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The challenges to deploying a TMS system at numerous global locations "are pretty large," says Hiller, director of sales and marketing-North America at Transwide.
Providers have learned how to handle the obvious challenges, such as currencies, languages, and most technology, Hiller says. Where they run into trouble is with the practical processes and work flows that can vary greatly by region. "One of the functions of TMS is to help you comply with all the rules and regulations or processes you need to follow in order to move goods from one place to another, and when those are different wherever you operate, it can create problems."
One simple example is the document referred to in the U.S. as the bill of lading and in Europe as the CMR or road waybill. On the surface these appear to be much the same, but in fact are very different, he says. "The BOL is a standardized short form or long form, but how you fill it out is not very standardized - as long as the carrier has the basic information, he can work with it. The CMR, however, is a legal document and there are fixed formats that have to be followed and rules about how long the information must be kept. The differences between these documents mean that you have to have two different systems and understand the needs for both," he says.
TMS is very different from internal systems like ERP because it deals with external parties, says Hiller. "So much about transportation and logistics management is about communications and collaboration between you and your logistics universe: carriers, freight brokers, forwarders, customs house brokers, vendors. Transportation management is designed to help you provide a single platform for dealing with these external parties on a regular basis. Once you go external there are many more things to consider."
Software can be designed to handle this, but the knowledge base that has to be brought into a deployment project is a lot different than a simple WMS project, says Hiller.
Another factor in global rollouts of transportation management is that everyone is not on the same level technologically. "When you start dealing with transportation providers in places like Brazil or Nicaragua or the Middle East, you can't assume that they are capable of transmitting via EDI or integrating with your solution," he says.
A TMS user looking at a true global deployment needs to have resources from each of the regions contribute to the deployment planning, looking for commonalities wherever possible, says Hiller. "At the same time, they need to look for specific things that need to be built into the solution, such as specialized processes, as well as best practices that can be employed across the entire organization." Deploying TMS globally will take a lot of time and planning and it can be costly, but there is a payoff, Hiller says. "Having a single community of users on one platform with the ability to share best practices and benchmarks across the organization is a huge advantage."
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