Supply Chain Expertise and Technology Blog by TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson

Supply Chain Disruptions? Everything’s Clearer with the Right TMS Technology

Global_Logistics_ManagementEverything is humming along, sales are picking up, and things in general are going well. Life is good! And then, just like that, you find yourself in the midst of a perfect storm. We’ve all been there—and it’s every logistics professional’s nightmare.

It’s like the universe went through a list of common supply chain challenges and thought, “Let’s see what happens if they all take place at the same time.” Raw material shortages lead to delays in production, which decreases your lead time and makes your freight more critical than usual.

Your carriers aren’t prepared for the unexpected increase in volume, and—wouldn’t you know it?—it’s watermelon season in Alabama, so carrier capacity is suddenly an added constraint. All of this is causing customer stock-outs, and it seems like the entire sales department is at your desk looking for answers. And, to add to the challenges, your carriers have chosen this moment to start slipping in their performance and communication, and there are more exceptions than not that need to be addressed.

Gaining visibility into your supply chain

What now? This is the moment you fully realize the importance of visibility in your supply chain. There is suddenly a need to know—in very specific detail—the answers to questions like:

  • Where is my freight?
  • Is critical product going to be delayed?
  • What can I do to make sure more customer service issues do not result?
  • Where are my risks and network vulnerabilities?

Importance of finding the right TMS technology

Enter transportation management system (TMS) technology solutions. A TMS solution provides the supply chain visibility you need. Using electronic data interchange (EDI), it can keep carriers connected, provide access to location tracking applications, and offer application programming interface (API) connectivity to allow for in-the-moment updates.

You have access to milestone tracking and customized reporting to help with exception management. Spot bid tools give the capability to source capacity for the most critical of shipments and benchmark rates within your carrier network to mitigate additional costs as much as possible.

There is immediate visibility to what hasn’t been picked up and what hasn’t been booked in the online portal. With a managed TMS solution, you will also have a team of professionals ready to assist with crisis management and best practices.

Final thoughts

Supply chain disruptions come in all forms and can happen at any time. Think back to the Hanjin bankruptcy, the Polar Vortex of 2014, or pretty much any time there is a strike at the Port of Los Angeles. Even with solid contingency plans, you will not be prepared to respond without visibility.

You have to know where your freight is in order to know where and how you need to take action. Make sure you have access to the right tools and supply chain technology, and that you have developed process consistency and exception management that will enable supply chain agility.

Now, if only we could learn how to predict the unpredictable—but we’ll save that story for another day.

Learn more about how TMS technology can streamline your supply chain operations.