Within a few minutes, nearly anyone can become efficient at using an application designed for a smartphone, tablet computer or most other popular consumer devices. The rich graphics, touchscreen displays and easy-to-navigate menus are designed to be intuitive.
Even though dispatch and transportation management software (TMS) systems are much more complex than a consumer app, they also now are becoming more intuitive and user-friendly.
In the past decade, TMS systems have evolved from systems used for tracking orders, billing customers, running periodic management reports and paying drivers and contract carriers. Today’s systems do all of this in a highly automated real-time fashion while providing advanced decision support and alert monitoring.
Software developers continue to add new features that shorten the learning curve and increase user efficiency. Screens can be configured for each user from the start. Several also are including on-demand – and in many cases, free – training resources accessible within the software so users can learn to use new features at their own pace.
Keeping the green screen
Innovative Computing Corp. released one of the first TMS systems shortly after IBM released the AS/400 operating system in 1988. Software development on the so-called “400” platform began to give way in the mid- 1990s to the more graphical Windows-based platforms.
Since the late 1990s, software companies that provide Java- and Windows-based systems have been more successful in signing new customers. One reason is because the 400 platform – with its text-based or “green screen” display – has become unfamiliar to the “younger generation” of employees.
Melton Truck Lines uses the ICC system to collect and process a high volume of data efficiently in a stable environment. The Tulsa, Okla.-based company also uses various Windows and GUI-based applications to extract data from its 400 platform to make it easier to analyze, monitor and present the information graphically to end users, says Randy Rhines, senior vice president of information technology.
By comparison, companies that use the latest Java- and Windows-based TMS systems typically do not use third-party software to analyze or present information to users. The screens can be customized to individual user preferences.
Also, newer screen designs are made to fit wider monitors such as the 22- or 24-inch varieties. “Now you can display a lot more information on one screen,” says Tom Heine, president of Aljex Software.
As part of the implementation process, software developer TMW Systems will customize the screens and workflow for each end user for its TMWSuite software system. A company’s customer service representative can enter data for orders in the manner with which he is most familiar.
Custom data fields and reports also can be added to screens in TMWSuite on the fly with a Microsoft integrated reporting module. Also, any data presented in TMWSuite in a grid format can be exported directly into a spreadsheet application if users want to import other information for further analysis, says Matt Ruth, vice president of implementation.
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