Integrating advanced IT systems to achieve the 'perfect return'

Apr 17, 2014

Managing returns was identified as a critical priority and challenge for companies in the Access Warehouse Management Software (WMS) survey and is the issue examined in a new whitepaper, now issued by Access's WMS vendor, titled 'The Perfect Return'.

Unprecedented volumes and expectations have been created around returns due to the latest developments in retail. If returns and their associated payments can be turned around in timely and effective fashion, they are often resaleable through a variety of channels. Returns, however, may also not be the whole of the original order, so it must be possible to treat the order/return line by line and ascertain if the original order has been paid for, before issuing a refund.

To deal with this kind of complexity, companies will need to link their Warehouse Management Software to ERP and financial systems so that returns can be matched to original orders, and also to financial systems.

Furthermore, this complex set of operations could be performed in a dedicated area of warehouse space. However, given that the WMS survey found that 42 per cent of respondents had space shortages and that returns volumes are less predictable, it is preferable to hold returns, as Access systems allow, in quarantined by status, rather than by physical location.

"A 'perfect order' implies the customer receiving goods on time, in full, and updated on progress at every stage," said Ian Roper, Supply Chain Solutions Divisional Director of Access. "A 'perfect return' has to aspire to the same level of service, both to impress and retain the customer, and to minimise the financial impact on the vendor."

He continued: "With very few exceptions not offering an effective returns policy is no longer an option for vendors; it has become a key competitive arena. Whether the 'perfect return' is actually achievable is moot, but by integrating advanced WMS, ERP and financial systems, companies can certainly come pretty close."

The Warehouse Management Software survey was carried out for Access, the leading Warehouse Management System (WMS) vendor, by Redshift Research. The survey was conducted among 132 warehouse operators across the manufacturing, wholesale and 3PL sectors.

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Are You Prepared to Optimize Inbound Freight?

Long before my career in software began, I was introduced to inbound logistics while working for a building materials wholesaler. We hauled most of the inbound product with our own trucks. When I asked Mr. Krietzer, the owner of the company, why we bothered hauling in our own product, he told me, “the freight allowance covers my salary.” His motivation was strictly the lucrative freight allowance – nothing more. Frankly, I believe Mr. Krietzer actually preferred not having to manage that private fleet.

Before you follow in Mr. Krietzer’s footsteps and take over control of your inbound freight or consider optimizing your inbound freight, here are seven questions to ask.

Does your organization have the ability to change? Do you have buy-in from the stakeholders? Purchasing plays a large role in a successful inbound logistics project.

Are your organization and systems dynamic enough to react? Things will happen. Some things will be out of your control. You’ll need systems, processes and people in place that can handle the exceptions.

Do you have the tools to make smart decisions about inbound transportation optimization? I once worked with a large retailer that had just implemented inbound optimization. They were not seeing the savings that they expected. After reviewing their daily processes, we discovered their planners were planning twice a day. Once the planners started planning only once daily, savings nearly doubled.

How strong is your complete solution? Full end-to-end transportation management planning and execution is required for optimization – from data integration, vendor access and compliance, planning, visibility, invoicing and analytics. Take, for instance, handling parcel, LTL, truckload, rail, ocean and your private fleet all in the same planning session. The ability to mode-shift is critical to inbound freight savings.

Are you able to make decisions fast enough? The speed of optimization is always important. Users need to do their job quickly, and systems need to be updated timely. Plans change rapidly, exceptions occur, so reactions must be fast and accurate.

How can your organization make improvements to your inbound optimization? Make sure your system can measure performance, define improvements and also feed those changes back into the system. This is called embedded analytics; it can be used to drive changes from planning to freight payment. A simple, yet effective way to manage costs could be to incorporate your carrier selection using lane goals that are updated automatically based on actual costs. Or, reward your carriers with quicker payment based on their performance.

Finally, what’s in it for you? I’m sure my former employer, the building supply company, had a minimum freight allowance that would have been acceptable or it just wasn’t worth it in my bosses mind, even if there was an ROI.

Carefully answering these seven questions will deliver the capability, knowledge and power to improve. Being smarter, stronger, faster, better with inbound optimization will provide payback in many areas, but at the end of the period, those paybacks will show up on the bottom line of your financials.


by Jim Geer
August 19th, 2014

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ROI is Driving TMS Growth

ARC Advisory Group conducts an annual analysis of the global transportation management systems (TMS) market. The research process includes the analysis of large amounts of information and interviews with executives from numerous TMS software companies. The process concludes with the publication of ARC’s TMS Global Market Research Study, which analyzes the market shares across numerous categories of the leading TMS suppliers. Aside from the market share analysis, the study looks at the trends that are driving and/or inhibiting growth in the TMS market. As simple as it sounds, this year’s study confirms that the ROI achieved from implementing a TMS is the biggest factor in the market’s growth.

