Transportation management systems (TMS) have finally gone global. The technology’s vast potential as a tool for managing freight movements internationally has been known for some time, but up until now has not been realized. Companies with a world view of transportation will discover incredible opportunities for raising the efficiency of global distribution networks.
As we described in a past post about the use of control towers (see Control Tower for Freight Management Catches the Global Train, by Adam Davis, December 17 2010), developing a global freight transportation management capability is becoming more important as enterprises look to emerging economies to drive future growth.
Adopting more sophisticated TMS technology in these countries will give shippers greater leverage to lower logistics costs and increase network efficiency. The availability of centralized data across countries will make it possible to create international metrics for transportation that shippers can use to benchmark their operations worldwide.
How can companies turn domestic-oriented TMS suites into world-beating freight management tools? Advanced systems already offer much of the functionality; you just have to take the cover off and learn how to use it.
Genuinely global systems go further. Providers of these solutions have kept pace with shippers by going global themselves. They not only have the technology; they offer the worldwide reach shippers need to manage freight transportation internationally.
Here are five features that distinguish these globe-spanning TMS solutions.
1. Single System Architecture.
Most TMS systems are not unified. Separate systems on individual continents send data to other discrete systems on other continents to provide visibility. This does not allow a true real-time, global view of a transportation network. A genuinely global system spans all continents with no discrete data hand, and provides visibility within the same operating environment without exporting and importing data into standalone systems.
2. Control Tower Visibility.
In his post, Adam Davis defined a control tower as a multi-regional freight management system for a global supply chain network that executes tactical operations and provides the visibility and information needed to lower costs, raise efficiency, and elevate the overall management to a more strategic level.
A control tower platform should afford a panoramic view of an organization’s entire supply chain, from procurement to drill-down details on every shipment worldwide. With the benefit of such a system, leaders can capture relevant data, analyze it, and use the information to make more sustainable business decisions that achieve cost and service goals.
3. Multiple Services and Modes.
Companies should be able to see details for air, ocean, rail, and road capabilities, and to obtain utilization reports for each. Customs compliance rigor should also be part of the system to manage import and export customs activities. Support for the management of bids for any method of transportation, anywhere in the world, and the coordination of contracts, procurement, rates, tenders, and schedules, are other characteristics of globally connected TMS solutions.
Keep in mind that although some solutions offer software platforms to integrate global inbound and outbound transportation, strategic silos can impede the use of these systems. The information and technology may be available to bridge the gaps, but is the strategic intent missing in your organization?
A global TMS should accommodate specific currency, language, tax, and tariff requirements for each country or region.
Supply chains that cross countries and continents require access to current information, from advance ship notices and inventory planning to purchase orders and production status updates. While there are often significant hurdles to overcome in terms of language, customs processes, time zones, and currencies, an effective TMS platform—supported by a strong strategic plan—can greatly reduce delays and other costly problems posed by international borders.
5. Management Reports.
By providing statistical business intelligence insights, a global TMS can support more profitable management decisions and greater customer satisfaction. Developing reports, from carrier and client scorecards to carbon emissions performance and calculation of total landed cost, gives enterprises and their executive leaders more strategic intelligence regarding sourcing, manufacturing, marketing, pricing, and distribution.
The barriers to global transportation management are coming down. The industry is entering an era where a world view of freight movements is not an optional TMS feature, but a competitive necessity.
This post is based on the C. H. Robinson Worldwide white paper Going Global: Building a Sustainable Logistics Model in the Age of Globalization. To download the white paper go to: http://www.chrobinson.com/en/us/Resources/White-Papers/