The olden days when forwarding agents needed nothing more than a landline are long gone. Today, the transport industry is defined by expanding road infrastructure, state-of-the-art logistics centres, the rise of autonomous vehicles and an advancing green revolution. It’s hard to take it all in if all you have is a paper map. Any TFL business that wants to remain competitive today must look for new, cutting-edge tools. One such solution is TMS, a system that should be the heart and brain of any transport company.
How has the industry evolved in recent years?
The TFL (Transport, Forwarding, Logistics) industry is now one of the fastest-growing branches of the economy. While the pandemic pulled the brakes on, and even outright blocked, many businesses, the TFL market was not equally affected across the board. Initially, the crisis hit international transport (especially carriers who worked for the manufacturing industry), while food transports were not halted. However, as early as mid-2020, the whole market bounced back to the extent that in many places around the world the transport industry scrambled to keep up with demand.
As the world was mired in the pandemic and the economy ground to a standstill, people locked themselves up at home and logged in to look for online services. In 2020, cargo transport and transport labour indicators for car transport jumped up by 21.4% over the previous year. Online shopping became standard fare, as did free shipping and returns. In this sense, the lockdown considerably sped up the digitisation process in transport companies. Entrepreneurs who used that period for technological growth stayed afloat. Businesses that had already completed their digitisation projects fared even better.
In 2022, when the market had slowly begun to inch back to equilibrium, the war in Ukraine suddenly broke out, and the ensuing political upheavals interrupted supply chains running through the country. TFL companies suddenly faced even fiercer competition, especially in terms of technology, which fuelled a new phase of growth in IT systems development in the sector.
Businesses in the sector rely on various systems, such as, most commonly:
- ERP – to manage resources across the entire business;
- WMS – to streamline warehouse management, or CRM, which records customer relationship data. However, the integration of multiple systems is complicated and time-consuming, and therefore costly;
- TMS – Transport Management System, or the beating heart of any business that has a vehicle fleet to manage. More precisely, TMS is a logistics process management tool, designed to support the flow of goods. Sometimes, it forms part of SCM (Supply Chain Management) software.
What should a modern TMS consist of?
Transport organisation is a highly complex task. In any given company, multiple complex processes are underway in several different systems at any time. And the larger the organisation, the more processes must take place. Mapping them out is the first step to understanding the business ecosystem; the second involves digitisation and the elimination of manual labour.
A modern TMS provides you with an overview of all the logistics processes underway in your organisation. It will reduce your reaction times and enable the early detection of delays, failures and downtimes. This is why, when picking a TMS, you should ask yourself what functions are of key importance to your business.
Pause to think about the main challenges you face in transport planning. What is your top priority? Do you want to cut delivery times, increase journeys, or reduce the price of a single trip? These questions will help you collect data on the functionalities that will then be included in the technical specification. If possible, include an analyst at this stage.
The basic functionalities of a modern TMS include:
- forwarding order management;
- transport route planning;
- real-time transport monitoring;
- algorithm development for optimal route planning;
- mobile technology support;
- further development options (!).
TMS solutions in the market
Once you’ve defined the elements you cannot go without, you can go on to search the market for ready-made TMS apps.
Most systems are now marketed using the SaaS model (Software as a Service), which means software access is based on regular subscription payments. This distribution model has become popular through the rapid rise of streaming platforms. But is SaaS a good model for a large business?
That depends. Keep in mind that when you purchase software access, you don’t get a licence. You can use the software as long as the provider continues to develop it. Should they choose to close shop, you will automatically lose access to the product and need to look for another TMS from scratch.
Even though SaaS is one of the most popular software distribution models today, the market still offers TMS options that include a traditional lifetime licence. The price of this option may come off as hefty, but in the long run, subscription is always the more expensive choice. Don’t forget that software cost is not limited to the cost of the licence. The system must be continually maintained and developed, which often entails a regular fee to guarantee it will be updated to the latest version and ensure technical support and SLA rights.
Your TMS must be scalable if you don’t want to be saddled with software that will become outdated at a rapid pace.
If you set your expectations against the TMS options available on the market, you will quickly notice that no single software will meet your needs 100%. Unfortunately, you might need to pay for functions you will never use. Or else, you might fail to find a system that would meet all the demands of your business even in an extended version.
To address this problem, you can have your software written from scratch.
Dedicated TMS solutions
Picking a software provider is more complex than choosing a ready-made software solution, but it pays off in the long run. If you want to hire a software house to develop your own TMS, it’s not enough to think only about its functionalities. You will find a large range of available technologies. Different software houses also rely on different development processes and different billing models.
Altkom Software boasts many years of experience in creating bespoke software solutions, which is why we understand how important it is that the client gets assistance from the very outset. In communication with our partners, we formulate the requirements we need to draw up the technical specification and map out key functionalities, including expected end user habits. The software is then developed via sprints, during which we analyse user stories step by step and regularly demonstrate our progress on a “live organism”, i.e. a software prototype.
There is probably no need to explain the dangers of a situation in which developers do not communicate with the client and only present their outcomes after a long time has passed (e.g. after several months). At Altkom, we prefer to hold short morning meetings, during which we can brief you on the previous day’s progress and plan out current tasks – a simple tactic that allows us to fine-tune the details of each and every component and make sure they match your needs.
“We create customised software to match our client needs – that is our goal. We also develop software solutions created by other providers if that’s what our client needs. No matter where the code is embedded (Azure, AWS on-premise), we are able to provide software development, maintenance, or migration services. Our mission is to deliver a professional and cost-effective product to help our clients reach their business goals.
We only provide the most cutting-edge solutions and bet on technologies that guarantee longevity”.
IT Manager at ASC
Your choice of TMS is your choice of the course your business will take. A well-chosen software solution will fuel its growth. Want to know more? Get in touch:
Lead Generation Specialist
+48 661 312 188