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December 10, 2020 4:30 PM, EST

Transportation Management Technologies Reach Inflection Point

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A series of trends and technological advancements, including artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and predictive analytics, is driving change with transportation management systems at an unprecedented pace, according to carriers and TMS providers.

“I’ve never seen technology and capabilities move as quickly as now,” Jordan Kass, president of the managed services division at C.H. Robinson, told Transport Topics. “Are we at an inflection point and is there something a little bit different happening right now with opportunities and capabilities from a tech standpoint? Definitively the answer is yes.”

Kass likened the changes to what happened during the internet boom in the late 1990s. Today, he pointed to several technology capabilities that are converging to drive the next evolution of TMS. Among them are the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, machine-to-machine communication, machine learning and predictive analytics. He also cited increased global trade and environmental sustainability as drivers of change.

Jordan Kass

Kass

“From our perspective, if a shipper is not leveraging a TMS then they are putting themselves at a complete disadvantage,” Kass said. “A TMS essentially is taking what was manual and analog and now allowing you to automate and transform it digitally.”

Kass noted that the pandemic has underscored the importance of those factors, since real-time visibility and adaptability can help manage inventory, capacity and rates. “As we look toward the future we think those areas of tech are just going to be incredibly transformational. They’re at our doorstep, they’re here,” he said.

C.H. Robinson ranks No. 7 on the Transport Topics Top 50 list of the largest logistics companies in North America.

TechNavio logo

The technology research and advisory company TechNavio in a Nov. 30 report predicted TMS will see a compounded annual growth rate of 8% over the next four years.

“Transportation Management Systems have been around for quite some time,” Stephen White, senior business development manager at Geotab, told TT. “The latest advancement for TMS has been a shift to a cloud environment from a server environment, enabling more seamless integrations with other systems.”

Steven White

White

White added that when used in conjunction with telematics technology there are more opportunities to unify systems to create efficiencies. He also noted telematics data can feed the system with valuable information like driver location and hours and where trucks are.

“I don’t know a top-10 carrier that is not currently re-evaluating the TMS that underpins their entire operating system,” Danny Lilley, vice president of product design and engineering at Werner Enterprises, told TT. “Almost all large carriers right now are either actively pursuing, researching or building additional TMS capabilities.”

Werner ranks No. 16 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America and No. 17 on the TT Top 50 logistics companies list.

Danny Lilley

Lilley

“We’re going through really just a major transformation of every piece of technology that underpins our organization over the next three to five years,” Lilley said. “Modernizing, replacing and improving, really, with a cloud-first, cloud-now focus.”

That includes identifying cloud services that give the company additional data capabilities and flexibilities, as well as, in Werner’s case, overhauling a homegrown TMS Werner built years ago and has been fine-tuning ever since.

“It’s time to modernize that technology,” Lilley said. “As we look at each piece of tech, [we ask] do we build it or do we buy it. For the movement of freight from point A to point B we elected to go with a third-party system.”

Werner wanted a system that worked well for both asset and non-asset freight, and sought interchangeability and flexibility to get a shipment request from a customer and be able to execute it through whatever means or channels made the most sense.

“Our industry is at a really unique point in its development, with the confluence of ubiquitous devices, cloud storage and [software as a service]-delivered technology, and API connectivity that allows us to finally solve some of the previously seemingly intractable problems,” Mastery TMS CEO Jeff Silver told TT. “Transportation providers have unprecedented ways in which to bring all of their operations onto a single platform.”

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