May 02, 2023

API-Enabled TMS: Benefits for 3PLs and Coreteka’s Cases

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Everything is connected in logistics. After all, supply chain management involves dealing with complex information like freight location, optimal delivery routes, incomes, and outcomes. When a company needs to transport its goods from one place to another, it should coordinate its actions with other stakeholders. This process typically contains multiple parties — shippers, carriers, customs officials, warehouses, and so on. 

But how can logistic providers manage all these information flows? The answer lies in IT systems which should be also connected with each other. A Transport Management System, or TMS, is a must-have tool for 3PLs to manage the physical movement of goods. However, sometimes it’s not enough to just execute such software in the supply chain processes. That’s where TMS API integration comes in. 

In this article, you will learn why manual TMS handling leads to errors and how you can avoid this through API integration. We will also share our vision of data exchange between logistics providers and their clients depending on business size. All companies are unique and require different solutions. Keep reading!

TMS work and pitfalls explained

To understand the basics of information and risk management in logistics, you should know how Transport Management Systems work. Their interface is developed in such a way that a logistics provider’s employees could monitor freight location during the delivery, get optional routes in each specific situation, and calculate expenses. In fact, the TMS functionality depends on particular business processes and 3PLs. You can explore Transport Management System which Coreteka built for the tobacco company Philip Morris to learn how this works in detail. 

But what are the pitfalls of Transport Management Systems? To get accurate estimations, the software must have the correct data. For example, logistics providers don’t have their own vehicle fleets because it’s more profitable for them to rent transport from specialized companies. This way, managers have to enter data about each specific vehicle every time. Our experience shows that managers do this manually in the majority of cases. 

What threatens the lack of TMS API integration

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Manual inputs are inconvenient for customers and risky for logistics providers. 

Firstly, your clients have to send large shipment applications each time when they need delivery services. Just imagine what a daunting task is this if the number of goods exceeds a thousand. Secondly, all manual operations frequently cause errors due to human factors. Logistics providers risk their reputations. No one wants to find their freight in the wrong location. And what’s worse, if a manufacturer won’t receive its raw materials on time. 

TMS API integration in logistics could be a solution. 

What is TMS/WMS API integration in simple words? 

API integration implies the connection of logistics systems like TMS and WMS with other software through a standardized interface known as an application programming interface (API). This allows different software systems to communicate and share data with each other seamlessly.

For example, a logistics provider might use a TMS to manage their shipments, and its clients may handle an eCommerce platform to receive orders from customers. By integrating the TMS with the eCommerce platform using APIs, the logistics provider can automatically create shipping labels and track the status of the shipments in real time without manual intervention. On the other hand, the client can easily send shipment applications and get clear information about their freight and stock levels.

Find out more about WMS API integration in the article.

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Compare the benefits of API integration in your TMS

If you’re still wondering about what benefits can deliver API integration into your business, look through the information below. Here, we compared different logistics processes with and without API integration for your convenience. 

Process Without TMS API integration With TMS API integration
Order management Orders need to be manually entered into the TMS, which can be time-consuming and prone to errorsOrders can be automatically imported into the TMS from other software, reducing manual data entry and errors. The TMS can also validate orders against business rules and provide real-time feedback to the sender
Dispatch management Dispatchers need to manually assign drivers to orders, which can lead to inefficient routing and schedulingDispatchers can use the TMS’s automated routing and scheduling features, which can optimize routes and schedules for maximum efficiency. The TMS can also consider constraints such as driver availability, vehicle capacity, and traffic conditions
Shipment tracking Shipment status updates need to be manually entered into the TMS, which can be time-consuming and prone to errorsShipment status updates can be automatically fed into the TMS from carriers and other sources, providing real-time visibility into shipment status. The TMS can also provide alerts and notifications to customers and stakeholders when there are delays or exceptions
Billing and invoicing Billing and invoicing data need to be manually entered into the TMS, which can lead to errors and delays.Billing and invoicing data can be automatically pulled from other software, reducing errors and delays. The TMS can also generate invoices based on predefined billing rules and send them to customers electronically.
Reporting and analyticsData needs to be manually extracted from the TMS and other software and analyzed, which can be time-consuming and prone to errors.Data can be automatically extracted from the TMS and other software and analyzed using reporting and analytics tools, providing real-time insights into logistics performance. The TMS can also provide customizable dashboards and reports for different users and roles.
Customer serviceThe customer service level suffers because there are no clear processes and a lot of manual work. API integration allows logistics providers to enhance their customer services since all processes are transparent and understandable. 

TMS integration approaches: Coreteka use cases for different clients

It would be a lie if we said that any company needs one option for API integration with Transport Management Systems. Every business requires unique solutions depending on its current processes. Here are some use cases of how data exchange could be implemented in each specific situation.

