What Questions Must a Great TMS Answer? Pt. IV

In parts one, two and three we heard from a transportation management executive, a transportation manager and an enterprise software consultant.  Today’s installment contains answers from a Chief Supply Chain Officer to the question: “What are the most important transportation management questions a TMS should be able to answer?” Installment 4 of 4: the CSO

Anthony Donofrio is the Chief Supply Chain Officer for Maidenform Brands.  With decades of experience in the trucking industry and an expert in logistics and transportation, Mr. Donofrio views the question through the lens of what is important to a executive user of TMS software.

Mr. Donofrio, what are the most important transportation management questions a truly great TMS must be able to answer?

I would say that any TMS worth its salt provides verifiable savings along with a process flow that meets users’ needs.  And it must be flexible enough to change with users’ growth requirements.

The bottom line is it must provide NUMBERS! If a TMS cannot be leveraged to establish budgets and measure actual vs. planned movements, it is only a transactional tool and nothing more.   It must also have the ability deliver reports on demand for any time period – for the enterprise or an individual business unit – as defined by users.  A best in class TMS should be able to provide to user facilities, maximized loading dock efficiency, along with a yard management tool.

To address a global supply chain leveraging all modes including ocean, air, rail and parcel, a great TMS should provide data to support effective mode selection.  Questions here would include:

  • Which mode is best to achieve lowest cost to meet with MABD?
  • Which mode can achieve fastest delivery?

Data driven intelligence questions are also increasingly important given the rise of big data and the ability to mine it and manipulate it for insight.  Reporting is critical in such areas as:

  • Carrier acceptance
  • Carrier on time performance
  • Cost-per-pallet/SKU
  • Freight payment & audit features
  • Order history
  • Load spec compliance (maximum trailer utilization)
  • Detention
  • And many other custom reports

For companies relying on a mix of common carriers and private or dedicated fleets to move freight, a great TMS should provide answers to questions typically asked by private fleet managers. Many TMS solutions today provide no functionality for private fleet management.  Yet, with many shippers opting to leverage some level of dedicated or private fleet resources to smooth capacity fluctuation, there are serious questions that these managers cannot answer.  A great TMS should be able to clarify, for example:

  • Driver utilization/miles driven vs. goal
  • Tractor utilization/miles driven
  • Trailer utilization – days parked & miles operated

With all equipment numbers integrated in to the system a great TMS is able to provide insight into maintenance and service records as well.

Other questions I look to TMS to answer include issues of optimization such as, “How can I reduce my LTL costs through a replicable optimization strategy?  The great TMS also provides visibility into spot market utilization helping to optimize my exposure to the spot market without sacrificing lead times.

Where can integration with GPS and other in-cab technologies reveal areas where improvements can be made in terms of communication with drivers with the goal of increased efficiency.  Driver satisfaction can be greatly enhanced and, more importantly monitored to ensure the shipper maintains quality drivers in a high turnover market.

One final thought: Dashboards!  A truly great TMS must have intuitive and comprehensive executive dashboards to put all of this rich information at the fingertips of decision makers.  After all, asking these questions only drives value if the TMS makes it easy to access the information required to answer them.

DSC_1798Anthony Donofrio has held numerous supply chain management positions in such well-known organizations as Proctor & Gamble, Pepsico, Merck and Sears Holding.

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