On the move - Transportation Management Technology report March 2016

Manufacturing & Logistics IT spoke with a number of the leading vendors and analysts about current key trends and discussion points within the field of transportation management systems and processes.

This report will consider many current key discussion points and recent and ongoing areas of innovation and development with the Transportation Management System (TMS) space. However, to begin our debate, Steve Twydell, CEO, 3t Group, provides some context and foundation to the proceedings by offering a concise definition of the term TMS, both from a carrier's and shipper's perspective: "To a carrier or fleet owner, a TMS is a computing system to manage the planning and routing of a fleet, driver management and all the administration.

To a shipper, a TMS will is a system integrated into their ERP systems that at order level will work out what is the optimum mode of shipment and the best carrier to use. In some cases, it will work out the volumetric for packing, routing and automation of carrier communication. For some it is the automation of the documentation required to go with the shipments, the automation of the entire administration process such as the proof of delivery process, freight bill process and then the management information. On top of all this you now have the mobile applications starting to appear on smartphones and tablets that feed data into a TMS."

Twydell adds that the reality is carriers want to make money and the way they make their money is through good utilisation of their vehicles. "Shippers want the most cost-effective way of transporting their goods, whether by parcel, pallet, full or part truckload or any other form of transport that is around," he said. "For a common user carrier to be effective there has to be synergy with other operations. Backhaul and primary move are terms of the past; the aim is to keep the vehicle moving 24 hours a day in a cost-effective way."


Twydell considers that there are three main headings that cover what all TMS users want. These are:

  1. Optimum vehicle utilisation –
    a. Reduction of empty mileage resulting in profit or cheaper rates.
  2. Automation of administration –
    a. Staff reduction, better organised back office and subsequent cost reduction which leads on to profit or cheaper rates.
  3. Information to make better business decisions –
    a. Know which customers are costing you more what drivers are performing better.
    b. Better business decision means more profit or cheaper rates.

"In each of the above headings we are seeing a revolution in terms of the systems and capabilities that are starting to appear on the market," said Twydell. "At 3t we predominately work with shippers; however, because of the lack of desire from carriers to adopt new technology we are more and more creating systems for them so they can provide the shippers with the real-time information and visibility they are now demanding."

In the view of Sathyanarayana Kabirdas, research manager, Frost & Sullivan, and J Sivan, industry manager, Frost & Sullivan, some of the current key talking points within the world of TMS are:

  • Web-based transportation management eco-systems able to ease the communication and data path for shippers, end customers and carriers.
  • Analytics.
  • Telematics – how this type of solution has been further developed by the vendor community over the recent past.
  • The trend towards greater convergence of different technologies within one device (including transportation-related functionality): e.g. everything from phone, GPS/GPRS, Push-to-Talk capability in a single device.

Kabirdas and Sivan comment that Intelligent Transport Management Computing solutions – for example regarding a collaboration of advanced information and communication systems, wireless technologies, advanced electronics and evolving control and sensing innovations when integrated into the transport infrastructure – are offering a powerful, yet transformative opportunity for enhanced connectivity in the sector. Of the several technology areas of development, Kabirdas and Sivan believe Cloud-enabled transportation management systems and Augmented Reality are two key areas stakeholders have focused on in recent years.

They add that with the help of in-vehicle communication systems, on-board computing facilities and Cloud computing, vehicles are becoming more capable now; especially from the 'drive dynamics' standpoint. "The convergence of sensor networks, content distribution and consolidation of hosting enabled by Cloud is causing a paradigm shift in the way traffic patterns are assessed, which further enhances multimodal travel planning applications, thereby delivering more precise data to end users – especially in TMC (traffic management centres)," they said.

Kabirdas and Sivan also recognise the benefits of augmented reality systems. They explained that these systems deliver virtual images and information that is projected onto the windscreen of the car, and adapts automatically in real time to the objects in the environment. They added that this technology presents information such as current speed of the vehicle, the speed limit indicated by road signs, road blocks and road bends, and enhances safety while driving by sending out alerts about obstacles to the driver.

