Rose Rocket’s Key Account Lead, Rob Doherty, joined Nate Cross and Benjamin Kowalski on Freight 360. In this episode, they deep dived into why you should have a TMS and some things to consider when choosing one. Rob highlighted various benefits of the Rose Rocket TMS, like our customer portals, Carrier Directory, and more.
Rob has worked at Rose Rocket for almost 4 years and before that he worked in the transportation industry for about 12 years. He has a wealth of knowledge of both the industry and the technology that can help freight companies automate their business’ processes and grow.
This episode is jam-packed with information around choosing and utilizing a TMS, so we highly recommend you listen to the full episode. If you’re tight on time though, we’ve pulled out a few of the highlights below.
(Highlights have been condensed and edited for clarity)
Nate: First off, let's talk about what a TMS is because some of our listeners are fairly new. We've got some that are seasoned, but really what is a TMS and what should it be used for?
Rob: In the most simple terms, it's a system that a company uses to kind of plan, execute and then optimize the physical movement of goods. So shippers use TMSs, carriers use TMSs, brokers of course use TMSs. And I think depending on what the type of user the company is, that kind of dictates what kind of functionality is in there. So if you're focused and you're thinking about whether your brokerage needs a TMS, then you're probably mostly concerned with how can this TMS allow me to create an issue "quickly"? How can it help me manage my carriers, dispatch to my carriers, update the status of orders and of course generate payables and receivables. But the flavor of that is kind of consistent across all the different types of TMSs out there, shipper, carrier, or broker. But fundamentally, I think that's what it is.
Nate: So a follow-on question here is, is a TMS really needed? And the answer is yes, but I want to talk about that.
Rob: I think you said something really interesting Nate about the types of brokers. There's many, many, many, many different mindsets or approaches to brokerage and also whether or not a TMS is needed. So like I said at the beginning of the episode, my background's trucking and I know that there is a place for those who are just set with writing things down and using paperwork. And if that's your shtick, if that's all you ever want to be, then all the power to you so to speak. I've probably got some salespeople listening to this call from Rose Rocket turning over.
Benjamin: But you made a good point, Rob. I mean, it depends on where you want to go, right? And the truth of the matter is some people that are stuck in their ways are going to be stuck regardless of how great or how fast or how much better they could be or whatever they're performing, right? Because I think one of the biggest reasons a TMS is a must have is it's the heartbeat of a brokerage. First off, it organizes everything. So where all of your shipments are, that's where it is. The second thing it needs to do is it literally provides the basic function of a brokerage, which is taking a work order or a tender right from your customer, entering it into a system, and then being able to create another work order or tender to send out to your carrier at a different rate, right? Without that ability, you are not a freight broker.
Nate: I want to add on to that too. So when you talk about efficiency, think about all the other things that we need to do to be a good, not just be a freight broker, but to be good and excellent at being a freight broker, right? And that is to be fast in our responses to people, to be able to organize all of our information, for example, having notes on your carriers, right? Being able to vet out a carrier super easily, being able to post out to the load boards quickly and not have to login manually to DAT, to put a load up there and then pull it down later, right? Being able to generate a rate confirmation at the click of a button and not have to type it up in a word document and create a PDF and send it out, right?
I mean, these are all little things that when you get them all into one place, one system, or this is what a TMS does, right? When you can do that, it saves you so much time which allows us to do more of our job and then become more of a profitable brokerage.
Rob: Absolutely. I mean, like what you're hitting on and describing is a brokerage with a growth mindset, right?
Rob: So if you want to grow your brokerage and you want to make sure that you're doing so in a scalable way, you're not going to do that with the pen and paper system, you're simply not. And I don't think anybody from any camp would argue with that, right? If you are spending time chasing email threads, chasing status updates from your carriers, double entering, triple entering data into this system or that system, you're really getting in your own way.
Nate: There's carriers that want to be able to login and see what loads you have available or have a repetitive process, where every Tuesday and Thursday I'm taking these couple of lanes from this brokerage. And I want to be able to do that quickly online or through their TMS versus having to call my broker. So talk to me a little bit about that. And I'm curious because we did a really in depth demo on the brokerage process in Rose Rocket and I loved it. I didn't look at the customer or carrier facing side as far as that goes, but I'm curious if you could speak to that a little bit.
