How to Select a TMS Visibility Platform for Improved Speed, Quality, and Cost

This article first appeared in Logistics Viewpoints, in August 2022. Author: Michelle Sodomka

To test the thinking and visibility of his students, Socrates held up a white ball in front of his student and asked, “What color is the ball?”

Almost without thinking, the student answered, “The ball is white, teacher.”

Socrates then slowly turned the ball around to reveal the back of the ball, painted black. “Next time, before you answer,” said Socrates, “examine both sides.”

In today’s supply chain business, where customers increasingly expect faster, better, cheaper service, success often turns on gleaning real-time visibility into shipments in transit. Indeed, who couldn’t benefit from improved transportation visibility?

Yet, for many operators, orders are still tracked using lagging carrier information gleaned from phone calls, websites, spreadsheets, emails, and other old-school forms of reporting. Then, when schedules aren’t met, it’s an unpleasant surprise to all involved. Bottlenecks form. Labor stalls. Customer satisfaction suffers. And in some cases, service penalties ensue.

Even if your transportation management system (TMS) is ingesting carrier EDI information directly, the data you receive is often hours after that fact, leaving you to “best-guess” actual delivery times. What is stopping a carrier from “fudging” the information a little to save face? You don’t know what you don’t know. Not the most efficient way to run a logistics business.

Real-Time Transportation Visibility Defined

A real-time transportation visibility platform (RTTVP) is essential to improve visibility and control across your transportation network.

An RTTVP is a software solution that tracks and traces loads in transit regardless of carrier or mode. It collects and stores data from a variety of sources. These sources may include electronic logging devices, telematics networks, mobile devices, RF devices, and GPS information from automatic identification systems for ship locations and NORAD for aircraft positioning. This data is then fed directly into your TMS, providing a real-time, verifiable, 360° view of shipments in process, allowing you to choose more efficient routes, save fuel and time, and provide your customers a better experience overall.

Not All Platforms Are the Same

Of course, the kind of RTTVP you use depends on your desired outcomes. Providers offer an array of capabilities, some of which can add considerable cost to the solution you implement.

Over-equipping or under-equipping wastes time and money. So, here are a few top-level factors to consider before you go all in:

  • Size and Scope: Are you running a smaller, more controllable environment, such as a warehouse or factory? Or a more extensive, more complex, matrixed operation, involving multiple suppliers and third-party manufacturers. Obviously, the latter will require a more sophisticated solution.
  • Shipment vs. Product-Level Tracking: An RTTVP will provide visibility into load-level tracking; if you are tracking product SKUs, you’ll require a control tower solution.
  • Visibility Only or Visibility with Intelligence: The former represents a simpler integration with your TMS, whereas the latter will require full platform access.

Rely on Professional Assistance

The competitive landscape in logistics today is leaning toward tighter operations with greater transparency for all. A well-vetted, right-fitting RTTVP solution can equip you with the insights you need to balance speed, quality, and cost.

Don’t be in the dark when it comes to your shipments in transit. Get on the ball with improved visibility into your transportation operation with an RTTVP solution.

Read Open Sky Group expert Michelle Sodomka’s complete insight via Logistics Viewpoints.

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