The saying, “It is like comparing apples to oranges,” means comparing two different things makes the comparison invalid.
We can use fruit as an analogy to describe Supply Chain Execution Systems (SCES). SCES include multiple systems that enable supply chain operations, such as warehousing, transportation, and labor management. Therefore, the systems within these SCES groups would be the fruit groups. Let’s use citrus to describe commercial transportation systems. Are you hungry yet?!
Historically, there were separate systems that enabled commercial transportation functionality. Although Transportation Management Software (TMS) may sound like the generic term to describe any software or system providing this functionality, it is not. Some of the various transportation systems include:
Each system is within the same “citrus”/transportation systems family but caters to different freight parties and modes; shippers/OTR (grapefruit), 3PLs/OTR (pink grapefruit), shippers/fleets (tangerine), and shippers/rail (blood orange). I mentioned above “historically” because these vendors started out providing only one of these as their sole solution.
Today, the vendor market is vast. Some vendors still focus on one principal solution or citrus fruit. Others offer hybrid citrus fruits by providing solutions encompassing part or all of another transportation solution or partnering with other vendors. For instance, a TMS might include fleet management functionality, or the vendor has started to expand into the rail realm, or a vendor’s offering includes fleet management on another platform or is integrated with a partner to provide rail.
Do you have multiple transportation systems needs, where one is the focus and the others are smaller needs or even nice-to-haves? If so, evaluate vendors whose core competency matches your primary transportation need and where their newer, peripheral solutions meet your basic requirements of the smaller needs. Or is your mix different, with multiple primary transportation needs? When looking for a transportation system solution to support your operations, ask yourself, which flavor or flavors do you need?
Stay tuned for subsequent blogs that explore the shipper, OTR transportation systems, TMS, and Fleet Management.
–Jess Kittrell, St. Onge Company
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