Rob: So actually, it's really interesting. Both of those topics are interesting. The customer facing, shipper facing, let's call it, portals and then the carrier facing one. So the shipper facing one actually kind of touches on the history of Rose Rocket as a company. We originally started actually as a shipper TMS. We were a system for shippers to upload the rates, manage the orders they were giving to brokers and carriers, et cetera. We eventually realized and pivoted to brokers and carriers because shippers at the end of the day, their main bread and butter, their main focus is the thing that they do. The widgets that they make, right?
Transportation is essential. It's important, but it wasn't the burning issue topic of the day. Whereas if you were in, of course, a broker or a carrier, that is your business. We said it earlier, it's the movement of stuff. So our original product, it was called FR8nex, terrible name, but it was focused on the shipper side of things. And we actually kept a lot of that code, a lot of that functionality and it's become our customer portal, our shipper portal. So it's where you can, if you're a broker, chat with your customer, right? You can upload documents to share with them. They can upload documents to share with you.
Nate: I want to pause right there because I absolutely love that. If you can upload a customer invoice and you can interact with your customer virtually and digitally like that, instead of having to manually do it through an email or phone call, that is absolutely huge. So I just want to hit on that real quick, because I mean, Ben we've talked about this numerous times, paperwork getting lost or hey, I might put the wrong email or this person doesn't work there anymore. It slows down the invoicing process, which then delays how quickly you're going to get payment. Because remember, a customer's invoice, that 30 day terms or whatever you have on them on doesn't start until they get that invoice. So if you sent to the wrong email address a month ago, they're not on the hook to pay that until they actually receive it. So I just wanted to hit on that real quick. So I think that's awesome with the customer portal.
Benjamin: Back to the value of being able to communicate directly with your customer right, it is such an advantage also over other brokers, right? Having this direct line like you guys provide, gives you an advantage over the other brokers and it allows you to give them more value. Like, hey, when you need something, just shoot me a message, I'm here, it's open. You don't need to wait for me to get to the email, then call you back, then shoot you another email.
Rob: It's first class communication, right? Your messages are getting to the people without noise.
Rob: And it's one of the areas that Rose Rocket has recognized a need for as well. So we've got a product called the Carrier Directory where you can find carriers who are covering lanes that you need coverage for. It's not a load board per se and it's not necessarily a place where you post loads to go — in the episode you guys use the fishing analogy, right? So you need to cover a certain area, so you go fishing to go look for a carrier. Well, this carrier directory is like fishing with a fish finder on your boat, right? It is helping you know who is in which area. And that's because the carriers are on Rose Rocket too.
Nate: I was going to ask that. So I was curious, where does that data come from? Because I think if you... I always love when a company and like you guys specifically if you have access to data internally yourself that you can then use to improve everyone else's abilities, that's amazing.
Rob: Yeah. I mean, the way we see it is we definitely don't want to get in the way, we just want to facilitate, right? In other words, you're a broker, you've got an order that needs to go from A to B on a carrier, I'm using Rose Rocket as well. My drivers are using the Rose Rocket driver mobile app. The trucks are also equipped with an ELD. So we know exactly in real time where the trucks are. If you and I are both on Rose Rocket, we can connect our Rose Rocket in a way that it's almost like it's one TMS, right? Of course there's clear boundaries as far as what data is shared. But using the real time visibility as an example, if you and I are partners, we've found a synergy on a certain lane, let's say, and you're always giving me business on a certain lane, I'm comfortable with you enough that I'm going to dispatch it to a driver. I'm going to turn on the visibility toggle. You will be able to see where in the world my driver is from his ELD.
Nate: That's awesome.
Rob: When that driver uploads the signed proof of pickup or the signed proof of delivery, it gets shared with you immediately. There's no more emails or phone calls, where is the driver? Send me this proof of delivery so I can invoice. That's the kind of stuff that we want to facilitate. Like what is happening today in email and phone, as we all know is going to go the way of the Dodo and that requires a system like Rose Rocket.
Nate: So I'm curious, I want to ask you to speak to that a little bit further on how a broker can use your platform for sourcing capacity. Is there like integrations with load boards or is there like rating data or you mentioned obviously that you could see your trucking or the carrier side capacity and all that, but what does that look like?
