A transportation management system can help companies improve their operations, but implementing the system can be disruptive and costly. Ensuring that the implementation is done right is critical to the success of the initiative, so supply chain leaders should follow some implementation best practices.
Many companies that ship and receive materials and products and use a manual method to track loads eventually find they must adopt a transportation management system (TMS). A TMS enables users to track driver location as well as schedule deliveries and pickups. Properly evaluating the different TMS platforms to determine which suits the company's needs and demoing them can make a TMS implementation go more smoothly.
Learn about best practices for implementing a transportation management system.
1. Create a strong implementation team
Selecting and implementing a new TMS will require a group of employees with wide-ranging backgrounds. The employees in charge of forming the implementation team should ensure shipping and receiving workers are represented on the team as well as IT.
Once formed, the team should meet regularly so the process stays on schedule.
2. Create a plan with objectives and goals
Establishing clear expectations and goals for the software implementation can help ensure the investment in the new platform pays off.
The implementation team should evaluate existing processes and list the challenges that the TMS should solve. For example, employees might currently be using tools like Outlook or Excel to schedule load pickups, and those tools lack real-time connectivity to warehouse systems or other platforms. Understanding these limitations will help make clear what the company needs for the future.
3. Evaluate the different software options
Some overlap exists between TMS platforms, but the implementation team should create a formal selection process for the application.
Creating a matrix for team members to fill out that includes categories for scoring such as integration capabilities, cost, support and features could be helpful for software selection.
4. Demo the platforms
Investing adequate time to demo platforms and evaluate the different functionalities for each is crucial for success.
During the demo, the implementation team should simulate the company's current processes and discuss business needs so team members gain a good understanding of how the application will function and whether it will fulfill the company's needs.
5. Plan the transition phase carefully
Training is one of the most important phases of any new system's implementation. A technology change is disruptive, and a lack of training can result in poor adoption.
The implementation team should ensure employees are comfortable with the system and are able to ask any questions.
6. Define and prioritize integration requirements
A new TMS will likely need to integrate with a company's ERP or warehouse management software (WMS) software so load information and customer data can travel between the systems. The integration team must plan for this to ensure that TMS users won't have to manually transfer this data.
If the team does not plan for this, employees' workload might increase, potentially causing resentment.
7. Allocate staff appropriately for go-live
Before go-live, the implementation team should ensure adequate staff will be available to help employees who are using the new TMS.
Having additional resources and staff ready for the first few days, or even the first week, of the new system will help reduce employee frustration.