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Transportation Management Software
Transportation Management Software (TMS) comes in a variety of shapes and sizes with something for everyone, or at least something that can be designed for everyone. Most TMS systems are not standalone packages, but rather are integrated with Warehouse Management Software (WMS) systems. However, some companies will design systems to integrate with existing WMS and tailor the whole package to fit the customer’s needs.

Simply put, TMS expedites shipping – by balancing workloads, by selecting carriers and routing, by opening communications throughout the system, and by substantially enhancing efficiency at all points along the line. Some of the many functions that TMS can perform include rating, routing, loading, shipment planning and label printing. Some systems are geared for small packages and others are designed for only large shipments, while some can accommodate either. A business installing a new TMS system can find one that is oriented toward truck shipping, rail shipping, ocean shipping, or a combination of all systems. The business’s shipping needs should dictate the functions included in the TMS system.

In a typical system, orders are sent from the WMS to the TMS at some pre-designated interval, for example, first thing in the morning. The system routes orders by drawing on a data base that contains thousands of different routing rules. Next, the system selects a freight carrier based on a variety of separate criteria. A ‘must-arrive-by’ date is generally considered first, particularly in industries that operate on tight shipping margins. If a carrier can’t meet the needed shipping date, the system filters it out and selects one that can. It also filters for shortest route and the most cost efficient carrier. The routing decision is also based on criteria related to the freight itself—number of boxes, weight, etc, when optimizing lowest costs and highest service levels. If more than one carrier falls within the designated parameters, the system allows room for a human operator to make the final decision. When a carrier is selected, the system even prints the necessary shipping labels.

If the system includes radio-frequency scanning technology, the system can compare scanned shipping data from the TMS with packing data from the WMS onsite, which eliminates data entry operations at the loading point. If there is an exception, or re-routing becomes necessary or desirable, the TMS system is flexible enough to immediately print new labels and accommodate the other necessary changes.

In some cases, changes that resulted from installing a TMS system, integrated with the existing WMS, have allowed companies to nearly double their shipping capacity. Up-to-date TMS systems are able to handle significantly increased volumes over less sophisticated systems, and do it with greater accuracy and efficiency. The latest systems are beginning to integrate even more functions like shipment tracing and tracking that could be available to all parties over the Internet, and the ability to handle returns in an equally effective and cost-efficient manner.

TMS systems have proven their worth by expediting shipping sufficiently that businesses have been able to get a leg up on the competition. There is no doubt that TMS systems will continue to evolve and transform shipping even further.
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