Over the last couple of decades, the freight and transport industry has undergone a revolution. This revolution has been fueled by increased levels of automation and efficiency. There’s even talk of autonomous trucks on the horizon! While a self driving truck may seem like a pretty slick option, nothing replaces good business planning, organization, communication, analysis and record keeping. They are at the very heart of any successful freight and transport business, and always will be. Despite the technological improvements the future may bring, it will also create more complex freight networks, bigger supply chains, faster schedules, and higher customer expectations. As a result, logistics management will always be a complex, time consuming task.
To deal with logistics management in the modern world, businesses and industries are all turning to computer based freight management software or a Transportation Management System (TMS). It is perhaps the single most useful technological advancement produced in recent logistics history! For this reason, freight management software is now a big business in itself!
If Google was a Galaxy, Freight Management Software is the Stars
We recently searched ‘freight management software’ using Google, and guess how many results we got? Almost 4.5 Million hits, in 0.7 seconds. That doesn’t equate to 4.5 Million freight management software options, of course, it just means that across the web, those words were found a lot. So, although there is no shortage of freight management software leads what-so-ever, it can make the search for a new freight management system quite daunting and time consuming!
Further, should you end up with one which isn’t suited to your needs, it can have serious impacts for business organization, productivity and growth! Unfortunately this can result in a system chewing up more resources than it frees up.
We Can Help Identify Exactly What You Need From a Freight Management System
If you’re considering new freight management system, this compact guide will arm you with the knowledge to find the perfect solution!
The guide will run through:
- Exactly what freight management software is;
- What are the key freight management software functions, and;
- What freight management software attributes to looks for.
What is Freight Management Software?
Although you may already have a good idea, we will quickly explain it from top to tail for those new to the scene.
Freight management software is simply a computer based program or programs which can automate the organisation and operation of a huge variety of freight management processes, from customer service portals, to item level tracking, to workshop operation and pallet management.
The goal of a freight management system is to provide greater accuracy and efficiency than what is achievable by manual human methods. It also allows management attention to be focused on the areas which really need it, as opposed to repetitive, everyday tasks (i.e the management by exception approach).
Freight management software may take shape in the following forms of software
- Enterprise Resource Planning Software
- Supply Chain Management Software
- Transportation Management System
These are better explained below:
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
This is basically a definition for software that integrates various business enterprise functions into a complete resource planning package. It is usually designed to streamline processes and information across entire organizations, from customer service tools, to communication tools, supply chain management, right through to employee resource planning.
Freight management software is just a niche form of ERP software, focused on the supply chain logistics industry. It can be a standalone software package (as described below), or may be part of a broader ERP software solution.
Supply Chain Management (SCM) Software
SCM software involves the management of the flow of goods and services from origin to customer. It can be used to manage the contractual arrangements and communications between all stages of the supply chain.
Transportation Management System (TMS) Software
Another ERP type solution, but more focused on the transportation side of the supply chain. It is targeted towards fleet management, real time delivery tracking, vehicle expenditure and condition, and other transport related processes.
The Main Functions of Freight Management Software
Regardless of whether freight management software is part of a broader ERP software solution, or is a focused niche type solution, it’s primary functions include:
- Real time tracking
- Automating workflows
- Record keeping
- Operations management
- Measurement and analysis
Let’s have a quick look at each.
Real-time tracking: Freight management software is able to track basically every moving part in the freight industry. That includes real time item level tracking, vehicle tracking, and pallet tracking to name a few. Everything is visible in real time, as it happens. This allows for a clear and precise insight into the performance and success of operations.
Automated workflows: A contemporary freight management system allows you to define the most efficient work processes and rules, and have them run automatically. Huge portions of the freight and transport industry can now be automated thanks to freight management software. It ensures the right process are consistently followed, to free up management resources, and achieve the best results.
Record keeping: Freight management software maintains accurate databases of everything. For example inventories, manifests, customer communications, and sign on glass proof of delivery. Records are updated immediately in response to real time tracking and automated workflows.
Operations management: Depending on which freight management software you use, it can manage many different business operations, such as consignment management, fleet management and even subcontractor management.
Accounting: Freight management software makes automatic calculations and updates about productivity and expenditure, based on real time information and result, to provide a constant birds eye view of financial performance.
Communications: Freight management software allows for quick, consistent and confidential internal and sometimes external messaging. It also ensures all communications are recorded. Some software options even come with there own customer hubs and portals.
Measurement and analysis: Freight management software allows everything to be viewed in figures, graphs and reports.This means you can gain valuable insights into productivity, efficiency, trends and opportunities for improvement. The software will let you measure key performance indicators (KPIs) such as provider selection, service quality control, delivery performance, operational productivity, cost per metric etc…
Now let’s pull out exactly what to look for in freight management software, to make sure your business needs are met.
What To Look for in Freight Management Software
As a strategic business decision, choosing your first freight management software (or moving to a new system) can be a daunting task. A suitable freight management software solution can drastically improve efficiency and productivity. So it is important to find the right one!
Here are the seven key areas to consider when looking for a freight management software solution:
- Is the technology modern and frequently updated?
- Is it a perpetual licence or handled through a subscription?
- Is it a centralized, end to end product?
- Can you pick and choose which software components you want?
- What is the implementation time frame?
- Can the provider explain their technology and meet your technology needs?
- Is the provider also the creator, and do they offer adequate support services?