When a shipper decides it needs to improve its transportation performance, it typically attempts to achieve this by either buying a transportation management system (TMS) or outsourcing transportation planning and execution to a managed transportation services (MTS) provider.

According to ARC Advisory Group research, among those shippers that successfully achieve significant reductions in freight savings, TMS and MTS perform roughly the same. However, when you look at the proportion of respondents that achieved negative results (increased freight costs) or no improvement in their freight spend; TMS appears to be the less-risky investment. Further, when it comes to net savings (after all fees are paid to the service provider), TMS appears to perform somewhat better. On the other hand, when it comes to service improvements, MTS is the clear winner.

So where do these net savings come from? Primarily, a TMS can save companies money by lowering their freight spend. Based on ARC TMS survey data, respondents indicated freight savings of approximately 6 percent with the use of a TMS application. Of these savings less than 25 percent of the net savings were absorbed by the TMS for the majority of respondents. These freight savings can be attributed to lower cost mode selections, better routing, and better procurement negotiations.

A contributing factor to these savings is the evolution of TMS products themselves. The TMS product set continues to improve with new forms of optimization, mobility enhancements, improved usability, and better analytics. Multitenant solutions continue to offer some distinctive capabilities that many companies find attractive. Aside from the freight savings, TMS products are providing numerous other benefits, including improved customer satisfaction, warehouse efficiencies, new delivery capabilities, inventory reductions, and cash flow improvements.

As the product sets of TMS providers have improved, so has the sophistication of MTS providers. In fact, until recently, one of the leading complaints about MTS providers was that their technology was not good enough. As these providers overcome that barrier, potential TMS customers may increasingly choose the managed services path. TMS and MTS providers will continue to make enhancements and improvements to their offerings. As the core product sets continue to become more sophisticated and offer better tools, shippers will be able to better optimize their routes and lower their freight spend. The end result is an improved ROI for shippers, which will continue to fuel the growth of the TMS market.


by Chris Cunnane
September 3rd, 2014

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BRICS Continue to Invest in Supply Chain Management Software

Cambashi, an independent industry analyst firm, based in Cambridge, UK. recently announced the 2014 second quarter update to its market data resource, the Cambashi Market Observatories.These observatories provide a quantitative view of the technical applications software market available, providing a basis for analyzing size, growth, movement and other trends to support planning at local, regional and global levels.Latest figures show a combined growth in the emerging nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China of 8.6% in 2013 over 2012. This is compared with 9.4% growth in 2012 over 2011 and suggests the rate of growth is slowing but is still strong.Taking a view at more established market - especially when considering the technical applications software market, which is dominated by design and engineering software - anlysts see a 5.2 percent combined growth in France, Germany, the US and the UK in 2013 over 2012.


This compares well with the figure for 2012 over 2011 of 4.2%, which is in line with greater recovery and investment in these countries.The set of Cambashi Market Observatories for technical applications software comprises the Cambashi Product Observatory, the Cambashi Country Observatory and the Cambashi Industry Observatory, which are all updated quarterly. Each covers the global view regionally and provides a country and industry perspective for more than 50 individual countries.According to Cambashi analyst, Simon Hailstone, the latest data for Latin America shows a slowing of growth from 19% in 2011 to 4% in 2013.“In real terms Brazil showed some recovery in 2013 at 11%, particularly in manufacturing sectors, although Mexico slowed to around 6% with construction still weak,” he told SCMR in an interview. “Smaller emerging countries such as Chile and Colombia held up well, around 8% in real terms, primarily due to the construction and mining sectors.”Hailstone noted that compared with emerging countries in other regions, Latin America shows similar underlying trends in this period but with underlying growth still above established markets.“The slowing of growth in the major emerging countries of Russia, India and China has been more pronounced than most Latin American countries,” he said.


By Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
August 25, 2014 - SCMR Editorial

SCM World Study Finds 3PLs Resist Innovation

Between January and May of this year, SCM World fielded a six-question survey in order to understand the supply chain community’s perception of global third party logistics providers (3PLs).

Barry Blake is Vice President of Research at SCM World, says there were few surprises in their findings…with one exception.

