What do making a Google Doc and posting on Instagram have in common? The obvious answer is that they are both mediums of online communication, but there’s something more to these tasks that can be easily overlooked.
Every time you make a Google Doc for a group project or upload a new photo to Instagram, you’re using a cloud-based computing system. It’s the same kind of cloud-based network that runs Fortune 500 companies, provides secure patient medical history to physicians and delivers collaborative transportation management systems (TMS).
You, personally, may not even think of “the cloud,” other than when that annoying message on your iPhone says, “iCloud Storage Full,” but we are constantly interacting with cloud-based networks without even realizing it. The crazy part is that cloud-based systems have been around much longer than you probably think. Although the internet didn’t take its hold on the general public until the 1990s, the idea of cloud-based computing was conceived as early as the 1960s. As we move into the twenty-first century, we continue to see the benefits of cloud-based computing, not just through communication or social media platforms, but through supply chain and transportation management systems.
In order to understand the benefits of cloud computing and its positive effect on transportation management systems, it is important to recognize what cloud computing actually is and why it’s important. According to Microsoft, cloud computing is “the delivery of computing services — including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence — over the internet (“the cloud”) to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale.” The benefits of cloud computing are immense and still being discovered, even today. Just a few benefits include reduced company costs, increased productivity and performance, strengthened security, data backup reliability, and geographic fluidity. Understanding “the cloud” can be difficult because storage is not physically tangible like file cabinets. Instead, it’s all online.
Transportation management systems (TMS) are platforms used by shippers to automate processes. By digitizing the movement of goods, both incoming and outgoing, a TMS allows shipperss to allocate company assets so they can save money and time while gaining access to valuable insights into their transportation process and trading partners. These transportation solutions have allowed companies to increase their technological capabilities, track their freight closely, gain business insights and refine processes. This interconnected system continues to expand exponentially, revolutionizing the supply chain management process.
As transportation management systems have moved to cloud-based platforms, more benefits have surfaced for shippers. The transition isn’t always easy for companies, especially ones with an entrenched on-premise or proprietary technology infrastructure, but creating a flexible supply chain is more attainable with the use of cloud-based TMS platforms.
With access to shared shipment data, performance KPIs and a collaborative environment to respond to exceptions all in one place, cloud computing has become the logical solution for transportation management systems. Other than saving you time and money, here are some benefits that are often overlooked when considering cloud-based transportation management systems:
A unique and often overlooked benefit of cloud computing in supply chain management is the opportunities it provides for small freight businesses. In the past, transportation systems were set up to favor larger freight companies — allowing them to become preferred shippers and obtain lower shipping rates. Utilizing a cloud-based TMS system has resulted in a level playing field, allowing businesses of any size to gain access to improved rates, according to Logistics Management magazine. This access doesn’t just apply to reduced shipping rates; now, smaller freight companies have easier access to other lower costs when it comes to freight insurance and intermodal shipment consolidation.
The benefits of data storage capacity in cloud computing are often overlooked because of their simplicity. Imagine starting at a new company and your files suddenly disappear. In response, you or someone from your transportation IT team runs a diagnostics test and sends it to your company’s TMS software provider for self-diagnosis. As a result, companies don’t have to worry about maintaining servers, software or equipment in their building. When there’s no equipment, there’s no need to hire additional staff to manage and service it. Plus, depending on the TMS provider, you typically only pay for the cloud services you use, and there’s no need for you to do software updates, so your business is able to scale up or down automatically to the software’s contracted capabilities.
It is easy to overlook the number one benefit of cloud-based transportation management systems: its scalable platform. With increased communication and enabled collaboration — both vertical and horizontal — right at your fingertips, you can provide access to all internal stakeholders and external trading partners. A cloud-based TMS platform provides organizations of any size the ability to scale up in product functionality; scale out within business teams regardless of geographic location; and scale across their network of carriers and suppliers. All without additional investment in technology hardware or software infrastructure. And as businesses respond to changes in demand or economic factors, they can easily scale up or down as needed with a cloud-based TMS.
Alpega delivers cloud-based TMS solutions that offer innovative technologies without significant financial investment or time-consuming maintenance.
As environmental concerns and technological advances continue, supply chains will adapt accordingly. If you are interested in ways you can benefit from cloud-based transportation management solutions and simultaneously move toward a more responsive and agile supply chain, contact Alpega North America to learn more.