Kabirdas and Sivan also spoke about web-based transportation management eco-systems able to ease the communication and data path for shippers, end customers and carriers. "Mobile-based freight brokering is a platform which connects shippers and carriers, eliminating middlemen – the brokers. This is growing rapidly in not just mature markets like North America and Europe but also in developing markets like India. Technology companies slowly shift away from traditional freight brokering and developing these solutions to improve efficiency. As the current freight movement market is considerably inefficient, ample opportunities exist for mobile based platforms and TMS."


Kabirdas and Sivan added that digitisation in trucking will put pressure on traditional freight brokers to move their business towards web and mobile based freight brokering. "Thus, many traditional freight brokers will develop mobile based freight brokerage capabilities that combine features from traditional freight brokering, load boards and web-based freight brokering into one efficient solution for drivers and fleets," they said. "Frost & Sullivan believes that by 2025, the market with grow from $100 million in 2014 to $26.4 billion in 2025."

Realising the market potential, Kabirdas and Sivan point out that several innovative firms such as Cargomatic, Transfix, Coyote and Keychain Logistics are working on mobile-based platforms that connect shippers to nearby carriers and owner-operators within their network in real time for automatic dispatch. "Even in Europe companies like TGMatrix have evolved based on this new technology," they said. "While existing solutions look to eliminate inefficient load bidding system, the focus is expected to broaden to complete solutions that include TMS, telematics, resource management and complete shipping tracking. This will create and enhance business among carriers and shippers. Both private and large for-hire fleets will adopt this service to optimise their operations by enlisting unused capacity in their own fleets to take on extra business."

Kabirdas and Sivan comment that innovations in mobile communications, Cloud computing infrastructure and the mass adoption of the Internet are facilitating the development of Intelligent Transport Management Systems, which will greatly enhance the urban travel experience and efficiency, reduce environmental impact, improve road safety and emergency response, and save time and energy. Kabirdas and Sivan add that the key drivers that are facilitating development in this space are:

"Reduce Cost – Advanced transportation systems will help to reduce cost by decreasing the requirement for human resources and through implementation of sensing technologies to monitor the traffic events. The convergence of computational technologies such as sensing technologies, floating car data technologies, wireless technologies and computational technologies enable vehicles to automatically learn and respond to the traffic infrastructure in real time without any human intervention.

"Reduce Environmental Impact – Electric vehicles utilise natural resources that avoid the emission of harmful gases into the atmosphere, thus providing a net positive environmental impact than traditional ICE vehicles. The continuous emission monitoring system (CEMS) attached in individual vehicles monitors the vehicle carbon emission and collectively stores the data in the cloud server to keep a track on environmental pollution, thereby providing opportunity for better pollution control.

"Improve Safety – Real-time updates on traffic information provide the opportunity for live monitoring of people and vehicles, which can help reduce vehicle accidents and ensure safety."

Marcel Frings, chief representative, TimoCom, commented that, indeed, the optimisation of processes in relation to the supply chain as whole is of significant importance to stay cost-efficient and competitive. He added that TimoCom's work is exactly focused on this aspect. "We want to offer our users a platform on which they can close transport business deals securely, efficiently and process supported," he said. "This means that with the support of our products, business partners within the transport chain are able to find each other, are able to find ways to optimise the use of resources and to collaborate in the process."

Frings points out that this includes intelligent interfaces as TC Connect through which TimoCom, on customer request, can connect customers' transport management systems to TimoCom's transport platform. "The big advantage of this interface is that if these offers cannot be placed intern to existing companies, the freight offers from the customers' system are directly transferred into the platform with just one click," he explained. "And in the platform, the freight offers reach out to 110,000 users and are quickly and efficiently being sold."

Frings adds that TimoCom's second very efficient and practical type of interface is its tracking solution TC eMap. "Already, over 170 telematics providers are connected," he said. "During a transport job our users can allow business partners access, so they can follow the vehicle via the hauliers' telematics tracking and even without having to leave the TimoCom platform. In addition, multiple vehicles even with different telematics systems can be displayed in one map."


