. RFID enables clients to opt for item level tracking instead of the more commonly used batch tracking. 

  17. hash.era
    May 31, 2013

    RFID based tracking facilities are available freely right now. Its just a matter of fact in improving the features.      

  18. smasood
    June 1, 2013

    Rich, you are most welcome! 

    These software systems are really very handy for organizations if they intend to use them to full effect. They integrate different parts of the enterprise seamlessly to give you better operating efficiency. 

  19. Daniel
    June 3, 2013

    “RFID based tracking systems are also available on the SaaS platform. RFID enables clients to opt for item level tracking instead of the more commonly used batch tracking. “

    Sohaib, then what's the difference between RFID based tracking and your proposed systems.

  20. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    June 4, 2013

    @sohaimasood, thanks… very helpful.  The only thing you can plan for is needing to plan for contingencies!

  21. smasood
    June 7, 2013

    Jacob, we are talking in general about the TMS systems without focusing on vendor specific details. We don't want to look like we promote a specific product over another therefore we try to advocate only the common features across software. 

    If a solution for RFID based tracking is required there are numerous products out there from IBM, SAP etc. However, the TMS software under discussion in this blog focus more on the enterprise needs for planning and monitoring their daily shipments. 

  22. smasood
    June 7, 2013

    Hailey, you are welcome! 

    Yes, things do look a bit gloomy this side of the world. You would be suprised how technology actually helps enterprises in overcoming these odds by planning for contingencies. 

  23. Daniel
    June 12, 2013

    “We don't want to look like we promote a specific product over another therefore we try to advocate only the common features across software. “

    Sohaibmansood, RFID is not a vendor specified solution. It's a technology and anybody can build up on such technologies.

  24. SunitaT
    August 7, 2013

    ediWebTracker is a web-based tracking software apps intended to provide your customers and business associates with 24×7 access to cargo, shipment and freight tracking info with the use of an internet connection and web browser.

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