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"Interoperable” is not how many trucking and logistics companies would describe their transportation management system, or TMS. The opposite is true when discussing consumer technology like smartwatches, where interoperability is essential with the fast-growing ecosystem of fitness apps.
Fitbit, Apple Watch, Garmin and other smartwatches use a cloud infrastructure that seamlessly integrates data they collect with third-party fitness apps, many of which are free downloads with subscriptions to unlock premium features.
Fitness apps like Strava and MyFitnessPal have a one-click authorization to enable sharing of data from smartwatches to track progress, give data insights and compete with friends in your network to be the “Local Legend” or “King of the Mountains” for various activities.
Trucking and logistics firms can have the same type of unified experience and connected workflows at the enterprise level by using modern TMS platforms with cloud-based infrastructure.
Gaining From Microservices
Like fitness apps, modern TMS platforms use a microservices architecture that breaks up traditionally complex and monolithic applications, such as dispatch and accounting, into smaller components. Each of the components communicate with other real-time services using simple interfaces to solve business problems.
TMS platforms with a microservices architecture allow third-party applications to more easily “plug into” their cloud-based software and virtual databases using API sets and other protocols that improve interoperability. With this architecture, trucking and logistics firms can leverage new and emerging applications faster and more affordably with real-time integrations that do not require setup and ongoing maintenance fees.
Third-party integrations that come in a software-as-a-service-based TMS subscription can include truck and trailer telematics, electronic logging devices, document management, fuel payment systems and other applications that improve business visibility and automation.
By contrast, transportation companies that use “legacy” TMS platforms are accustomed to waiting on vendors to determine what integrations will be available and when. Usually the choice is made after one or more customers pay for the development, after which the vendor decides to make the integration available to other customers for additional fees.
Historically, TMS vendors have acted as gatekeepers to new integrations, which has been a point of contention with customers and other technology vendors that they have not yet integrated with.
Besides waiting on TMS vendors for new integrations, trucking and logistics companies often pay significant upfront and annual maintenance fees to access them. All of this has created roadblocks in an industry that needs information flowing freely to make better decisions and maximize operational efficiencies.
Surviving the Squeeze
Transportation and logistics companies are today reaping the advantages of cloud-based platforms to fight inflation by operating at scale. Those that are not taking advantage of integrated technology to improve operational and financial fitness levels are quickly losing ground.
The pandemic accelerated the migration of companies to modern, cloud-native fleet management systems to shift back-office functions to remote work environments.
Similarly, millions of consumers downloaded cloud-based fitness apps when traditional brick-and-mortar studios and gyms closed during the pandemic. Fitness apps have continued to grow in use and compete directly with gyms for subscriptions.
Small fleets and owner-operators have traditionally been the slowest to adopt new technology, and many more have entered the trucking industry over the past two years to cash in on record freight rates. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration authorized nearly 110,000 new for-hire trucking companies in 2021, an increase of 85% from the previous high.
Skyrocketing inflation paired with a softening freight market is now holding carriers between two vices. To survive the squeeze of mounting financial pressures, small and large enterprises will need to accelerate cash flow and control costs among reduced revenues.
Improving Operational Fitness
Economic pressures have created an urgent need to keep technology up to date. Companies using modern, SaaS-based TMS platforms are now reaping the benefits of faster access to integrations and reduced overhead costs by not maintaining servers and performing other IT tasks with traditional client-server architectures.
Activities like planning and dispatching loads are far more complex than tracking steps and other fitness data, but similar trends are shaping the future of TMS platforms and fitness apps. Trucking and logistics companies that use modern technology can reach greater fitness levels by deploying new systems faster and expanding system-to-system connectivity.
Another advantage of using cloud-based TMS offerings, especially during tight economic times, is the ability to pay an all-inclusive predictable monthly subscription that covers implementation, training, electronic data interchange setup, and any existing or new third-party integrations.
Greater connectivity from modern technology is making it possible for any size fleet to achieve a “King of the Mountains” designation among their peers by gaining higher levels of operational and IT efficiency. i
Magnus Technologies is an Austin, Texas-based provider of an enterprise-grade SaaS-based TMS system for trucking and logistics companies.