Mark Connell, Senior Logistics Architect with WiseTech Global, explains how to overcome obstacles when moving to a TMS.

You've made a decision to move your transport operation from a paper-and-whiteboard administration to a fully automated Transportation Management System (TMS). But how do you overcome the obstacles you know you'll face in getting your staff to adopt and adapt? The answers lie in explaining what's in it for them; creating easy bridges between the old and the new and focusing on early wins to build trust in the TMS.

Getting a TMS up and running can be incredibly difficult, but the fundamental challenge is rarely about implementing the software. The obvious (and often erroneous) assumption is that your people are simply resistant to new technology and change. The largest obstacle is usually the disconnect between the executive level decision-makers and your operations people on the ground. From on high, the Board and management hands down their strategic play to move to a TMS, with no internal consultation whatsoever. Their staff don't understand why some new system is being dumped on them. They might believe it's a tool to replace them, and they'll fear for their jobs. They cannot believe that some software could ever replace their skills and experience, and they have no time to stop and learn if it can.

In my experience, management doesn't talk particularly well about the advantages of moving to a TMS, and passing that duty to your software provider will not likely ensure enthusiastic adoption.

Show Your Staff What's in it for Them

The bottom line is that operators must be shown, gradually, that the TMS will be an asset to them rather than a threat. The guys who run the fleets are superheroes. With mobile devices fused to their ears, they know where everything is, and they plot dozens of line haul movements in their heads. Setting limitations on their capacity constrains the company. Your business needs to expand, or at least make more profit, if it is to survive. It's vital that the teams in your depots get behind the new strategy and understand that neither their brains, nor their superpowers, can scale to the new workload without better technology.

Operational staff should be assured that their on-the-ground expertise is still crucial and that the software is there to help them make more informed decisions, for more jobs, more clients, more often. The TMS will free them from the error-prone, repetitive elements of their work. They'll see the fleet's location in real time, so they can route the right trucks to the right pickup and deliveries with the right information for the drivers.

The only things they stand to lose are the angry customers calling about late deliveries, cranky drivers wondering why their truck isn't loaded, and the dramas of missing freight and consignments.

Make Change Transparent

There are ways to set up a TMS so that the first step into automation is less intimidating. Configuring the TMS to have a similar look and feel as your existing processes creates a comfortable familiarity. Your planning grids can be set up to appear like your whiteboards, and the criteria you've used to locate and prioritize jobs can be replicated on screen.

It's critical to provide a feedback loop that makes staff feel like the integral part of the process that they are. You'll get buy-in from your teams once they have confidence in the new system, and that confidence, which will drive your ROI, is achieved through role-appropriate training.

Build Trust in the New

We have clients who tell us that the TMS will never work, that freight will go missing, and that "it can never know as much as I do!" It's important to roll out first those areas of the TMS that will deliver immediate wins, and make sure your teams can see their achievements - such as increases in job volume and higher accuracy - measured every step of the way.

Start with functionality demonstrations that are critical to individuals' roles. Once your staff gains proficiency and becomes convinced of the TMS's benefits, then introduce wider and newer areas within the system.

Moving Past the 'If it isn't Broken..." Mindset

Experienced transport movers have been successfully moving freight for years. When everything's good, why go through the disruption of change? Because they can't fix what's gone wrong after it's too late. Few transporters have any idea of exactly what areas of their business are making the money, so when they start losing, it's frightening because they're operating in the dark. A TMS allows you to view and track every freight movement. The optimal time to make the move to a TMS is while you're in a position of profitability and strength, so that you can sustain both in the future.

The world of transport is moving quickly to embrace technology. If you want to be competitive you have to get on board. Your business simply can't afford to keep keying in thousands of consignment notes a month. If your operations manager is reluctant, just add up the years of his life your TMS will give back by sparing him all of that tedious data re-entry. In the end, he'll thank you for it.

Mark Connell is Senior Logistics Architect for WiseTech Global

Media Contact: Lisa Tree, lisa.tree@wisetechglobal.com