Will Young, business development manager, Transporeon, reflects that customers are now demanding more accurate details regarding visibility of transport movements and greater functionality of gaining live PODs for example. Young adds that there is also still the continued drive towards great efficiency and streamlining processes to make a more automated process for tendering, transport assignment, rate management, time slot management, transport visibility and billing. "Hence, why we feel the Transporeon Group portfolio plays into all these key elements of communication from manufacturers to their haulier partners," he said.

Young adds that there is a need for standardisation; whether the deliveries are done via own fleet or external sub-contractors – and with most 3PLs sub-contracting between 30 and 40 per cent, he considers that this is a real challenge for them. "This is why we have seen such a fantastic reaction to Mobile Order Management (MOM), our smart phone technology based solution for track and trace," he remarked.

Young makes the point that this type of state-of-the-art TMS functionality gives both hauliers and external sub-contractors live visibility of what is happening with their own fleet and develops a real pro-active dialogue to pre-determine late deliveries or damaged deliveries with the final customer delivery point.

Bill Nickerson, manager industry relations, Panorama Consulting Solutions, observes that TMS are continuing to evolve due to the Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery model and the increased importance of the 'platform' capabilities required by shippers and logistics service providers. "As best-of-breed TMS applications and niche software providers gain traction in the market (replacing legacy on-premise solutions and winning first time implementations), their functionality improves as quickly as the markets changes," he said. "SaaS allows for all shippers and logistics service providers to benefit from a single code base, as well as allowing them to access the application from any web browser or mobile phone operating system."

Nickerson considers that the core functionality in a TMS is planning, optimisation, routing, execution, in-transit visibility, settlement and KPI reporting (data analytics). "A key to implementing or maintaining an effective TMS is well-defined and executed integration with internal and external systems," he said. "Because transportation touches so many departments in and outside a company, it is crucial that the systems trade data and documents very regularly. For example, the TMS should be integration with the ERP to receive purchase, transfer, and sales order. Also, post-execution information like status and invoice data should be passed back to the ERP. Carrier integration is also key – messages for tendering, in-transit information and invoices should be integrated. And then non-EDI or XML connectivity through web-portals is becoming increasing popular to support non-IT savvy providers or just remote activity (from a cab or loading dock)."

Mohsen Mohseninia, VP of market development, Europe, Aeris, comments that the global trucking industry is undergoing enormous change. He makes the point that older vehicles are being replaced with 'smart trucks' using Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) systems and cellular communications technologies to transmit essential information for management of the fleet operations.


As commercial fleets begin to enjoy the benefits of IoT/M2M vehicle telematics, Mohseninia points out that the fleet owners and operators are seeking more reliable connections, with flexible rate plans and seamless coverage across many geographic areas and remote locations. He comments that in Europe seamless cross-border operation for the trucks is an essential requirement for these services to succeed.

Mohseninia also observes that the commercial fleet programs are also becoming more complex; from the simple need to manage inventory, location, routing, and fuel costs, to requirements for mission-critical reliability, connectivity for life and innovative market differentiation.

Mohseninia explains that Aeris' customers – i.e., the companies providing these solutions to the fleet owners and operators – continue to add new telematics applications. "These on-board applications are helping fleets overcome a variety of challenges above and beyond the projected cost reductions and efficiency gains," he said. "For example, new legislative regulations, including tighter carbon emissions and new standards for driver monitoring, require compliance from fleet managers."

Not surprisingly, adds Mohseninia, the market for fleet solutions is crowded, particularly in Europe, and competition continues to grow. "The companies providing solutions to the fleet operators must compete on factors other than price: service reliability and availability, rapid implementation of new value-added services, improved customer experience, etc.," he said. "They must recognise any new needs of the changing fleet industry or new legislation and quickly provide the solutions that meet those requirements."

Often, the communications technology of choice for fleet applications is cellular. However, as Mohseninia explains, the cellular services offered may differ from region to region; what may be a successful product and service in the US may have limitations in Europe and vice-versa.

