Traditionally, when purchasing a Transportation Management System (TMS), you may have considered the functionality as the key driver in the decision-making process, but a lot has changed. Today, most TMS solutions offer a standard set of features which are common across most Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS) vendors. The most important business drivers are no longer the software features of a TMS solution, but the future value it can have in your supply chain. 
As technology continues to improve our lives as consumers, it can also improve the back office operations in the enterprise. With the promise of continued innovation in technology, we need to look beyond the features of each solution and focus more closely on the interoperability of each piece within the supply chain. 
Keep in mind, TMS is just one piece of the supply chain. In order for TMS to be effective, it has to be able to interact with other host applications. If it doesn’t have that capability, it is not going to provide all the benefits it should. By taking the platform approach, rather than the segmented approach, you can make one investment and then add new pieces/modules to the platform over time, however choosing the right platform is as important as selecting the individual pieces (WMS/TMS/Supply Chain Execution). 

As organizations grow, so do their business problems and it is important to have a technology platform that will adapt to changes. Enterprises need to invest in a platform approach that provides them with the ability to add on supplementary pieces or modules as-needed to address issues that may arise over time, such as yard management or customs brokerage. Organizations will benefit from investing in a solution provider that takes a platform approach to TMS. The right platform can have many benefits, including reducing the administrative cost and financial overhead associated with host integration and data collaboration. The ideal platform should be technologically relevant, customizable and modular.

At the heart of any good TMS is a good analytics module, which can access large data sets allowing organizations to make better business decisions. A single platform approach provides the enterprise with greater accessibility to more data points. This enables better insight into the business and the ability to make improvements which can have both immediate and long term benefits. 

Rather than shopping for a TMS, organizations should look for a single platform to monitor, manage and improve the global logistics network for multimodal transportation and warehousing. There are six attributes or questions to ask when shopping for the right platform: 

1. Can it handle my order to invoice processes from full container to parcel shipping? 
2. Will it allow me to benefit from multimodal transportation planning and execution? 
3. Can it be used to gain better visibility into my warehouse operations so I can improve on my inventory management processes? 
4. Will the platform allow me to actively manage customs and trade compliance all the while keeping me informed of changing trade regulations around the world? 
5. Can it provide me with a holistic view of my logistics network with end-to-end visibility across my most critical supply chain execution processes? 
6. How well can it integrate with other systems? Can it improve external collaboration and B2B integration with my critical trading partners by removing the geographic and technical constraints that hinder my efficiency? 

In conclusion, taking a platform approach allows the organization to analyze more aspects of the business. This in turn helps the business to make better decisions which can result in significant cost benefits. I hope you enjoyed today’s tip. 

Author: Larry Lewis is a Global Transportation and Shipping Product Marketing Manager at Kewill with responsibilities for the company’s multi-modal shipping and spend management products and services. Larry holds degrees in Behavioral Science and Network Engineering and has over 10 years of experience in software and high-tech industries. Prior to Kewill he was co-founder, CTO and COO of Pointandship Software where he led the design and development teams for their Shipping Expense Management software. Prior to co-founding Pointandship Software Larry was the COO at Comm360 System Integrators.