“The disconnect between 3PL performance levels and their reluctance to embrace new technologies was something we hoped would change by now,” he says.

The results are in, with 557 respondents globally, and the story emerging from the data is compelling – third-party logistics providers are seen as fast and fairly reliable, but not innovative.

Furthermore, supply chain managers question the value received for the cost of 3PL services.

Blake asked respondents to rate 3PLs on the following metrics:
• Reliability. Does the service provider execute flawlessly, meeting all expectations of the agreement?
• Speed. How quickly does the service provider solve problems and respond to challenging circumstances?
• Innovation. Does the service provider bring you innovative ideas and solutions based on its understanding of your needs?
• Value for money. Do you view your investment in the service provider as having been worth the cost?
• Scale of impact. How vital is the service provider to your overall strategic needs?

With a few exceptions, most 3PLs score pretty strongly (over 50% of respondents rated them “good” or “excellent”) at the aggregate level when it comes to the basics such as reliability. However, customers don’t seem completely confident that they are receiving the degree of value expected for the money they are paying for 3PL services.

Moreover, the 3PL community collectively struggles to deliver innovative solutions in the eyes of their customers. The message coming across loud and clear through the survey data and follow-up discussions with logistics professionals is that 3PLs need to do a much better job understanding the businesses of their customers if they are to move up the innovation curve.

This cuts both ways, say SCM World researchers. Unless a shipper “incentivizes” its 3PLs to focus on innovation, it is difficult for the 3PL to make the necessary investments to support it.

“Innovations don’t typically sprout overnight, nor even during the yearly tender cycle between parties,” says Blake.

He also noted in an interview that shippers and 3PLs should have a one-on-one discussion about risk mitigation.

Overall, the major expectation for logistics service providers is cost savings. This entrenched focus essentially commoditizes logistics services, creating a self-perpetuating cycle in the marketplace where logistics service providers resist investing in innovation since their customers don’t yet believe that innovation will drive cost savings more effectively than traditional methods.

“This pushes logistics services further towards commoditization,” Blake concludes. “Both sides need to come together if logistics service innovations are to take root and see the light of day.”


By Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
August 13, 2014 - SCMR Editorial

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Maximize your WMS

Today’s warehouse management systems come with sophisticated rules and logic, real-time seamless integration to aligned business applications, and effortless interfaces to automated equipment and mobile technology. But why are we still not putting these capabilities to work?

Early warehouse management systems (WMS) stuck to the basics—tracking what was coming in, what was going out, with workers manually keying in data along the way. Since then, the technology has matured to expand beyond the core functions of receiving, picking and shipping to include an extensive menu of modules to execute and support every conceivable task occurring under the roof of a warehouse or distribution center.

Many come with sophisticated rules and logic, real-time seamless integration to aligned business applications, and effortless interfaces to automated equipment and mobile technology. Yet, despite having many of these technological advancements within their reach, users are still not using their WMS to their fullest potential.

“Industry and market folklore suggests that users are availing themselves of no more than 60% to 65% of the functionality of contemporary WMS,” says John Hill, director for supply chain and logistics consulting firm, St. Onge Company.

Dwight Klappich, vice president for research and consulting company at Gartner, goes as far as saying that a name change may even be in order. “We shouldn’t call it a warehouse ‘management’ system, we should actually call it a warehouse ‘execution’ system, because that is basically what companies are using it for—the execution of specific warehousing tasks.”

Over the next few pages we’ll put a spotlight on WMS functionalities and capabilities that warrant a second look. Many have documented benefits and savings that can maximize the return on your WMS investment. So, if you feel your WMS has yet to reach its potential, it may be time for you to take notes.

Read Modern’s Top 20 Supply Chain Management Software Suppliers list.

Task interleaving
Any discussion on maximizing your WMS deployment is not complete without a discussion on task interleaving. Also known as dual cycling, task interleaving involves having the system direct a worker with a queue of prioritized tasks that can be performed based on his travel paths and the specific handling equipment being used.

Although it’s typically been a standard offering in WMS, this functionality has not been used extensively in many DCs. Users may be wary of any additional WMS set-up and training required, especially for workers accustomed to performing mostly one job.

If done right, however, it can increase worker productivity by a reported 20% by eliminating movement of a truck with no load. For example, a driver may need to put away a pallet at location A21. Instead of heading back to the dock “empty” or with no pallet, the task interleaving function of the WMS instructs him to pick up a replenishment pallet at location A23, because he’s right there.

