How Can a Transportation Management System (TMS) Promote Sustainability?


More individuals and businesses are recognizing the impacts of industrial practices, such as greenhouse gas emissions and waste. The growing interest and effort have, in fact, prompted the first annual “State of Supply Chain Sustainability” report, published just last year by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Transportation and Logistics, and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP).

Encouragingly, the report found that nearly half of all companies surveyed now have sustainability goals in place. And, while a third of companies still lack supply chain sustainability goals, today’s transportation management systems (TMS) make it easier than ever before to support green initiatives.

Intelligent capabilities, like automation and optimization, do more than improve efficiency and revenue – they empower businesses to make more strategic and conscientious choices about who they partner with, how they control the inbound supply chain, and what options they offer their customers to make similarly mindful decisions.

Here are a few key ways that a TMS can support sustainability goals in your supply chain.


Smart Order and Logistics Management

 Transportation management systems that converge planning and execution offer a wealth of opportunity for controlling environmental impact. Capabilities like smart route optimization and dynamic partner and carrier selection allow you to input all your requirements and constraints, and then plan and execute order flows against the lowest carbon footprint.

Organizations that are multi-enterprise business networks can even expand efforts across the ecosystem. After conducting extensive checks on their customers and suppliers, a configurable TMS helps businesses support their network partners’ local environmental initiatives.

Prebooking is another useful feature of smart order and logistics management. Some Transportation Management Systems, such as the Order-Centric TMS, can create service orders in anticipation of customer or shipping orders to more effectively plan transport execution by booking to capacity. As orders come in, you can start merging and matching to maximize resources and reduce empty miles.


Multi-Modal Capabilities

In the U.S., estimates show that about a quarter of trucks on the road are empty. Considering that 9% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are owed to the movement of goods, and trucks are the greatest source of freight emissions, it’s a needless waste with devastating effects on the environment.

In addition to smart order and logistics management to make better use of available resources, becoming more intermodal is another viable alternative. A TMS with multi-modal capabilities enables global logistics service providers to reduce carbon impact by regularly choose barging as a mode of transport over trucks.


Holistic Visibility & Analytics

 A TMS offering full visibility into the end-to-end supply chain will enhance your order and logistics management. With in-transit stock visibility alongside a bird’s eye view of all flows – including inbound – businesses can take advantage of greater opportunities for order splitting and consolidation, further reducing empty miles.

Businesses can also use TMS dashboards to monitor KPIs and sustainability metrics to gain insight into their network’s environmental impact. Tracking and monitoring real-time analytics on CO2 emissions for all orders makes it easier to share data, support goals, and make strategic decisions for continuous improvement.


Encourage Conscientious e-Fulfillment

As mentioned earlier, sustainability efforts go a long way in strengthening a company’s brand image and winning the loyalty and respect of conscientious customers and consumers. MIT and CSCMP’s report even noted that the focus on better handling carbon emissions and energy management were partly owed to outside pressure.

A great way to supplement internal and network efforts is to empower consumers to contribute to the greater good. Today, overnight delivery is not always a priority – especially as awareness grows about the impacts of congestion, empty miles, and worker safety. Delight customers by showing that you hear and share their concerns.

Transportation Management Systems that let you include carbon footprint considerations in vendors’ e-stores help consumers make more mindful choices between order fulfillment options, such as delivery, speed, cost, and environmental impact.


Returns Management that Supports the Circular Economy

 With the massive returns happening these days, it’s critical to use a TMS that incorporates smart returns management. Think of it as smart order and logistics planning and execution, but in reverse. The system takes into account acceptable time windows, alternative carriers, and in-transit or cross-dock consolidation to choose the most environmentally friendly way to handle returns. Optimized flow management across suppliers, plants, warehouses, and customers further ensures that even when disruptions occur or exceptions arise, your sustainability goals are executed as effectively as possible.

A TMS with returns management capabilities can also support the circular economy with repair flow management, replacement services, and controlled recycling.

Beyond the long-term value sustainable supply chains bring to the environment, business initiatives that prioritize sustainability tend to promote innovation, efficiency, and customer success through a more robust and streamlined technology strategy and stronger brand image.

A multi-modal Transportation Management System (TMS) that converges planning and execution and incorporates returns and omni channel fulfillment is an extraordinarily effective resource for lowering a company’s carbon footprint. Moreover, the automation and optimization capabilities that drive a greener supply chain are also responsible for making substantive efficiency gains, improving service, and boosting revenues.


MPO’s Order-Centric TMS offers smart order and logistics management for minimal environmental impact. As part of a Supply Chain Orchestration platform, businesses benefit from end-to-end capabilities like holistic visibility and control, omni-channel order fulfillment, and returns management to automate and optimize inventory and order and transport flows across the entire multi-party business network.

 MPO recently won Supply & Demand Chain Executive (SDCE)’s 2020 Green Supply Chain Award, which recognizes companies making green or sustainability a core part of their supply chain strategy and are working to achieve measurable sustainability goals within the global supply chain.