What exactly is a TMS system? The interpretation can vary depending on who you ask. In the transportation and 3PL sectors, a TMS essentially functions as their ERP, overseeing up to 90% of their processes. Historically, TMS packages excluded accounting, relying on external accounting software like Sage or Microsoft GP. With the advent of cloud-based TMS systems, a comprehensive solution, including accounting, is now possible. This complexity adds an extra layer of challenge to the process of selecting a TMS system.
Similar to WMS, TMS systems come in various forms. At times, they function as tools for supply chain consulting firms to oversee their transportation clients. Given that certain TMS vendors may not exclusively be technology-focused, political considerations influence carrier participation in their network. These factors play a role in determining the quality of the rating algorithm and the insights derived from AI and ML.
Additionally, the scale of TMS systems can differ depending on their size. For example, smaller TMS systems may serve as basic shipping add-ons, offering streamlined features like rate shopping. In contrast, larger TMS systems not only encompass all transportation modes but may also include a carrier network and other integrated supply chain capabilities. So for those seeking a TMS solution, grasping the impact of these layers on TMS scope is crucial. Now, let’s explore the top 10 TMS systems in 2024.
- Overall market share/# of customers: How large is the market share of this TMS product? TMS vendors‘ overall market share is irrelevant for this list if they have multiple TMS products in their portfolio.
- Ownership/funding: Who owns the TMS vendor? Is it a private equity company, a family or a group of families, or a wealthy corporate investor?
- Quality of development (legacy vs. legacy dressed as modern vs. modern UX/cloud-native): How modern is the tech stack? Not clunky! How aggressively is the TMS vendor pushing cloud-native functionality for this product? No fake clouds! Is the roadmap officially announced? Or uncertain?
- Community/Ecosystem: How vibrant is the community? Social media groups? In-person user groups? Forums?
- Depth of native functionality (for specific industries): Last-mile functionality for specific industries natively built into the product?
- Quality of publicly available product documentation: How well-documented is the product? Is the documentation available publicly? How updated is the demo content available on YouTube?
- Product share and documented commitment (of the publisher through financial statements): Is the product share reported separately in financial statements if the TMS vendor is public?
- Acquisition strategy aligned with the product: Are there any recent acquisitions to fill a specific hole with this product? Are there any official announcements to integrate recently acquired capabilities?
- Maturity of the Supply Chain Suite: How mature are other capabilities that would augment TMS, such as WMS, S&OP, and the network?
- User Reviews: How specific are the reviews about this product’s capabilities? How recent and frequent are the reviews?
- Must be a TMS product: Must be a recognized TMS product by several analyst firms with a proven track record and market share.
10. CH Robinson/Navisphere TMS
Navisphere, a TMS solution provided by supply chain consulting firm CH Robinson, is tailored for companies seeking both supply chain subject matter expertise and a technical solution. However, it may not be the ideal choice for those solely seeking a TMS solution without managed services. So opt for CH Robinson if you require a TMS solution supporting multiple transportation modes, including managed services from a single vendor.
- Network strength of CH Robinson. A notable advantage is the robustness of CH Robinson’s proprietary network, influencing rates and providing quality insights.
- Supply chain industry expertise. CH Robinson brings extensive subject matter knowledge and holds licenses for various transportation modes, eliminating the need for third-party consulting firms.
- Comprehensive supply chain services. CH Robinson serves as a one-stop shop for various supply chain needs, particularly excelling in the food and produce market.
- Potential conflict of interest. Some may perceive CH Robinson’s pricing algorithm as biased, leading to concerns about carriers avoiding collaboration due to potential conflicts of interest.
- Not a pure TMS solution. While smaller companies exclusively working with CH Robinson might find it suitable as a TMS solution, it may not be the best fit for those collaborating with multiple vendors.
- Limited to the CH Robinson network. A significant limitation is that the solution is confined to the CH Robinson network
9. Trimble TMS
Trimble, a robust TMS solution tailored for transportation companies, stands out with its features for driver compliance, reporting, and monitoring. While an excellent fit for the trucking or 3PL industry managing internal fleets, Trimble TMS may not be suitable for businesses with non-transportation-centric models, such as retail or manufacturing.