Bob Silverman, senior vice president of Supply Chain & Logistics Solutions, a consulting group within the real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), warns however that to be truly efficient, task interleaving requires significant activity moving in multiple directions simultaneously. “If not properly planned and controlled this can result in congestion and lost productivity.”

Integration with labor management systems
By interfacing with the WMS, labor management systems (LMS) are able to track and monitor each worker’s performance in a DC.

How does it work? The WMS tracks critical data for each worker such as the number of units picked, the number of orders completed and the time elapsed to pick an order. The LMS then extracts this data and uses it to compare how well workers are performing against established labor standards. Above-standard performance is rewarded, while poor performance is reviewed to determine if there were any barriers to productivity. “It provides the ability to measure and reward employee performance,” says Silverman. “As a result, you get better labor productivity.”

In addition, with advanced visibility into future workloads from the WMS, you could also plan exactly how many workers you need for a task and put together a much better budget with this solution.
Yet Klappich notes that LMS penetration is only at 20% to 25% of the market. Many feel implementation can get quite involved because labor standards first need to be developed at the granular level. He speculates, however, that as more managers are pressured to enhance productivity and efficiency in the warehouse, LMS installations will increase.

Steve Banker, service director of supply chain management for the ARC Advisory Group, reports that LMS, specifically those based on engineered labor standards, has, in fact, been getting very good payback periods. “Whereas on average the payback period for WMS is about two years—which is pretty much average for supply chain applications—it’s often under a year for LMS.”

Banker adds that the ROI is getting bigger and better even for smaller warehouses, with some lower-cost solutions now readily available.

Integration with transportation management systems
Warehouse and transportation management (TMS) are becoming more closely entwined than ever. As a result of this trend, a growing number of WMS vendors are either adding transportation management capabilities to their systems or offering compatibility with the goal of providing seamless logistics visibility.

But why aren’t users taking advantage of this integration? To some shippers, size matters. “If I’ve got 10 parking spaces and five docks, I don’t need a system to do that,” says Klappich, “But if I’ve got 200 parking spots and 25 docks with a number of trailers coming in and going out every day, then dockscheduling [from the WMS] and yard management modules [from the TMS] may be needed.”

Many are taking advantage of this integration by streamlining the flow of outbound product from picking to trailer loading. Shipping documents are printed, along with pick labels, so that completed orders are picked and immediately routed to the outbound carrier’s lane.

“By interfacing with each other, WMS and TMS decisions can be made even before product is received,” says Silverman. “Carriers and customers have access to information in advance of shipments being picked up and delivered.”

If you’re picking orders with products in different quantities, sizes and weights, then you need to know the right carton to pack that order. The cartonization module, resident in many WMS but not being used, aids in the selection of the right carton based upon the sizes and weights of items for a given order.

According to St. Onge’s Hill, not everyone needs cartonization, but often times those that do are unaware of its availability. “I don’t think they’re neglecting it. They might think for whatever reason that it’s too complicated. I have seen it in operation and the benefits are incredible,” says Hill.

It begins with the determination of whether you’ve got the right-sized box for a given order. This minimizes the amount of air shipped, keeping transportation costs low. Using the right-sized box also decreases the need and costs for dunnage, while reducing shipping damage. Hill suggests investigating historical order sizes and weights to determine the range of order sizes and total order weights that a family of box sizes would be able to handle.

“If it turns out that there are 50 or 60 different box sizes, it’s probably not going to make a whole lot of sense to use this module,” adds Hill. “But most people wind up with about eight to 12 different box sizes.”

When a wave of orders is scheduled for picking, a message is sent to workers preparing the boxes to make the proper assortment of boxes for the next wave of orders. With every order, the system can recommend the proper box size—instead of the picker wasting valuable time trying to figure out which box best fits that order. “It’s one of many WMS features that people aren’t using, but that can be a real contribution to the market,” says Hill.

Performance event management
Performance event management is the transformation of a hodge-podge collection of data transactions collected by a WMS into timely business intelligence that can be used to make immediate or long-term decisions.

The reality is that while most systems do offer some form of performance event management, or analytics, with their packages, users don’t always take the time to go over all the options to determine which reports will provide the most accurate picture of current performance without being overwhelmed by too much information.

For example, a warehouse manager may be concerned that he may not be able to make delivery on an order. “Today’s WMS can be set up so that it notifies the warehouse manager and shows him a dashboard that says here are all your orders,” says Gartner’s Klappich. He notes that WMS providers have even created apps for mobile equipment—tablets, smartphones, handheld computers—so that a manager can be alerted when 20 orders are potentially going to be late.