1. Is the technology modern and frequently updated?
Ever heard of the term “legacy”?
In the IT world, it means your software is relying on ideas or components developed a long time ago. Legacy issues can plague outdated freight management software, and will rely on constant fixing and patching to keep up to speed with your freight operations and modern technology. It will ultimately reduce your businesses ability to adapt to change.
The best freight management software solutions should be based on the most modern technology (i.e. technology that will be innovative and agile to adapt to the latest technology like new desktops, smartphones, tablets etc., and industry trends).
In terms of software updates, you need to check with each provider to ensure they will handle the update process at frequent intervals. Frequent freight management software updates will help to fix errors, bugs and improve compatibility with new technology and operating systems.
2. Is it a perpetual licence or handled through a subscription?
In the past, freight management software was typically purchased through a license. Although not always the case, often the software was provided in hardcopy, like the majority of yesteryears computing software. Although you own the hard copy disk, the best use for a cd these days is a drink coaster!
The old method also meant a lack of flexibility, because you were locked in with your solution until you forked out more money for the next version, or a different program altogether.
These days, most freight management software providers favour the modern approach; cloud computing subscriptions. A monthly subscription provides for the most flexibility, and maximises opportunity to adapt or scale your freight management software package to change. This gives you more control over costs, budgets, and resource allocation. To find out why check out our recent article on cloud computing.
3. Is it a centralised, end to end product
With so many freight management software providers out there, it can be tempting to pick and choose components of each to create your own custom freight management software package. This is the decentralized model, and creates a huge amount of complexity.
For example, your item tracking tool may be a different product from your fleet management tool. This creates two separate sources of very similar data, which would benefit from being linked under one software package.
A centralized, end to end freight management software solution provides a less complex, more streamlined model. It means data is only entered once, and is visible and available across the entire software package, end to end. We have a whole article dedicated to the advantages of end to end freight management software solutions.
4. Can you pick and choose which software components you want?
Managing a freight business can involve a huge variety of tasks and tools such as fleet management, workshop operation, pallet management, fatigue compliance, item traceability, depot scanning, end-to-end visibility, proof of delivery, and customer services, to name a few!
Do you need a freight management software system to manage every aspect, or just specific components?
Subscription based management software packages should give you the benefit of picking and choosing the software modules you need. You should only pay for what you need, not everything the provider wants to sell you.
By purchasing an entire standalone package, you could be getting more modules or components than you need.
The right freight management software will let you add new modules or remove modules according to your fluctuating business requirements. This will not only help reduce costs, but also plan and control your budgets more efficiently.
5. What is the implementation time frame?
The time it takes a software provider to implement a freight management software system could be days or months, depending on the size of your company.
But time is money, and the longer you have to wait, the more risk there is of reduced business productivity and growth.
For this reason, you need a provider with a track record of fast and efficient installation, or your business might suffer from operational downtime. If you decide to move forward with a certain provider, make sure your contract clearly stipulates a reasonable time frame!
Just remember that fast and efficient installation is not the same as rushed! You don’t want freight management software implementation rushed to meet a deadline. This could also cause freight management issues in the long term. It is better to agree on a realistic implementation timeframe that allows both parties to do their job effectively, rather than one that promises too much and delivers too little.
6. Can the provider explain their technology and meet your technology needs?
Any freight management software provider should be able to explain what software and technology they use, why, and whether it makes sense for your operations.
It also helps to do your own research to increase your familiarity and understanding with the topic.
For instance, being familiar with structured query language (SQL) can go a long way. Its an advantage if the freight management software provider uses SQL servers as a database, as it is a more reliable and effective approach than other server types. So knowing a bit of the lingo can help you find out whether they use the best IT methods.
Similarly, if you know the names of the software or technology you need, you can make sure they have it.
For example, are you familiar with sign-on-glass (SOG) technology? It is very useful to manage real time item tracking and proof of delivery, and you should check whether the provider can offer this kind of technology.
7. Is the provider also the creator, and do they offer adequate support services?
The provider could simply be a supplier, a third party consultant for the freight management software, or they might actually develop it in-house. It goes without saying that the latter offers more benefits for your organization, because they will have a more intimate knowledge of the product. They will have a vested interest in making sure their product is as successful as possible. This will translate into better customer support and training for the freight management software you get.
These considerations are really about finding freight management software that is perfectly adapted to your business, and just as adaptable to the ever changing freight and transport industry environment.
The right freight management software will facilitate faster freight operations, keep more accurate and responsive records, automate and track workflows, allow for internal communications and customer service hubs and tools, manage various operations like consignment, fleet and subcontractors, and will ultimately allow you to maintain visibility and control across your entire business!
This can really give you the edge you need over your competitors, by optimising workflows, increasing efficiency, and minimising time and expenditure wastage.
Should you require further advice, reach out to Infocomm to discuss your options.
What is the difference between freight management software and ERP software?
Freight management software is a form of ERP. As the name suggests, it focuses on the transport of goods and services, aka freight.
How important is freight management software?
Very important. In the modern world you can’t compete in the industry unless you use this software, because all of your competitors are using it too. This is why getting the most contemporary, appropriate software can give you the edge.
Can you recommend the best freight management software?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, thanks to the explosion of software technology over the last decade, you should now be able to find a flexible, adaptable and agile solution that works in unison with your organization, to cover every aspect of freight management you need.
You just need to talk to the right industry experts, and find the right product!