April 2014 | Sponsored | Thought Leaders

Avoiding Pitfalls to TMS Implementation

Tags: Logistics I.T., Transportation Management Systems (TMS)

Steve Wilson is Vice President, Logistics Engineering, 3PLogic LLC, 855-3PLOGIC

Q: What can go wrong when launching a transportation management system (TMS)?

A: Implementing a TMS is a proven way to reduce cost and gain control of your organization's transportation expenses. Yet many companies implement systems only to fall short of the return on investment (ROI) they expected.

Sometimes the problem stems from failure to understand internal stakeholder requirements. Implementations often take longer than necessary because an internal stakeholder identifies new requirements near the time the TMS goes live—sometimes even after. This causes delays due to re-work, or worse yet, reduces the system's effectiveness, which kills the project's ROI. It helps to enlist a trusted partner experienced in TMS implementations, who knows where to look for holes or gaps in understanding, and has a structured framework and battle-tested process.

Another obstacle to successful TMS implementation is failing to invest in training and building expertise. Many organizations send everyone through initial training—sometimes several weeks before the TMS goes live—then expect their employees to remember all the functions and capabilities they learned in a classroom setting, outside the context of their jobs. Working with an external partner that has the benefit of an experienced user group can help ease the system's learning curve.

A third common hurdle in TMS implementation is a lack of IT resources. There's a lot of work to be done in configuring the TMS, as well as integrating the solution with internal ERP and other supply chain execution systems such as a warehouse management system. Internal IT personnel are often in short supply, and they may lack TMS experience and training. It's risky to have just one individual within an IT department who is the TMS guru, but often that is all IT budgets can afford.

Q: What external connections are necessary to provide visibility and other TMS benefits?

A: A primary advantage of a TMS is visibility across your entire operation. That also involves significant IT resources, however, to establish the electronic connectivity with various carriers and/or service providers. Using a TMS provider with a pre-established network of connected carriers can help mitigate this issue, and companies can realize the benefits of supply chain visibility much more quickly.

Q: It is sometimes difficult to secure the human capital required. Are there other options?

A: The benefits gained from a TMS are often a function of the amount of investment put into its implementation. The cost of the system is important, but taking the time to fully understand current processes will ensure the evolved processes effectively deliver on the promise of the technology.

Just as important is developing and maintaining system expertise, within both the IT and user communities. What good is it to spend millions on a high-tech fighter jet if the pilots and maintenance personnel are short-staffed and aren't fully trained to support it? Don't get stuck with your TMS getting grounded—spend the time and effort making your TMS implementation successful. If you can't develop the expertise internally, it's often best to find a partner who already has the capabilities, and can show you the way to a solid ROI.