While many in the public are familiar with the sight of big rigs crisscrossing the nation’s highways and pulling in to store parking lots to make deliveries, millions of dollars worth of goods are transported round the clock by rail as well.
Rail may be less visible, but it’s critical to the supply chain for many manufacturers and other companies who rely on rail to move inventory.
Transportation management systems (TMS) help companies manage this often complex network of moving parts that requires sophisticated synchronization. But most Tier 1 TMS software is built around providing visibility to and optimization for full truckload and LTL modes, primarily into and out of a retail or Consumer Packaged Goods DC network.
If rail is a key part of your transportation plan, how can you be sure your TMS effectively supports rail’s unique requirements?
For manufacturers shipping using both rail and truckload, a key issue lies in whether they are able to achieve the same benefits by using a TMS built for truckload modes in their rail operations.
Fundamental workflows that a TMS must support—Planning, Execution, Visibility and Audits—are areas that are often lacking in features for rail with a typical truckload-based TMS, which tends to view rail as a hybrid truck.
In a new Manhattan Associates white paper, we describe how supporting the unique requirements of rail means selecting a “rail-friendly” TMS that effectively supports the four core workflows:
Planning and Tendering – Preparing a rail shipment relies on the base data (or data source) to take carrier route codes, rail junctions and transfers into account when planning routes.
Execution – Particularly in terms of HAZMAT compliance, there is a performance gap in capabilities between a rail-friendly TMS and a truckload-based TMS.
Visibility – A TMS should track railcar positions with precision, using Car Location Messages and tracking contextual data associated with the CLM transmissions to estimate ETAs. A robust TMS solution performs ETA calculation based on historical data and advanced algorithms which are used to build reports to make more informed modal tradeoff decisions between truck and rail.
Freight Audit and Payment (FAP) – There’s an overwhelming amount of complexity to performing accurate rail rating, especially when Rule 11 applies. It’s not unusual for a shipment to pass through three or more carriers before it reaches its destination, so identifying the correct payee is crucial
A comprehensive TMS that can support the advanced business requirements of both truckload and rail carriers with varying degrees of operation complexity is necessary in the modern transportation environment.
In spite of the challenges rail presents, a multi-modal TMS solution can successfully and efficiently incorporate rail, offering users the power to build the most efficient inbound and outbound shipments possible.
Ashok Kumar is a senior principal business analyst in Research and Development for the TMS solution at Manhattan Associates. He has more than 13 years of experience designing and implementing ERP and logistics-focused supply chain solutions. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical engineering from the Jiwaji University, Gwalior, India and a PG certification in Logistics and Supply Chain Management from XLRI, Jamshedpur, India.