The transportation and logistics industry is growing dependent on diverse transportation management systems (TMS). This is true not only for the big shippers but also for small companies triggered by different rates, international operations, and competitive landscape. Gartner’s 2019 Magic Quadrant for Transportation Management Systems summarizes the growing importance of TMS solutions when it says, “Modern supply chains require an easy-to-use, flexible and scale TMS solution with broad global coverage. In a competitive transportation and logistics environment, TMS solutions help organizations to meet service commitments at the lowest cost.
For TMS solution providers, the path to developing or modernizing applications is not as simple as cruising calm seas. Their challenges are myriad and relate to ensuring systems that organize quotes seamlessly (no jumping from phone to a website). They need to help customers to select the ideal carrier based on temperature, time, and load to ensure maximized benefits. Very importantly, they need to help customers to track shipments while managing multiple carrier options and freight. Customers look for answers, and TMS solutions should be able to provide customers the best options in carriers. All this does not come easy and while developing and executing the solution is half of it, the more critical half lies in ensuring that the system’s functionality, security, and performance remain uncompromised. When looking for a TMS solution, customers look for providers who can present a clear picture of the total cost of ownership. Unpredictability is a no-no in this business which essentially means that the solution is implemented and tested for 100 percent performance and functionality.
Testing Makes the Difference
The TMS solution providers who will be able to sustain their competitive edge are the ones who have tested their solution from all angles and are sure of its superiority.
In a recent case study that explains the importance of testing, a cloud-based trucking intelligence company provides solutions to help fleets improve safety and compliance while reducing costs invested in a futuristic onboard telematics product. The product manages several processes and functions to provide accurate and real-time information such as tracking fleet vehicles, controlling unauthorized access to the company’s fleet assets, and mapping real-me vehicle location. The client’s customers know more about their trucks on the road using pressure monitoring, fault code monitoring, and remote diagnostics link. The onboard device records and transmits information such as speed, RPMs and idle time, distance traveled, etc. in real-time to a central server using a cellular data network.
The data stored in the central server is accessed using the associated web application via the internet. The web application also provides a driver portal for the drivers to know/edit their hours of service logs. Since the system deals with mission-critical business processes, providing accurate and real-time information is key to its success.
The challenge was to set up a test environment for the onboard device to accurately simulate the environment in the truck and simulate the transmission of data to the central server. Establishing appropriate harnesses to test the hardware and software interface was equally challenging. The other challenges were the simulation and real-time data generation of the vehicle movement using a simulator GPS.
A test lab was set up with various versions of the hardware and software and integration points with simulators. With use-case methodology and user interviews, test scenarios were chalked out to test the rich functionality and usage of the device. Functional testing and regression testing of new releases for both the onboard equipment and web application were undertaken. For each of the client’s built-in products, end-to-end testing was conducted.
As a result of the testing services, the IoT platform experienced shortened functional release cycles. The comprehensive test coverage ensured better GPS validation, reduced preventive cost by identification of holistic test cases, reduced detection cost by performing pre-emptive tests like integration testing.
Testing Integral to Functional Superiority for TMS
As seen in the case study above, developing, integrating, operating, and maintaining a TMS is a challenging business. There are several stakeholders and a complex process that includes integrated hardware, software, humans, and processes performing myriad functions, making the TMS’s performance heavily reliant on its functioning. Adding complexity is the input/output of data, command, and control, data analysis, and communication. As a result of its complexity and the importance of its functioning in managing shipping and logistics, testing is an essential aspect of a TMS.
Testing TMS solutions from the functional, performance design and implementation aspect will ensure that:
- Shipping loads are accurate, and there are no unwelcome surprises
- Mobile status updates eliminate human intervention and provide real-time updates.
- Electronic record management to ensure the workflow is smooth and accurate
- Connectivity information to eliminate issues with shift changes and visibility
- API integration to seamlessly communicate with customers.
- Managing risk for both the TMS and the system’s partners/vendors.
TMS software providers need to offer new features and capabilities faster to be competitive, win more customers, and retain their business. Whether it relates to seamless dispatch workflows, freight billing or EDI, Trigent can help. Know more about Trigent’s Transportation & Logistics solutions