Process Improvement is Key to Transportation Management System Implementations

Implementing a Transportation Management System can be a daunting task. A variety of stakeholders from diverse quarters of the business must be involved.  Regardless of the inevitable conflicts of opinion and competing concerns facing this cross functional group, freight must continue to be picked up and delivered on schedule, regardless of the demands of the implementation.

That said, it becomes imperative that extra time is invested at the outset to perform a thorough analysis of the organization’s current transportation processes and make improvements where possible. The additional step of performing a comprehensive process assessment must be done separately from (yet simultaneous with) the technical assessment.  A best-in-class Transportation Management System provider underscores this important distinction with its clients because experience has shown that investing the extra time at the start of the project to fully understand existing processes (and make changes/improvements where necessary) ensures users are trained on the use of best practices to yield the greatest benefits once the system launches.

Depending on the scope of the project, this could take anywhere from several days to several weeks. The amount of work necessary is going to be dependent on several factors; here are some of the big ones:

  1. First and foremost, a change readiness assessment is performed to gauge users’ willingness and ability to enact the often unsettling changes necessary to achieve success with a new TMS.  Having a change management strategy is key to driving process improvement.
  2. Know exactly what your current state looks like. How often do you analyze your processes looking for ways to improve? If this is a standard procedure, there may not be much to do, but if it’s the first time there could be a lot that can be improved.
  3. Determine if your current processes are well documented, or if they are a collection of tribal knowledge that resides within the heads of the transportation staff.  If it is the latter, it pays to formalize and document the existing tribal knowledge for easier incorporation with new processes introduced by the use of Transportation Management System.
  4. Examine whether the organization uses manual processes, or is replacing an existing TMS solution that already provides some level of automation. Manual processes leave the most room for improvement.
  5. Probe process owners to determine if they know why they do what they do. If the answer is “because that’s the way we’ve always done it”, the process in question must be critically examined.

Even if the examinations detailed above indicate you’ve got your process improvement work cut out for you, don’t be intimidated by that fact. It’s not as difficult as it may seem, and once you’ve taken the time to document existing processes, the areas ripe for improvement will likely identify themselves. Most importantly, your new Transportation Management System implementation will benefit greatly from the time you invested at the start of the project.

Transportation Management System Engineer Darren Graham  Darren Graham is Director of IT for UltraShipTMS

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