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Online tool development

On the one hand, manual order management is a challenging task for logistics providers’ clients, leading to errors. But on the other hand, there are a lot of small- and medium-sized customers that are not ready to spend much time and money on tailor-made integrations. In such situations, we recommend logistics providers develop online tools, allowing to establish a data exchange process. 

For example, you can build personal accounts for your clients on the website. Here, your customers could send shipment applications, track goods, and monitor stock levels. This solution is simple and doesn’t require implementing complex technologies. However, such tools deliver more visibility to your clients and eliminate manual involvement.

TMS integration with ERP 

Mid-sized and large businesses already have well-established operational processes, so it’s essential for them to implement Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. In most cases, ERP systems are provided with supply chain and inventory management modules. This makes them a great choice for integration with TMS. 

However, logistics integration of TMS with ERP is a great challenge for logistics providers. The thing is that there are 200+ different Enterprise Resource Planning software and each solution has its own specifics, depending on the provider, functionality, and modules. Thus, logistics providers should integrate clients’ ERPs separately. You will require an API integration provider that can deal with all of that, gather needed technical documentation, and connect systems. If you have trouble with the integration of a specific ERP, be sure to contact Coreteka. We’ll be glad to help. 

API integrations of two different Transport Management Systems

In contrast to small- and medium-sized businesses, enterprises have a unique working structure that requires their own Transport Management System. In this case, API integration of two different TMSs remains to be hard. First of all, you will need to find ways of accurate data exchange. Of course, some companies provide ready-made plugins. They significantly simplify the work. But it’s an exception. 

The second challenge is data format incompatibility. Your client’s TMS may use different data formats, making it difficult to transfer information between them. In such cases, we at Coreteka make data conversions or mapping to get properly structured data. 

The third challenge is API compatibility. The thing is that not all APIs are compatible with each other, which can make integration more challenging. Your API integration provider may need to use middleware or custom integration software to bridge the gap between the two TMS systems.

In general, the API integration of different Transport Management Systems requires technical expertise and knowledge of both TMS systems and their APIs.

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How much does TMS API integration cost? 

TMS integration pricing depends on many factors including the size and complexity of a 3PL’s operations. You should also consider these elements: 

  • API fees. Most API providers charge fees for their services. The fees can vary depending on the type of API, the volume of transactions, and other factors.
  • Integration costs. The costs of integrating APIs into a TMS system can vary depending on the level of customization required. If you need significant customization, the costs can be higher.
  • Development and maintenance costs. TMS API integration requires development and ongoing maintenance to ensure that the APIs are working properly and are up-to-date. 
  • Infrastructure costs. Such operations may require additional infrastructure like servers, storage, and networking equipment. 

As you see, the TMS API integration price is complex and should be calculated in each specific situation. If you consider Coreteka as your IT service provider, contact us to a get detailed estimation and consultation from our technical staff. 

It’s also necessary to understand the specifics of each business. Coreteka has a meaningful case. Some years ago, the Raben logistics provider approached us to help them find a solution for a client that handled freights for the B2C sector. The main challenge was in order processing. As 3PL, Raben specialized in pallet handling while their new client processed orders in small parcels. To properly connect their systems, we developed Last Mile Connector. Moreover, this solution was integrated with a large local courier service, allowing them to create waybills for goods automatically. You can learn more about this case in our article.

Frequently asked questions about TMS API integration

🔴 What is API in TMS? 

API stands for Application Programming Interface. It’s a set of protocols, routines, and tools that allow different software applications to communicate with each other.
In the context of TMS, an API is used to connect logistics systems with other software, such as warehouse management systems, enterprise resource planning systems, and customer relationship management systems. By using APIs, the different software applications can share data with each other seamlessly, which can streamline operations and improve efficiency.

⚫ How to apply API in TMS

To apply API integration in TMS, you should follow a detailed plan. First, it’s needed to identify software that requires integration. Then, you should choose the appropriate APIs, implement, test, and monitor data exchange during maintenance. This may seem simple, but we recommend you make API integrations with experienced IT service providers. After all, this process is full of pitfalls. For example, you can ask Coreteka for help. 

🔴 Is API integration in TMS easy? 

The difficulty of API integration in TMS can vary depending on the specific software applications being integrated and the complexity of the integration. However, generally speaking, API integration in TMS can be challenging and requires expertise in software development and integration.

Bottom line 

Integrating APIs in Transportation Management Systems is like connecting the dots. It’s a vital step towards seamless data sharing between different software applications, making logistics operations efficient and error-free. API integrations make logistics providers’ operations easier because they deliver great order management options. Moreover, it’s a great way to improve your customer service.

But each business is unique, so one solution can’t fit all. That’s why we at Coreteka provide different options depending on the company size. For example, we can develop online tools to exchange data and make ERP or TMS integration. If you’re interested in our expertise, drop us a line.