"Traditional cellular operators and cellular service providers may burden deployments with technical methods and business rules designed for human handset and smartphone users," said Mohseninia. "A simple example illustrates this issue: most smartphone users are small accounts with one – or perhaps a few – SIM cards in that account. Managing the accounts for billing purposes, making payments, and monitoring usage is relatively easy for one (or even a few) SIMs. However, a company supporting the commercial fleet owners, across their many fleets, may have thousands of vehicles that are managed. Requiring and managing a separate account (and SIM) for each cellular device (in a truck) is a prohibitively complex for the company providing the fleet telematics service and for the individual operations managers of the fleets. Fleet managers must be able to manage group rates, billing systems, reporting and analytics for process improvements."

Mohseninia makes the point that when developing fleet applications using cellular technologies, the device certification requirements are sometimes daunting. "Companies developing products for operation in new regions must have experts in IoT/M2M that have a thorough understanding of the specific certification requirements in the region," he said.

Big Data and analytics

Mohseninia also considers how Big Data, and the analytics it enables, gives fleet management systems with telematics capabilities the ability to provide much more sophisticated information in the form of applications customised for individual companies. Mohseninia points out that ABI Research confirmed the growing role of Big Data in IoT/M2M, estimating that integrating, storing, analysing, and presenting IoT data had reached US$5.7 billion in 2015.

Mohseninia also comments that Cloud-based IoT/M2M data management platforms enable trucking managers to fine-tune their operations. "They can access new applications in real-time to determine reports on temperature, road safety, traffic congestion, weather, mileage, and fuel costs," he said. "Multiple apps can be integrated, for example, combining weather and road safety to achieve a more precise picture of conditions and save time."

In terms of managing driver behaviour, Mohseninia comments that new systems integrating information about weather, traffic, and other factors give the drivers instant feedback on safe driving practices in an effort to decrease driver error and achieve better gas mileage. "Managers can create detailed data-based plans to advise drivers on eliminating unsafe driving behaviours like speeding, fast cornering, and hard braking or acceleration," he explained. "For example, a driver might be able to receive information about recommended speed as he approaches dangerous sections of a roadway where a recent storm has left ice patches. This information could be transmitted from a wide variety of methods, including from texts and voice, or displayed on a console."

Regarding sophisticated diagnostics, Mohseninia points out that IoT/M2M systems enable the development of applications that can identify vehicle issues and instantly notify drivers about maintenance requirements in order to avoid costly repairs and roadside breakdowns. He explains that drivers can receive updates on a variety of truck performance metrics that can lead to improved efficiency, safety and overall condition of vehicles.

Mohseninia also points to the benefits of smart alerts. "Enhanced alerts management allows fleet customers to define custom alerts with an array of options in addition to predefined system alerts," he said. "Fleet managers can define alerts and notify drivers about issues regarding engine performance, tire pressure or electrical malfunctions, and thus reduce costs significantly."

From an insurance perspective, Mohseninia highlights the fact that the ability of IoT/M2M systems to deliver instant driving data from a variety of sources creates multiple insurance-related benefits for both truck owners and insurers. "For truck owners, such systems can fast-track claims processing and more efficiently help resolve claims," he said. "For insurers, premiums can be calculated on actual usage and driving behaviour to reduce costs and increase profitability."

Redefining final mile delivery

Connectivity and all its subsets, namely autonomy and mobility, are dramatically altering the fleet and logistics sector, according to Jamie Muir, project director, TU-Automotive. In terms of some of the latest innovations making waves in these spaces, Muir believes the focus of new mobility models has traditionally been on the movement of people. "However, things are changing, and the major mobility providers are turning their attention to the movement of goods," he said. "One notable example is UberRush, currently being trialled in San Francisco, New York and Chicago, which brings the concept of Uber to parcel delivery."

Muir points out that Jeroen Gehlen, director pick-up & delivery innovation and optimisation, TNT Express, commented: "UberRush is certainly challenging local courier services. This may work well for flowers, food, grocery, clothing, etc. At the same time, competition in this space is increasing and providing a one-hour delivery service is expensive, so the sustainability of this business model will be tested."

