Getting a feel for the vendor behind the TMS


Does a shipper who outsources its transport still need a Transport Management System (TMS)? Can it also use a 4PL? These were some of the pressing questions that supply chain professionals asked during the TMS edition of the IT Demo Day in Amsterdam. Four TMS vendors – Oracle, Uber Freight, Caroz and Alpega – gave demos and interacted with participants at the event. ‘It felt a bit like speed dating, where you also get a quick sense of whether someone is a good match or not.’

By Harm Beerens

‘Today, you will get a substantive picture of four TMS solutions in one afternoon, but perhaps more importantly, you will get a feel for the vendors offering them,’ said organizer Martijn Lofvers of Supply Chain Media in his welcome address. ‘I sometimes see companies spending years comparing TMS vendors and sending out requests for proposals. Only in the demo phase do they discover that there is no click with the remaining supplier. This day aims to save you that time and let you reap the benefits of a good TMS faster and get a grip on your transport operation.’

Tendering and selection

The demos made it clear how different the four TMS solutions are. Oracle, for instance, is a well-established player in TMS country, with a high-end software package used by more than 800, mostly large, companies worldwide. ‘Tendering and selecting the right carriers is a function that allows our customers to save a lot of costs,’ reported Logistics Solutions Director Rob Hazekamp. On average, companies can save as much as 4 to 8% on the total amount they spend on transport with Oracle’s TMS.

Uber Freight is a provider with a completely different background. ‘We bring shippers and carriers together and optimize transport based on data and algorithms,’ said Sales Director Guy Roijen. ‘We do this in Europe exclusively on a 4PL basis, so we receive the transport orders, and we handle them for them.’ So you don’t buy a TMS with Uber Freight, but a service. The advantage is that Uber also handles integrations with carriers. ‘The latter, of course, depends entirely on what a shipper wants in this.’

Platform for cooperation

Alpega is also a well-known name in TMS land, made big through acquisitions of Teleroute, among others. The company sees itself primarily as a collaboration platform between shippers, carriers, and all other chain partners, according to Sales Manager Lorenzo Perloy. During his demo, he showed how Volvo Cars manages transport between its suppliers and its factories. ‘So their suppliers are also connected to the platform and can book time slots for a dock on it, for example.’

Dutch company Caroz is another very different type of TMS vendor. ‘We are a control tower company and offer both a TMS and a 4PL service,’ said Managing Director Maurits Jongens. ‘Our strength is helping our customers to think about what suits them best. So we also offer hybrid forms, for example, where a shipper uses our TMS for its outbound process, thus remaining in the lead, and has its inbound handled via our 4PL control tower.’

As a company, do you need your own TMS, or can you let a 4PL handle your transport? Supply chain director Maarten Smeets of candle manufacturer Bolsius has given this a lot of thought. ‘I do know for sure that Bolsius needs its own TMS, but initially, I was very sceptical. Because if you have outsourced your transport to a logistics service provider, why would you still need a TMS? Surely a service provider does that planning of trips and managing drivers for you, I hope. I now know that a TMS does much more than that. A TMS is a tool you can use to optimize transport flows and keep a grip on your supply chain costs.’

Interesting AI features

For Herbalife’s Marcel Thomasse, it was an ideal day to get to know the TMS market quickly and effectively, he said afterwards. ‘It felt a bit like speed dating, where you also quickly get a sense of whether someone is a good match or not. With two of the suppliers, we will make follow-up appointments, so this day was useful for us.’ For Frank Stoop of GXO, the same applied. ‘I found it interesting to hear that Oracle has enriched its TMS with AI features, allowing it to predict ETAs earlier and more accurately. This could also be something for us, as you can then react more proactively to deviations.’

‘A unique event whose simplicity makes it just right for people like me,’ is how Maarten Smeets of Bolsius described the afternoon in Amsterdam. ‘No blah blah, no trappings, but full focus on the content. Furthermore, I was very surprised by the intimate setting in which the demos took place. There was really room to have one-on-one discussions with suppliers. Basically, all TMS systems are similar. On a day like today, you see that vendors have completely different approaches. I think this is a perfect way to get a feel for this.’