First of all, let’s get something out of the way. Any software or technology solution that helps shippers automate aspects of their supply chain is often called a ‘TMS’. This acronym is commonly thought to stand for ‘Transportation Management System’ or ‘Transportation Management Software’. Other synonyms include ‘Supply Chain Software’ or ‘Supply Chain Management System’, though a TMS is often a subset of a supply chain management system. Don’t get confused, however, as they all attempt to accomplish a similar task – that is to use technology to drive efficiency and information flow.

So here are the five reasons shippers should utilize a TMS:

#1 – Automate Manual Processes.

One of the biggest reasons for shippers to utilize a TMS is to become much more efficient and reduce their transportation expenses. One of the quickest payoffs is making the Bill-Of-Lading (BOL) creation process automated. This allows shippers to save BOLs as PDF and email them, store prior addresses for quick retrieval, exporting BOLs to Excel, and retrieving real-time information for improved decision-making. This reduces mistakes and maximizes the abilities of your distribution people.

#2 – Evaluate Freight Rates.

There might not be a more manual or time-consuming process than retrieving freight rates on the same shipment from multiple carriers via phone calls or visiting multiple websites. A web-based software tool, like the one Broussard offers, enhances operational efficiencies by quickly organizing the intelligence you need to choose the optimum carrier for your freight. Based upon your freight contract information, the rate shopper module will display a number of carriers along with the service level provided in order of cost and transit times.

#3 – Improve Customer Experience.

Let’s face it – in this day and age customers have high expectations for getting the information they want, when they want it, and where they want it. Your customers are no different. If you are shipping your products to your customers, they expect information in real time as seamlessly as possible. A TMS gives you the ability to do that providing real-time tracking and tracing of shipments, linking to the carrier’s website and emailing the customer the important data they need to know.

#4 – Manage Data and Information.

Many shippers underestimate the amount of data and information they have to keep track of in order to be effective. Not only are they tracking shipments in transit, they then have to keep records for customer reference, invoice auditing purposes, potential shipment claims, damage claims, and freight rate auditing and negotiation. A system that gives warehouse and distribution managers the ability to aggregate all this information is invaluable. Not only does it actively consolidate steps in the supply chain process, it helps manage this information in a more organized way and allows for oversight that leads to better decision-making.

#5 – Integrate Different Departments.

The supply chain in an organization isn’t just warehousing, storage, and shipment to customers. It is purchasing raw materials, storing and getting those materials to the right place in your company, keeping sales and customer service in the loop, communicating all of this to accounting, and much more. A TMS helps an organization integrate relevant data and information up the chain to vendors and purchasing, as well as downstream to sales, customer service, and accounting / billing. There is a direct correlation between data integration and customer experience and profitability.

Transportation management software or a supply chain management system is not a cure-all for every shipping challenge. Automating a flawed process could simply magnify the flaws. Adopting a TMS, however, has big advantages for shippers if reducing transportation expenses and improving customer service are priorities in an organization.