But what of OEM mobility schemes? Muir states it is well-publicised that OEMs are positioning themselves as mobility providers; perhaps most notably Ford, with its recent announcements at CES and the Detroit Auto show, and Daimler with schemes such as CAR2GO and CAR2SHARE. "Whilst the focus has been on consumer mobility, Daimler has seen the value in adapting such models to the movement of goods with its recent announcement of CAR2SHARE cargo – a digital fleet and driver management system that allows for vans to be booked using the car sharing model," said Muir.

He continued: "CAR2SHARE cargo offers a comprehensive solution for creating a more efficient transport process – from the deployment planning of drivers and vehicles, the coordination of the route to the digital management and spontaneous bookings in the event of bottlenecks." Muir added that Mona Moll, global communications Mercedes-Benz Cars – research, development and environmental communications at Daimler AG, says the all-round planning tool consists of three modules that build on one another: Smart Van, Courier Assist and Virtual Fleet.

Muir comments that the development of CAR2SHARE cargo was relatively simple, requiring only that a telematics control unit be added to the vehicle to create a smart van that is online, bookable and lockable via an app – and the whole fleet management process works keyless. "The system will ultimately allow for organisations to reduce their fixed capital along with reducing fixed and variable cost such as leasing instalments and fuel expenditure," said Muir. "Combining the system with inner city next day delivery solutions, such as that of Tiramizoo, the system has the power to reduce delivery times, light running and therefore traffic in city centres."

In terms of the future developments of the system, Mona Moll said: "Manifold use cases and extensions of CAR2SHARE cargo are imaginable. Every company that works in delivery or courier services or operates a fleet of vans, can benefit from the features. In the future a cloud of drivers (e.g. students) will be available for courier companies to operate rides. Opening the platform for B2C, will give private customers the possibility to book a van spontaneously while the courier company can reduce downtimes. An extension to the management of other assets that need to be bookable (e.g. cargo bikes, trucks) is also planned."

However, whilst this solution addresses some of the fundamental challenges of delivery, next-day or next possible day-delivery over longer distances is a different ballgame, believes Muir. He adds that a network like TNT's European road network, which spans over 40 countries, cannot be easily duplicated; with a sweet spot in the 300 to 1500 km range.

But Muir explains that while networks such as TNT's allow it to effectively and profitably function in the longer distance delivery, there are moves to apply mobility models, into this challenging sector. One such organisation cited by Muir is TGMatrix, a new player that operates a freight matching engine to match supply and demand (freight & assets) in the Intermodal freight marketplace (road, rail, short sea, coastal & inland waterways). "In essence, TGMatrix is applying the Uber made, to intermodal freight transportation, targeting – as TGMatrix's founder, Brian Bolam puts it, "empty trucks and modal shift from road to rail/short sea and coastal," said Muir.

He added that the organisations message of 'bringing freight transport into the Internet age' seems to be striking a chord with the solution currently being run in Beta with the world's largest logic's firm. "The potential of this model is vast, with Brian arguing that the impact of TGMatrix will be transformational," said Muir. "The cost and emissions implications, however, are dramatic with estimates of 15 per cent cost reduction from shippers, 200 per cent margin improvement for carriers (more loaded/paid kilometres per truck/train) and a 25 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions (from combination of filling empty space and modal shift)."

In terms of the technology needed for this solution. 'multi-agent technology linked to ontologies and powered with GPU processors' was required. Brian Bolam said: "It is a black box solution with EDI connectivity to ERP/TMS/WMS and GPS connectivity to equipped trucks and GSM triangulation for T&T via our own smartphone application." In future, TGMatrix plans to enable the ability to file a route plan – like a flight plan and with the ability to re-route on the fly based on real-time weather, traffic and road conditions (this is phase 2 planned for early 2017). Muir points out that, according to Bolam, there will also be massive Big Data mining opportunity to balance traffic flows by managing the dispersion of traffic flow across the built infrastructure.