Opting for Trimble is advisable if you operate in the trucking or 3PL sector, particularly with an internal fleet. However, for cloud-native solutions, especially in industries with different business models, exploring other options may be more appropriate. Choose Trimble if you are in the trucking or 3PL industry with an internal fleet, but look elsewhere for cloud-native solutions, especially in industries without transportation-like business models.
- Maps and telematics. Trimble facilitates accurate data collection from drivers, minimizing errors and operational overhead.
- Tailored for trucking companies. Designed with unique TMS capabilities essential for trucking operations, including dispatch, scheduling, and batch load planning.
- Pre-built compliance for trucking. Compliance requirements are seamlessly integrated into operational workflows, reducing administrative efforts for trucking companies.
- Legacy technology. While functionally strong, Trimble’s solution relies on legacy technology.
- Limited industry focus. Due to its industry-specific focus, Trimble may not be the optimal choice for diverse companies.
- Not fully independent. Similar to CH Robinson, Trimble provides managed services, making it less independent than some solutions on this list.
8. Descartes TMS
Descartes proves to be an excellent choice for companies seeking multi-modal capabilities within their international supply chain networks. It also has another TMS platform in its portfolio tailored for trucking companies and 3PL providers, providing options for multiple market segments.
Opt for Descartes if you require a best-of-breed TMS solution with multi-modal capabilities and operate within a large enterprise setting. Descartes might also have options for smaller trucking companies as well as 3PL with smaller operations.
- Managed services available. Descartes TMS provides managed services, offering support for international regulatory and compliance requirements.
- Comprehensive TMS with international data analytics. The solution is a comprehensive TMS featuring extensive capabilities, including a visibility platform for the international supply chain.
- Options for multiple Market Segments. Descartes has specific solutions for different market segments, covering their unique needs without pushing them for solutions that are one-size-fits-all.
- Not completely independent. Similar to CH Robinson, Descartes relies on managed services, which may limit its independence.
- May not be SMB-friendly. SMB companies seeking a cost-effective solution might find Descartes to be relatively expensive.
- Not a complete suite with WMS, etc. As a best-of-breed TMS solution, Descartes requires integration with external systems, such as WMS and S&OP, to achieve parity with other solutions on this list.
7. Mercury Gate
Mercury Gate, a cloud-native TMS solution, caters to SMB companies transitioning from smaller shipping add-ons like Pacejet or ShipStation. However, it may not be the optimal choice for large enterprises or businesses with international supply chains.
Consider Mercury Gate if you are an SMB DTC or CPG company seeking a cloud-native solution. On the contrary, if you are an enterprise or have an international supply chain, Mercury Gate may not align with your requirements.
- Fleet management and last-mile capabilities. Particularly beneficial for companies in the CPG and DTC space.
- Claims management capabilities. Aiding in freight audits for companies with 3PL components in their business model.
- Cloud-native UI. Attractive for companies using cloud-native ERP solutions like NetSuite or Acumatica.
- Limited to North America. Mercury Gate currently focuses solely on North America, which may be restrictive for companies with international supply chains.
- Not integrated with other platforms such as WMS. As a standalone TMS solution, it lacks integration with a complete suite, including pre-integrated WMS or S&OP, posing a limitation for budget-conscious companies.
- Limiting reporting capabilities. Users have reported that the reporting capabilities are not as pre-configured compared to some other platforms.
6. 3Gtms TMS (Pacejet)
3Gtms, tailored for SMB trucking companies and bolstered by the Pacejet acquisition, expands its capabilities to cover not just LTL and FTL but also parcel shipments. However, it’s not the ideal choice for large enterprises.
Consider 3Gtms if you seek a TMS solution encompassing all transportation modes—LTL, FTL, and parcels—for domestic shippers with some international presence. Nevertheless, if you are in pursuit of a cloud-native experience with a sophisticated supply chain suite, 3Gtms might not align with your requirements.
