In just a few short months, the COVID-19 pandemic forced supply chain partners to have to rethink the processes they use to manage their operations. From drivers on the front lines to back-office business activities, necessary changes had to quickly be put in place. Now, looking ahead, stakeholders across supply chains will need to address short and long-term changes to their operations and business practices.
Freight and logistics organizations have been on the front line since the very beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, keeping shelves stocked and critical production lines running, noted professional services provider Accenture in its Insights online newsletter. “Leaders in the freight and logistics industry have excelled,” it stated. “Organizations are keeping vital freight moving despite huge challenges. Companies who act and adapt now will lead the way in the supply chain recovery and will be better positioned for a post COVID-19 world.”
Among Accenture’s recommendations are to become an enterprise that maximizes the value of data and treats it as a strategic asset. The company also expressed the need to model processes and technology to achieve stability.
The Integral Role of a Transportation Management System (TMS)
Flash Global, which designs and implements supply chain strategies, noted that technology can simplify and optimize business processes, and that’s why it’s imperative for companies to use software that enables greater visibility. Technology that provides for a more efficient supply chain enhances customer satisfaction, it added. Investing in supply chain technology helps reduce expenditures, create consistency and enable more efficient communication with customers.
There is a common denominator in the collective success that shippers, brokers and 3PLs, and carriers have had to keep the supply chain functioning effectively, and that will continue to keep those vital connections intact. That integral thread is Transportation Management Systems, and more specifically the ability of a TMS to provide the essential visibility and transparency that is necessary for fast-moving freight transportation networks.
“The changes forced on freight transportation companies by this crisis have been challenging, but have also verified how well a TMS can drive a connected supply chain,” said Harald Fritz, divisional vice president, Enterprise Technology at Trimble Transportation. “In the pandemic’s aftermath, that will accelerate the work of implementing platforms that carriers, brokers and shippers can use to interact and enable ongoing business success.
COVID-19 Highlights the Importance of Supply Chain Technology
“COVID-19 has opened everyone’s eyes,” Fritz added. “Like modern social media platforms it accelerated the connections between parties. This crash course in crisis management put the focus on the value of enabling a technology-driven connected supply chain.
“From the beginning of the crisis,” Fritz continued, “shippers and brokers looking for capacity and carriers looking for freight to haul came to the same realization-- that an integrated ecosystem could effectively help match loads on preferred lanes, which is good for both plannable as well as unplanned or momentary capacity needs. They also quickly learned how paperless applications could streamline essential processes, and that integrated software could address some real and pressing needs, such as finding rest areas, food, fuel and maintenance services for drivers and trucks.”
All of that activity toward enabling a remotely driven, self-sufficient, connected supply chain was a valuable lesson in the advanced nature of today’s TMS technology, Fritz pointed out. It also addressed the hesitation a large number of companies have had about moving their solutions online to a hosted architecture, he added.
“TMS users who had not yet migrated their platforms to hosted solutions could now see that moving to the cloud did not mean abandoning any of the capabilities of their legacy systems,” Fritz said, “or realizing any loss of connectivity or transparency. They quickly came to realize that a hosted TMS could proactively address their most current and pressing challenges, including quickly enabling parts of their own workforce to work from their homes where needed. The ability to rapidly install and use its remote capabilities alone has been invaluable to many supply chain companies.”
Leveraging a Cloud-Based TMS for Success
Beyond current issues, the important question Fritz said to ask now is how to capitalize on hosted TMS capabilities to ensure lasting success. Those applications cover nearly every freight transportation activity from operations, dispatch, routing and planning to payroll, accounts payable and receivable, general ledger, fuel tax, driver log, driver and contractor settlements, and others.
With cloud hosting through a remote, commercial-grade center, any size carrier or broker can utilize TMS capabilities and realize their value, immediately in light of COVID-19 and in its wake for years to come. Those benefits include:
Empowering your staff to concentrate on your core business
Allowing personnel to work remotely without interruption
Rapid deployment that generates a faster return on investment through a shorter go-live experience
Lower upfront capital expenses without the need for more costly IT hardware and support resources
Quick and immediate system management, upgrades and integrations over the short-and long-term
Enhanced cybersecurity protection from malware and ransomware for customer and business data
Perhaps most importantly, exhibiting nearly 100% uptime cloud services enable unparalleled connectivity and transparency capabilities for motor carriers, brokers and 3PLs. Today’s hosted TMS solutions also allow for integration with shipper platforms that were rarely available just a few short years ago.
Transparency and Visibility for All Supply Chain Stakeholders
For all supply chain partners, from initial order to invoicing and payments and encompassing all back-office business processes, these integrated systems can proactively keep operations running efficiently. Driving shipper, carrier and broker collaboration, the accessibility of common systems allows all stakeholders to collectively plan moves, be alerted to changes as they occur, and make real-time adjustments to keep freight transportation networks moving smoothly.
Integrated TMS and shipper management technology hosted in the cloud is not about one company’s operation becoming more productive. By working on a common platform, all stakeholders in the supply chain can manage freight operations more effectively, make their businesses more cost-efficient and provide better customer service.
The backbone of supply chain visibility capability is a cloud-based collaboration portal that can be shared and accessed on all types and sizes of computer networks, and on mobile devices. These platforms are a dynamic repository of information and a single source of capabilities that are needed across supply chains to keep materials and goods moving efficiently and productively.
Proven applications and solutions developed exclusively for managing the transportation of freight are also powerful business intelligence tools. With integrations to internal and external systems they can be the source of comprehensive, dimensional data models for better strategic planning, for meeting specific transportation business and operational needs, and for capturing and taking advantage of new growth opportunities.
Transportation management, at its core, is inherently a network-based business process. It involves an ecosystem of parties— a community of shippers, carriers, consignees, brokers, and others who need to communicate and collaborate with each other in order to transport products and utilize assets and labor as efficiently as possible.
A fully connected, always available system that ensures visibility and transparency drives carrier, broker, 3PL and shipper collaboration. Without it, effectively managing transportation operations, and consistently meeting the expectations of customers and partners, becomes difficult at best.
Discover How Trimble Can Help You Make the Move to the Cloud
Leveraging TMS technology in a hosted environment to dynamically plan and execute operations collaboratively has been essential during the COVID-19 crisis. More importantly, it will be key to the successful use of supply chains for resupplying consumer and business goods, and for manufacturing operations that depend on effective, efficient and productive freight and operations capabilities.
Find out how Trimble can help you harness a cloud-based TMS to take advantage of increased collaboration and connectivity. Check out our eBook, “When to Move to the Cloud”, to understand the advantages of making the switch and what you need to consider to set yourself up for success.