In terms of regulatory considerations, Mohseninia comments that cost savings brought about by on-board telematics solutions are needed to help truck fleets overcome a wide range of regulations threatening to inhibit cost-effective management. He believes new regulations – including tighter carbon emissions rules and new standards for drivers in the US and the EU such as the rules regarding hours of service (HOS) – are putting pressure on managers to comply. "Legislation can mandate new fleet standards that can force companies to upgrade fleets or even replace vehicles," said Mohseninia, who adds that rising fuel costs continue to reduce margins.

While US fleet managers have always enjoyed 'single market' benefits of roaming, Mohseninia points out that fleet managers in Europe have had to worry about high roaming fees as they moved across country borders. But the European Commission has adopted a 'Digital Single Market', calling for, among other things, the end of all mobile roaming fees for voice calls, SMS, and data by 2017. "Once put into place by member countries, these digital strategy requirements would push roaming costs down and could result in equality between domestic and international costs across Europe," he said.

Twydell considers that legislation just keeps on becoming more complicated for the fleet owner. "Shippers don't see the issues; it's the carrier's problem," he said. "In the last 15 years legislation issues are seen in the rate not in a shipper's TMS, which is the opposite for a carrier's system. And, again, the distinct fear or dislike of IS systems by regional carriers has put cost pressure in the administration side of the business."

Kabirdas and Sivan make the point that changes in legislations regarding surface transport, railways, airways or trade generates the need to capture required data, generate compliant report documents, ensure compliance and generate alerts in case of deviations and ensure compatibility with new devices if mandated by the policies such as Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). Therefore, they add, policy changes are vital to track to ensure up-to-date solutions in the market. Kabirdas and Sivan explained that the US recently mandated the installation of ELDs in trucks by December 2017. "These devices are synched with the engines to record the driving time and hence HOS of the driver in order to ensure adherence to 34-hour restart rule," they said. "This compels the TMS solutions to capture the data from the ELDs and generate alerts in case of deviations to reduce regulatory deviations."

Kabirdas and Sivan also comment that growth investment policies such as Horizon 2020 by the European Union targets Intelligent Transport Systems to bring about enhanced green and competitive transport system. Horizon 2020 is an initiative by the European Union to focus on 'Mobility for Growth' and 'Automated Road Transport'. Kabirdas and Sivan explain that the initiative includes plans to revamp the tracking system for air, rail and road infrastructure. They add that, utilising the tracking technologies, the goal is to establish better coordinated and modernised modes of transport. These tracking technologies generate data that can be utilised by TMS solutions to optimise transport duration and ensure safety of the shipments, transport mode and human resources involved in transportation.

Additionally, Kabirdas and Sivan consider that the impact of regulations such as SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) container weight verification requirement is tremendous. They explain that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) approved the changes to the SOLAS convention regarding the weight verification requirement for shippers. The regulation necessitates the transmission of critical information such as verified gross mass (VGM), date of weighing, authorised person identity and so on. Kabirdas and Sivan point out that the onus of providing accurate information to the regulatory authorities often falls on the LSPs. "Thus, the TMS solutions should be able to track the information and ensure the constituent data are collected from different sources such as carriers, forwarders and other stakeholders," they said. This regulation is scheduled to be implemented from 1 July 2016.


What have been some of the most notable recent developments in terms of integration between TMS and other systems? Mohseninia explains that legacy Transportation systems were mostly 'point products' and operated in a standalone fashion. "There is a definite trend towards integrating legacy and new Transportation Solutions offerings with ERP and Supply Chain Management providers such as Oracle, SAP, etc. for full end-to-end integration via web services, APIs etc.," he said.

In terms of customer integration, Mohseninia comments that enhanced IoT/M2M platforms enable the development of more sophisticated ordering, tracking and supply chain systems that increasingly integrate truck loads with customers in real-time. "For example, these systems enable real-time changes to orders, which maximise the efficiency of deliveries," he said. "With these new systems in place, the truck of the future will become a mobile network operating centre for fleet managers, who can direct it to best advantage on a moment's notice."