- SMB-friendly. The solution offers advanced dispatch and load management capabilities, catering to the needs of SMBs.
- Complete shipping solution. Encompassing all transportation modes for domestic shippers, 3Gtms provides a comprehensive shipping solution, albeit with a focus on SMBs.
- Ideal for light TMS needs. Particularly useful for companies with light shipping requirements, especially those seeking a native or hybrid experience within SMB ERP ecosystems like Acumatica or Infor CloudSuite Industrial (Syteline).
- Not enterprise and integrated suite. Lacking components found in larger supply chain suites, 3Gtms is not the best fit for large enterprises.
- May require add-ons for advanced capabilities. Advanced features may necessitate third-party add-ons or customization, potentially limiting applicability to all business models.
- Patchy User Experience. While the PaceJet solution is cloud-native, the older components remain legacy, potentially affecting the overall user experience.
5. e2open (BlueJays/Cloud Logistics)
e2open stands out as the most comprehensive suite, offering balanced capabilities in execution, planning, and network. It caters to enterprises seeking a pre-integrated suite with robust planning and forecasting, leveraging AI and ML. However, it may not be the ideal choice for smaller companies.
Consider e2open if you are a large enterprise utilizing SAP or Oracle, seeking an enterprise-grade supply chain suite to manage international supply chains, especially if collaborative planning and forecasting with suppliers are essential.
- All Modes. The execution component covers road, rail, ocean, and air, boasting strong enterprise-grade capabilities.
- Global Reach. e2open spans a broad geographic reach, encompassing most regions worldwide, providing an advantage over smaller solutions.
- Ideal for Collaboration-Centric Businesses. With robust capabilities for channel-centric businesses and integrated TMS capabilities, e2open suits companies seeking a comprehensive, pre-integrated suite.
- Not as Complete as Some Competitors. While highly comprehensive, e2open may not boast the strongest TMS solution compared to others on this list, especially in areas like in-house fleet and driver compliance.
- Not SMB-Friendly. The solution’s complexity and cost may be overwhelming for SMBs.
- Limited Ecosystem. Being relatively new in the market, e2open has a somewhat limited ecosystem compared to more established solutions.
4. Manhattan Associates
Manhattan is renowned for its WMS but also integrates TMS capabilities into its Supply Chain suite, which is particularly beneficial for industries with substantial retail store traffic like apparel, footwear, or grocery. Ideal for those already using Manhattan WMS, it provides integrated TMS functionality, though not recommended for SMBs.
Choose Manhattan TMS if you are currently utilizing or considering Manhattan as part of your architectural framework.
- Pre-Integrated with WMS. Simplifies operations for companies with limited IT capabilities or a constrained budget, although pre-integrated workflows should be thoroughly assessed based on specific use cases.
- Suited for Retail-Centric Industries. Manhattan’s focus on retail ensures robust TMS workflows for high-volume grocery, apparel, and shoe verticals.
- TMS as an Add-On. TMS is not Manhattan’s primary offering, potentially lacking the mature capabilities found in best-of-breed TMS systems.
- Not for SMBs. Tailored for upper-mid market and enterprise segments, it may overwhelm SMBs with its extensive features.
- Expensive. Geared towards enterprises, Manhattan’s premium offering might be costly for SMBs not requiring advanced enterprise features.
3. SAP Transportation Management
SAP transportation management solutions cater primarily to companies already entrenched in SAP technologies, especially SAP EWM, seeking to build their entire tech stack on SAP. These solutions are well-suited for large enterprises with product-centric operations and distributors, especially with complex business models such as 3PL.
Smaller companies may find SAP’s offerings overwhelming. Opt for an SAP transportation management solution if you need an execution component pre-integrated with SAP technologies, compatible with other enterprise-grade solutions like e2open or Project44.
- Pre-Integrated with SAP Suite. SAP TM seamlessly integrates with other SAP offerings within the SAP S/4 HANA suite, particularly EWM, though careful vetting is essential to ensure compatibility with unique use cases.
