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Transport Management Systems: put an end to the spreadsheets

12 July 2019
Control Tower
Transport Management

You wouldn’t expect it, but nowadays a lot of companies still run their transport management solely on spreadsheets. Despite the disadvantages, it appears to be extremely hard to escape the grip of Excel sheets. 

In a way, it’s a miracle that you can organise your whole transport management with just spreadsheets. Just like PowerPoint, Excel is an application that can surprise you with its powers. Sadly, that is also why also it is often ‘misused’ for a lot applications. There are still a lot of logistics managers out there who get everything done by means of a handful of Excel files. Addresses, tariffs, statuses, contact persons,… Entire transport management plannings are stowed away in huge files that are only intelligible to the people who work in them every day. Sounds familiar? Maybe you yourself work this way, or you have partners or carriers who use this kind transport management system? 

Let’s be honest: there are limitations to what you can do with a spreadsheet. Obtaining real-time visibility in your transport management is definitely one of them. Compared to modern transport management systems (TMS), you’re simply restricted in your possibilities. There’s hardly any flexibility and it’s extremely difficult to have a strategic outlook on business when your constantly updating your spreadsheet. It’s almost impossible to work out a cost-effective planning or draw up a qualitative transport management report. And then we haven’t even mentioned the overhead that comes with this approach.

Excel is not a TMS

Every craftsman will tell you: use the right tool for the right job. You knock a nail into the wall with a hammer, not with the back of a screwdriver. And that’s exactly the problem: Excel wasn’t made to carry your complete logistics or transport management planning. Yes, Excel is very powerful and can do a damn lot with it. But it’s not a universal tool, let alone a transport management system (TMS). For example, Excel is absolutely not suited as a database, while it is often used as one. The fact that Excel isn’t designed for asset management makes it hard to adapt to changing needs. How do you make sure there is a decent link to your drivers’ mobile devices, to name but one issue? Impossible!

Real-time visibility data is a must

Your clients want it, your partners and carriers demand it, and you should pursue it too: real-time visibility. This is an obvious limitation of Excel. In a transport management system, data isn’t only presented structurally, but also in real-time. Something changes in your transport, you immediately know about it. This way, you gain the necessary insight in your transportation network. Is there a problem with a carrier running behind schedule? With a spreadsheet, you’ll never find out about it. And when finally you do, you’ll probably have to work over the phone. A TMS informs you at once, while a chat function makes it very easy to regain control over a derailed situation.

Less overhead, improved transport visibility

In actual practice, companies using spreadsheets lose a lot of time as they have to enter the same transport visibility data many times. Because of the lack of an overall transport management system, they make use of a whole bunch of spreadsheets. The same order ends up in one Excel file for planning and then in another one concerning invoicing. All this information has to be put in manually. It's no surprise that this way of working influences your operational costs. Moreover, it’s inevitable for human errors to creep in when there’s a lot of data to be put in manually. Finally, the mediocre quality of your transport visibility data makes it harder to evaluate and plan your logistics more efficiently in the future.

TMS software increases collaboration

It gets especially tricky when every partner in the supply chain uses spreadsheets in their own way. How do you share and compare your data? How do you prevent having different versions of the same data floating around somewhere? The answer is simple: implementing a TMS in order to create the 'one single truth in the supply chain'. When depending on spreadsheets, the possibility of conflict and discussions - especially regarding invoicing - is undeniable. In the end, issues like this are an avoidable and expensive waste of time. 

Spreadsheets prevent growth

Excel spreadsheets aren’t exactly the best basis to keep on growing. They scale very badly and this implies investing in a lot of manpower to keep them operational. Collaboration is hampered by spreadsheets as well, which harms the quality of your data and could be the reason why conflicting information starts showing up. It’s especially hard to optimise your transport management processes if you have to start off from your own spreadsheets or those of partners and carriers. Things tend to get real complex real fast. Without a transport management system, a decent analysis of you logistics is impossible - not to mention estimating the true costs of your transport management.

From manpower to logistic automation

What you hear over and over again in the stories of companies that still heavily rely on spreadsheets, is that they have to invest a lot of time and manpower to keep everything running. A pity, really, because implementing automation can happen surprisingly fast and bring in a lot of quick wins. Automation is an option in every step of the logistic process. In most cases, a light-weight, multifunctional TMS can take care of business, allowing your employees to focus on the important things, like optimizing your services and acquiring new clients.

TMS provides a solution

Hopefully we’ve persuaded you that it’s a good idea to stop managing your supply chain and logistics in your beloved spreadsheets. You will gain a lot by leaving this complex approach behind. Instead, opt for a transport management system (TMS) that informs you in real-time, of which data quality is an intrinsic priority, and which every staff member can use without any problems or conflicts. The implementation of a TMS might sound like a big step, but with a modern system, it’s really not that bad. The days of gigantic SAP-projects that take over a year are finally over. There’s no need to preach, even: the benefits that come with a light TMS will easily win you over.