Are there any remaining security and/or confidentiality concerns within the TMS space? Nickerson believes security is always a question as SaaS and mobile application use grows. However, he adds that Panorama has not seen or heard of any incidence where customer or carrier data has been compromised. "Software providers are always at risk of server penetration, so they use highly secure hosting providers to ensure compliance," he said.

Will Young believes that, from Transporeon's point of view, the initial concerns regarding security are pretty easily removed due to the measures the company has in place, but also based on how most people now run their own personal lives. "For example, online banking and ECOM shopping are two simple methods of Internet processes which are now seen as standard where there is a certain amount of confidential detail shared trustingly," he said. "And I feel that Transportation Management would not be viewed any differently moving forward."

Kabirdas and Sivan make the point that since the connected vehicle infrastructure heavily relies on open interface networks and radio signals for exchanging data between various data sources with different data types, it becomes vulnerable to cyber-attacks. "Companies in the network security domain are constantly trying to develop advanced solutions to meet this concern and offering solutions for constant monitoring of network-enabled devices," they said. "Technologies like machine learning and Big Data are slowly penetrating the security market and is playing vital role in enhancing such real-time security applications."

Another issue affecting the security and confidentiality of information exchanges, according to Kabirdas and Sivan, is the lack of standardisation policies for Transport Management application development globally. "Most of the security and privacy policies for Connected Car are region-specific – this is hindering the adoption growth significantly," they remarked.


What are some of the key differentiators within the world of today's TMS? Kabirdas and Sivan believe the primary key differentiator among the brands that offer TMS is the flexibility in terms of platform, on-premise, SaaS and Cloud based Solutions. The on-premise solutions are software installed on the client IT infrastructure whereas SaaS and Cloud-based solutions are hosted by the TMS vendors. "The flexibility provides Logistics Service Providers (LSPs) to choose solutions based on their existing Information Technology (IT) infrastructure, internal budgets and their suppliers compatibility," they said. "Utilising the technologies such as SaaS and Cloud computing, vendors can provide cost-effective solutions to LSPs since it eliminates the need to invest in buyers' IT infrastructure, provides economical customised packages based on budget and additionally provides value add in the form of access to data via mobile devices."

Kabirdas and Sivan point out that, currently, the adoption rate for on-premise TMS Solutions is over 50 per cent. However, they believe low adoption rates for SaaS and Cloud-based solutions coupled with affordability will fuel the growth of SaaS and Cloud-based TMS solutions.

Another key differentiator in the market, according to Kabirdas and Sivan, is the value-added solutions built in the TMS solutions. "Solutions such as regulatory compliance documents support, GPS facilities to track shipments, fleet management and analytics, distinguish future market leaders from the rest," they explain. "The analytics tool utilises vast amounts of data generated in the past to generate reports and provide better resource utilisation, optimised routes and networks, and customisable dashboards for Key Performance Indicator (KPI) tracking."

Twydell maintains that there are few true end-to-end systems available and in the past they been expensive and prohibitive for many mid-size organisations. However, he adds that there is a growth of companies who can provide specific modular elements of a TMS. Some examples are tracking, sign on glass POD for smart phones, goods in/despatch control screens and multi carrier multimode labelling systems. "This is where the companies that do not want to spend millions of pounds on a complete transportation system are starting to use elements of what used to be only in the big TMS systems," said Twydell.

Twydell believes there is no doubt that the web and the visibility it provides through its communication capability has had a fundamental impact on most transport management operations. "Believe it or not, it is rare to see a fax machine in most transport operations today because everything is done through some form of electronic communication," he said.

However, Twydell adds that this doesn't mean integration issues have disappeared. He points out that to have real efficient communication the shipper's TMS needs to integrate efficiently with the ERP system. Also, Twydell comments that getting two IS departments to work with each other can be a challenge. Twydell adds that there are also the many carrier TM systems which make their money out of upselling additional programming work.

Although producing a multiple company solution should bring the cost down, Twydell explains that 3t has dealt with many carrier TMS suppliers who do not want to share deals over multiple customers and also do not want to collaborate as they believe it could lose them their customer relationship (or have the customer completely rely on them).