“He can click on the alert and scroll down to see the problem,” says Klappich. “In the past, they used to have to print out reports and be very paper intensive.”

Slotting determines how best to organize inventory based on product velocity. Fast-moving items are located in the most accessible areas closest to the docks, while products that don’t sell very often are assigned to locations in elevated racks towards the back of a warehouse.

Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. Putting all fast movers in one aisle can lead to congestion, while sometimes it may make more sense to group products that are generally sold together. Because of this complexity and the amount of data generally required by slotting optimization software, users typically buy the slotting module as part of their WMS package, but have yet to use it.
According to Hill, when done properly, a good slotting plan reduces pick paths, increases pick rates, thus improving productivity. Storage space utilization also improves while reducing damage and improving safety.

“If you’ve got relatively static inventory, with no seasonal cycles, and you’ve got good forecasting and planning because your market doesn’t change all that dramatically, slotting may not be that important,” says Hill. “But if the flipside is true, then maybe once or twice a year you ought to take a look at making certain that you’re putting your fast movers where they are most accessible.”

Regardless of the size and complexity of your warehouse or DC facility, Hill recommends a post-implementation audit after every WMS deployment or upgrade. “Users have to take responsibility for defining what they need,” says Hill. “The audit will compare what the WMS is doing against those needs. Only then will you know if you’ve truly maximized your WMS investment.”


By Maida Napolitano, Contributing Editor

October 01, 2012 - MMH Editorial

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Supply Chain Technology: 2014 State of TMS—Cost reductions and ROI continue to soar

Top supply chain software analysts assess growth in the transportation management systems (TMS) market, highlight emerging trends in adoption, and predict the future of this highly beneficial, yet consistently underused application.

In its 2012-2017 TMS Global Market Research Study published in 2013, research firm ARC says that transportation management systems (TMS) continue to offer a strong ROI for shippers—namely in the way of lower freight spend. And that trend shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

ARC says that over 40 percent of respondents felt that if they were forced to give up their TMS and go back to more manual processes for planning and execution, their total freight costs would increase by 5 percent to 10 percent. Twenty-three percent of shippers surveyed felt that their total freight costs not under the control of the TMS would increase by over 10 percent.

According to Steve Banker, ARC’s director of supply chain solutions, TMS achieves these savings based on process enforcement, visibility, analytics, and optimization—with virtually no other supply chain application offering so many different forms of optimization.

“TMS is one of those applications that has good payback,” says Banker. “When a company installs a TMS, the savings expectation is about 8 percent for most industry verticals.” That means that the company that spends $100 million annually on freight can invest, say, $1 million to $2 million in a TMS and can expect to save an average of $8 million in freight costs. “That’s a pretty good return,” says Banker.

Eager to tap into those returns while also gaining visibility over their global supply chains, today’s shippers are exploring their options on the TMS front. In most cases, that means selecting between the traditional, purchase-and-install format or one that resides online in the “cloud” and is accessible to users on a 24/7 basis on the web.

“Cloud has always been very strong in the TMS market, in fact roughly one quarter of revenues in this market are SaaS [Software as a Service] revenues,” says Banker. By definition, cloud computing is the deployment of software on virtualized servers where the TMS runs on multiple different servers as demand increases or decreases, whereas SaaS involves applications that are hosted by a vendor or service provider and then distributed to customers via the web.

Rick Brunson, manager of supply chain technologies for consulting firm Capgemini, also sees more potential ahead for cloud-based TMS, namely due to the lower barriers to entry presented by the online software delivery option.

He says that JDA Software is one of several TMS providers that are helping to drive that trend. “JDA is pushing the cloud for their customers,” says Brunson. “The cloud-based TMS market will continue to grow because it makes things easier for IT departments, which don’t have to maintain and deploy yet another application.”

TMS trend tracking
In assessing the top TMS providers in the market today, Banker says that both Oracle and SAP had strong sales in 2013, and that both could repeat those winning performances this year. Banker says SAP’s efforts to produce a best-of-breed TMS started paying off with the software’s most recent release.

“About two years ago SAP finally got it right,” says Banker. “By that time, there was a lot of pent-up demand to fulfill.” Since introducing its latest TMS, SAP has grown quickly in the space, says Banker, namely due to that pent-up demand and the fact that it has been hawking its solution to logistics service providers, “where the average selling price is significantly higher than it is for shippers.”

