TMS and EDI pact broadens freight digitization reach

TMS and EDI pact broadens freight digitization reach

Extending the ability for shippers, brokers, and carriers to transact basic processes like tendering and payment via EDI will bring more parties into a digital environment. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

The transportation management system (TMS) provider AscendTMS is partnering with electronic data interchange (EDI) and data integration specialist Kleinschmidt to enable Ascend users to digitize trucking processes that tend to be handled manually.

Available to shippers, carriers, and freight brokers using AscendTMS, the partnership allows users to manage initial load tendering, real-time load updating, and final invoice presentment, via existing EDI and business-to-business connections in Kleinschmidt’s network.

AscendTMS has been at the forefront of a movement toward low-cost, easy-to-implement TMSs, introducing a free basic version of its software five years ago. That version is capped to three users, and not all functionality is available. For instance, the basic TMS allows users to search Truckstop.com and DAT load boards, whereas users of the premium version can scour 53 different boards, including Trucker Tools’ Smart Capacity platform, a partnership AscendTMS and Trucker Tools announced in April.

At $59 per user per month, the premium version of AscendTMS is still designed to be cost-effective compared with other TMSs. Approximately 70 percent of the firm’s customers are carriers, 20 percent are brokers, and the other 10 percent are shippers, according to AscendTMS CEO Tim Higham, but the lines between those segments are blurred because many carriers operate brokerages and vice versa. Even some shipper customers operate fleets that they use the TMS to manage.

Kleinschmidt builds and maintains connectivity for more than 20,000 shippers, brokers, third-party logistics (3PL) providers, and asset-based carriers.

Digital migration

“The goal is to provide industry professionals easy access to the advantages of digital freight management and all the efficiencies it brings to each party,” Kleinschmidt CEO Dan Heinen said in a statement.

The partnership with Kleinschmidt is designed to rapidly migrate manual processes handled by small and medium freight parties — whether shippers, carriers, or 3PLs — to an electronic environment. Higham said his platform and the industry as a whole will benefit as more transactions occur digitally, and that smaller enterprises struggle to find the resources and systems to do that.

“Until now, EDI and B2B [business-to-business] transactions were really only accessible to a small portion of the logistics market,” Higham told JOC.com.

In a statement, Higham also called on other solutions providers to partner in a similar way to help the industry reach critical mass, inviting “all industry service providers to participate with us on this journey, so we can navigate away from today’s messy paper-centric world to one that’s fully digital.”

That approach relies heavily on system interoperability, as investment in one system, such as AscendTMS, can easily enable access to adjacent systems such as the Kleinschmidt connectivity network. The question is whether software providers build that integration between each other —  providing a turnkey solution for users — or whether users must turn toward third-party systems integrators or build those integrations in-house. It’s not yet clear which path the market prefers.

As the logistics industry increasingly turns toward software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, system interoperability becomes that much more critical.

Contact Eric Johnson at eric.johnson@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @LogTechEric.