Second-Generation Logistics Software: Accessible Anywhere
Q: What is the latest logistics software trend?
A: Transportation management systems (TMS) have morphed into communication hubs with Web and mobile access. The PC user interface for employees—while still crucial—is becoming much less important than it once was.
Q: How can that be?
The first generation of software focused on employees adding and viewing data in the office. Now it's all about other means of access. The second generation lets your system talk to employee, client, and vendor systems. If your system does half the job electronically, you save half your labor costs.
For third-party logistics providers (3PLs), less-than-truckload orders can come in via electronic data interchange (EDI) and be automatically routed according to lowest-cost carrier. Then the shipment information can be automatically transmitted to the carrier—all without a transportation manager even looking at it.
Q: What other types of communication are available?
A: Automated alerts are another useful tool. You can receive email alerts for everything from late shipments, missed pickups, credit warnings, low margins, short-pays, and insurance and compliance issues.
Alerts are great because you can be proactive instead of reactive. For example, if a customer is about to exceed its credit limit, you can receive an alert.
Alerts can bypass your staff and go directly to your customers and vendors. Customers can receive shipment status alerts, automated balance due statements, EDI transmission confirmations, and more. Vendors can receive accounts payable information, requests for insurance and compliance data, and status updates—all automatically from the TMS.
Q: Where does a company Web site fit in with this?
A: Most 3PLs have their clients and carriers access their system from the Web. Carriers can now self-bill, upload delivery receipts, and choose payment terms. Your customers can enter orders, track shipments, and print their own proof-of-delivery documents. If you are a 3PL, you no longer need to pay employees to do these jobs.
Q: Do mobile applications really help?
A: Think about combining apps with automated alerts, your Web site, and EDI. Your employees, clients, and vendors can access key information around the clock. If your staff receives an alert, they can access everything they need via their phone. If a customer or driver calls your employee for information, it is readily available. Better yet, the driver or client can look it up on your mobile application, and not have to call your staff at night or on the weekend. That's a winner.