Warehouse management systems (WMS) and transportation management systems (TMS) tend to get analyzed separately. This is reasonable since they help to achieve different operational goals. While a WMS focuses on the management of inventory and operations of the warehouse facility, a TMS helps to manage carrier fleets, plan out transportation logistics, and related aspects.
Yet while these systems manage different parts of the supply-chain and business operations there is a significant and valid case for integrating the two solutions so that they can support one another. So, let's discuss the benefits and advantages businesses can gain by integrating their WMS and TMS.
One of the goals of any system integration or consolidation is to create a single source of truth. When a WMS and TMS are integrated businesses inventory and shipping information become part of a seamless and consolidated solution. Rather than having information and data uniquely stored in two separate solutions the integration allows both systems to share information related to one another. This avoids the needless duplication of information that one or the other solution needs in relation to process flows, or that is required for specified tasks, like scheduling. By integrating the two solutions warehouse and logistics businesses can track shipments accurately, align inbound and outbound schedules, allocate resources, and share information from the same source.
As we’ve just alluded to this single source of truth and information sharing opens up opportunities to be able to optimize workflows and processes. For example, a WMS manages operations like dock assignments and cross-docking activities while a TMS will manage route planning, load information, and provide expected arrival times. A warehouse can maximize these features by creating a seamless flow, where the TMS information like an ETA can be made available to warehouse personnel so that inbound and outbound truck arrival schedules can be aligned to coincide with cross-docking activities. Not only this but since information on a trucks route are known by the warehouse through the TMS, they can efficiently stage loads so that they are loaded sequentially according to the outbound trucks known route. This optimizes warehouse work and reduces confusion or errors.
The other advantage that is gained is complete visibility across your entire supply chain. By integrating your WMS and TMS you have a full understanding of when and where inventory is coming from, shipments from suppliers and to customers, and distribution channel. This allows businesses to better plan movements across their entire supply chain rather than only within the confines of their premise or doing so disjointedly. The integration also provides data insights from the two solutions shared and related data. Businesses can then gain helpful insights based through this visibility which will help them to improve. This is an example of value-addition as the data produces actionable improvements beyond the basic intended use of the operational features of both solutions.
Yet how can this type of integration be achieved? There are several ways that this can happen. Solution providers may have an integration with a strategic partner solution that they feel compliments their products. Others may take a broader approach where they use a middleware strategy to integrate with other solutions on a case by case basis. In Akatia’s case we take advantage of the fact that our solution is a Salesforce native solution. This opens up the possibility of integrating with many other Salesforce native applications without the need for undue development, but rather through configuration.
Akatia has achieved this type of seamless WMS and TMS integration already for many of our customers by partnering with TMS provider Revenova. Because both applications are Salesforce native the integration is easy, repeatable, and creates an automatic single source of truth since both applications are Salesforce native and will use the same database.
Whichever route you decide to take be sure that you ask your solution provider what strategy they use, if they have done so in the past, and is it easily repeatable. As well just because you may not need this type of integration now, doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. So be sure to invest in a solution and platform that will allow you to do so later.
As we’ve seen integrating a WMS and TMS solution can be very advantageous for warehouse operations and logistics businesses, and we’ve only scratched the surface in this article. We haven’t discussed how the integration is optimized by implementing a customer portal, scheduler and planner, yard management functionality, and financial integrations. The integration of your WMS and TMS will give you access to new ways of working and opportunities to improve your business that were not previously available. In doing so your business will become more efficient, agile, and profitable, while at the same time improving the workplace and customer experience.
If you're looking to integrate your WMS and TMS or to transform your inventory management, click the link below to get in contact with us. We'd be happy to speak with you!