One big problem, according to Twydell, is many companies have put substantial sums of money into large CapEx projects around PDA and robust laptop in cab type solutions, only for them to be superseded by the more cost-effective smartphone. "What used to cost £1000 two years ago is now £10 – it is that dramatic," he remarked.

Twydell adds that some organisations are struggling to come to terms with the prospect of having to discard something that has cost millions of pounds because the functionality can now be produced on a smartphone. "These systems are not just applications for showing you where your vehicles or shipment is, they are being used to replace what was considered sacrosanct," he said. "For example, telematics – for most smartphones there is the equivalent of two gyroscopes and the actual smartphone itself can measure breaking, control, vehicle management and all of these functions which you would think would need to be connected to the engines and systems within the truck. These can now be done on a smartphone without actually being connected."

The future

What might be the next innovations/developments to look out for over the next year or two? Kabirdas and Sivan comment that with several advanced analytics and data management technologies being brought to market in recent years, and considering the fast adoption rate of information and communication technologies, they expect that application developers will have sufficient opportunities to bring in advanced feature sets to the existing solutions and also introduce new products in the transportation sector.

Kabirdas and Sivan add that the integration of Deep Learning algorithms with natural language processing technology will further enhance the capabilities of such systems. "Deep Learning based Artificial Intelligence (AI) is shaping up to be the next big technological development that could penetrate the automotive industry," they said. "With the advent of AI, the future of cars has been on a trajectory of transforming into fully automated intelligent smart cars that are smart enough to make decisions on their own. AI combined with Big Data has the capability to serve the futuristic need of a fully automated transportation system with real-time solutions."

Multiple systems interfacing

Young points out that Transporeon is always working with clients to continue to develop its platform to create innovative developments and maintain its dominant position in the 'software as a service' sector. Looking ahead, Young anticipates that the continued focus will be to further develop the connectivity part of communication via multiple systems interfacing through single portals to not only streamline processes but also to produce more user-friendly applications.

Frings explains that during 2016 TimoCom is preparing many small updates which in most cases are being done on request of customers and their feedback. The offer-related Messenger in the exchange, which was launched last Autumn, is also in focus in 2016. Furthermore, Frings points out that the company is working on a simple and also secure solution which enables customers to exchange documents within the TimoCom platform. He added: "There will be many, smaller and practical improvements which are going to make the customer experience and the customer use even better. In other words: Pan-European; we are putting the pedal even harder to the metal, all for our customers."

Nickerson observes that, going forward, there are many innovations in transportation technology. "There are uber-like capacity solutions, a proliferation in electronic logging devices (due to imminent legislation) and integration-as-a-service for APIs," he said. "While innovations are happening right in front of us, large shippers and logistics service providers need time to understand, vet and implement these solutions. While the price point on all of these solutions is dropping, they still need to establish a near-term ROI to justify making this change. Most changes will happen in the smaller, more nimble companies, and those who have innovation as part of their culture and can take on the risk and change management responsibilities associated."

Automating delivery

If we are to believe the headlines then autonomous delivery is an area that tech giants are taking a great interest in. "Google, for example, recently patented what they term an 'autonomous delivery platform'; an autonomous delivery truck featuring a delivery system familiar to any user of Amazon Locker," said Muir.

Twydell also makes the point that several companies are developing an uber-type app for hauliers, which he believes should become a feature component of a TMS. "The biggest issue here is about the control of service and the control of how people get paid and the financial transaction and administration around it," said Twydell. "There is a big difference between someone calling for a taxi as opposed to someone needing a multi-drop, just-in-time delivery into a production line."

Currently at 3t, Twydell explains that the feedback from hauliers is they are looking for a single computer platform that allows all the various devices and software to talk to one another. "Many companies are developing their own applications for tracking shipments and if you work for several of these companies they each want their app to be on the smartphone," he said. "There is definitely a need for a software platform that allows for communication from all the various applications and can actually transmit to each of the customers or the carrier's customers the information they specifically require."

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