Banker says that SAP’s efforts actually suppressed some of the growth on the cloud side of the TMS market. Despite that sub-trend, Banker says the multi-tenancy capabilities of SaaS—where a single instance of the software runs on a server, handling multiple tenants—make the online variations of TMS software especially attractive for new users.

“Cloud continues to grow, but its growth has slowed somewhat over previous years,” says Banker. “Still, there are certain benefits associated with multi-tenancy and the associated networks that you can’t get with traditional solutions.”

Visibility is clearly one of those benefits. Focused on streamlining and gaining better visibility over their global supply chains, many firms are turning to TMS to help them achieve those goals. “We’re definitely seeing more demand for global visibility,” says Brunson. “Shippers want to know where everything is located across the entire supply chain at any given point.”

Right now, companies want improved visibility of outbound domestic shipping, although Brunson says that more and more are requesting enhanced inbound visibility across all modes of transportation. The latter will likely spur demand for a TMS that can handle multi-modal processes with ease.

“Going forward,” says Brunson, “we’ll start to see more inbound freight visibility and the routing of that freight across the supply chain via different modes of transportation—motor carrier, rail, ship.”

When asked whether TMS vendors are stepping up to the plate on the global multi-modal front, Brunson says it’s already happening “to a degree,” but notes that as more shippers move in that direction an increasing number of providers will probably jump into the fray.

“There aren’t a lot of shippers utilizing their TMS for those functions right now,” says Brunson. “As more clients start moving in this direction, vendors will have to come up with additional features that no one is really thinking about right now.”

Measuring the market
Transportation management systems may have been around for a while, but that doesn’t mean they are a shoe-in for companies that want to gain better controls over their transportation operations.

According to the Logistics Management 2013 Technology Usage Study, just 34 percent of respondents are currently using TMS. Of the 33 percent of shippers that were planning to buy supply chain software over the coming 12 months, 41 percent planned to acquire TMS.

Dwight Klappich, research vice president at Gartner, says that his results show that roughly 50 percent of firms with $100 million+ in revenues are currently using a TMS, while only about 10 percent of those in the $25 million to $100 million range are doing so.

Of those current TMS owners, just 25 percent say they are “fully utilizing” their systems. “There are many shippers that are using pieces and parts of their transportation systems and aren’t realizing the full benefits of their investments,” says Klappich. “Between the low adoption rates for TMS and the fact that many users aren’t fully optimizing their systems, Klappich says vendors will have their work cut out for them during the year ahead.

“Vendors basically went after the big fish and abandoned the rest of the market,” Klappich points out. “That’s why companies like MercuryGate, which is focused on mid-tier companies, are growing like weeds. Next to Oracle, MercuryGate is one of the fastest-growing TMS companies right now.”

Looking to the future
When Simon Ellis, practice director at research and consulting firm IDC Manufacturing Insights, looks at the TMS market, he sees a number of key trends being driven by large vendors like SAP and Oracle. Fleet management continues to be a strong focus for both providers, says Ellis, with both adding capabilities to attract third-party logistics providers (3PLs) that have traditionally been using homegrown transportation management systems.

“We’re seeing 3PLs move away from that strategy and start using more off-the-shelf packaged TMS,” says Ellis. “As part of that push, software vendors are adding fleet management to make their products more appealing.”
Ellis says that TMS providers are watching global supply chain trends closely and coming up with ways to incorporate global trade management capabilities into their solutions. “Inevitably, as manufacturers and retailers look at sourcing products from overseas,” he explains, “the ability to manage customs and regulations and coordinate across multiple carriers becomes very important.”

Whether those global capabilities fall under the TMS header—or in an adjacent category—Ellis says that shippers can expect to see significant developments in that realm in the coming months. “Up until now, the tools have been deficient in this area because manufacturers and retailers weren’t asking for them,” says Ellis. “That is changing.”

From their TMS, retailers are also demanding improved omni-channel visibility. Two other opportunity areas for vendors within the supply chain space include distributed order management (tools necessary to manage, monitor, and optimize cross-channel order management) and the placement of warehouse-like solutions in retail stores.

“Right now, omni-channel is the largest supply chain opportunity that’s out there in the TMS space,” says Banker. “It’s an interesting niche that’s worth paying attention to and that we’ll be watching pretty carefully in 2014.”


By Bridget McCrea, Contributing Editor for Logistics Management
February 01, 2014 - LM Editorial

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