- Ideal for Large Enterprises (> $10B). Companies exceeding $10 billion in size, requiring global compliance and transactional traceability, stand to gain the most value from SAP transportation management.
- Ideal for Complex Business Models. Companies with intricate business models, such as distributors with 3PL operations or 3PL firms needing comprehensive billing functionality, will find SAP’s solution compelling.
- Relies on Descartes for Carrier Communication. External communication and document management may not be as advanced as other solutions, necessitating additional expenses, such as Descartes, for carrier communication.
- Requires Add-Ons for Comparison with Manhattan and Blue Yonder. Achieving parity with other components of a supply chain suite may demand several costly add-ons not readily available with SAP.
- Not Suitable for SMBs. SMBs may find SAP’s capabilities not only overwhelming but also cost-prohibitive due to their alignment with more mature functionalities.
2. Blue Yonder
Blue Yonder boasts one of the most robust supply chain suites, encompassing various facets, including planning and execution, with a particularly robust execution component for transportation management.
Notably, Blue Yonder distinguishes itself from e2open by leveraging network and data from partners, while e2open operates on its proprietary network. Blue Yonder stands out with a significant number of enterprise-grade installations compared to other vendors. Opt for Blue Yonder if you need a fully integrated supply chain suite, specially tailored for retail-centric industries, covering diverse areas, from execution to planning.
- Comprehensive Supply Chain Suite. Blue Yonder offers one of the most comprehensive supply chain suites, aligning particularly well with retailers due to its data model.
- Ideal for Enterprises. Enterprises aiming for supply chain process maturity will find Blue Yonder’s capabilities valuable, designed to seamlessly integrate global supply chain processes.
- Global Supply Chain Capabilities with Control Tower. Blue Yonder’s supply chain spans all modes and geographies, providing end-to-end traceability for global supply chain operations.
- Not for SMBs. SMBs seeking simpler solutions may find Blue Yonder overwhelming.
- Not Ideal for Standalone TMS Needs. The integrated suite might be excessive for companies seeking straightforward capabilities to manage transportation and logistics processes independently.
- Expensive. Companies seeking simpler solutions might perceive Blue Yonder’s mature capabilities as costly.
1. Oracle TMS
Much like SAP, Oracle excels in providing enterprise-grade execution components for transportation management, particularly in industries where tight collaboration with other Oracle solutions like ERP or RMS is essential.
This is especially beneficial for sectors with stringent compliance and regulatory requirements, such as international trade compliance and reporting. So opt for Oracle TMS if you require enterprise-grade transportation solutions with a dynamic ecosystem integrating best-of-breed capabilities for other components of the supply chain suite.
- Pre-Integrated with Oracle ERP. Oracle TMS offers a seamlessly embedded experience with WMS, RMS, and ERP, a feature not available in standalone systems.
- Ideal for Retail and Transportation-Centric Industries. With a strong presence in retail and transportation verticals, Oracle’s R&D focus caters to the unique needs of these sectors.
- Global Supply Chain Capabilities with Control Tower. Oracle TMS spans all transportation modes globally, ensuring end-to-end traceability of the execution component and featuring control tower capabilities.
- Not for SMBs. SMBs seeking simpler solutions may find Oracle’s enterprise capabilities overwhelming and unnecessary.
- Not Ideal for Standalone TMS Needs. Companies desiring straightforward standalone TMS solutions without impacting other departments or processes might find Oracle to be too comprehensive.
- Expensive. Enterprises seeking simpler solutions may perceive Oracle’s enterprise-grade features as overwhelming and unnecessarily costly.
Much like other enterprise software categories, TMS systems come in various configurations. The suitability of a TMS system for a business largely depends on how it aligns with the enterprise architecture and business model.
If you’re considering a TMS system, it’s crucial to distinguish between systems provided by consulting firms and those by pure-play technology firms. Delve into your business model and enterprise architecture to evaluate which system aligns best with your needs. This list aims to offer potential options for your further evaluation with Independent TMS consultants.