Rob: I mean, it's all of the above really for example, integrations with load boards, of course. So you've got a load that you need to cover, you can post it immediately to your load board or load boards. No extra data entry. You're not doing the swivel chair thing between two systems. You create the order in Rose Rocket, you post it to the load board, done. The other side of that is the carrier directory piece. So you've won a piece of business that is regular, it's going to be moving months or twice a week, let's say, over a given lane, you can go to the carrier directory and you can find carriers who are advertising that that's what they cover and that's what they're looking for. So you look at the other side of the coin.
Nate: So the carrier pretty much is setting some sort of a profile when they set up that says, "Here's my equipment, here's the lanes I like to service." And that's the information that brokers need to have to save time.
Rob: And to be clear, it's not just a directory, right? It's all the other stuff I just talked about where sure, you could go do a Google search, right? You can go start to do that google search and spend hours trying to find carriers who are not on Rose Rocket, who are using Excel spreadsheets or what have you — or you go to the directory and you find a partner who is using the same system as you. And when we talk about carrier onboarding, well, the onboarding's pretty light when both of you are using the exact same system. When you have an integration with <name the carrier compliance> and you can see, okay, on SaferWatch, this carrier, excellent compliance score, they're on Rose Rocket so I know that they believe in visibility, transparency, I can connect with them. This is going to be a great experience for me, the broker. And then again, of course, most importantly, my shipper, my customer.
Nate: Let's say you're a new broker or you're in your first six months and you're just trying to focus on the basics of getting the jobs done. I want to get customers and manage them in my system. I want to be able to find trucks and move loads. I don't care about all the bells and whistles, I just want to get myself off the ground. So what should brokers be looking at as far as capabilities and features in a TMS? Let's say, if they're new or if they're advanced, what are some of those things when someone's evaluating? Because we always recommend, don't just look at one platform and go with it. If you like it, compare them against each other and see what's what best for you. So what are those items that you should be looking at?
Rob: For sure. I mean, there's the brass tacks things, right? You should be able to create a quote and issue a quote from the system. You should be able to have sort of a carrier management module where you can keep a profile for the carriers that you use. You should be able to, of course, dispatch and send emails or dispatching information to the carriers, that's brass tacks, right? And there's a lot of systems that do that. I think that even if you're very, very early and you know you're new to brokerage but you have a growth mindset, you need to think about whether or not the TMS you are going with is a system that is open to integrating with other systems, the other systems that you're going to use, right?
So if you don't go with a TMS that has an integrations marketplace where you can kind of go and point and click at, okay, I'm going to use QuickBooks for my financial management stuff, I'm going to use SaferWatch for care compliance, DAT for the load board. If it doesn't have that ability, then the TMS that you're looking at probably is just a glorified spreadsheet, right?
Nate: That's pretty true.
Rob: Right. There's spreadsheets and then there's a TMS platform. TMSs like Rose Rocket actually play nice with other systems. Anything in between that is just a glorified spreadsheet. So it's integrations. We have an open source API, which again, what does that mean if you're brand new to brokerage? And it didn't mean anything to me before I joined Rose Rocket, but basically Rose Rocket makes our integration points public. So you could go and find a developer if you wanted or if, let's say, you've grown your brokerage and you've hired some IT consultant or you've hired some IT folks and you have a custom thing that you want to do, we give you that ability. We empower you to do that. Again, something you're probably going to grow into. And then I think the last thing is like, again, network TMS. The idea that the TMS should allow you to collaborate with people beyond sending an email from my system to your system, I mean actually connecting the system, EDI, APIs, those kinds of things. I haven't answered the question.
Nate: I think the collaboration piece is that's the future of where our industry's going. And I think the companies that will succeed are the ones that embrace that, right?
Nate: So I want to add in one last thing that I personally look at with any kind of software is the user interface, user experience, right? I have seen... So when I worked for an asset based company, our TMS, it was awful. I felt like I was on a DOS system.
We've all probably seen systems like that, we're like, "What is going on here?" Obviously I think with the release of mobile apps, web based platforms, cloud based TMSs, people have realized that with technology in the younger generation, we're used to having at our fingertips a good user experience. Like if you've got an iPhone, apps look nice and clean, right? Versus the old school Windows 95 playing the chess game or whatever where it's like very archaic, right? So the user experience, user interface, minimize the number of clicks it takes, make it look visually appealing so I'm not dreading looking at my monitor.
And that is one of the things that I saw with Rose Rocket when we did the demo that blew me away was how clean it is, how easy the workflow was from beginning to end. Because I think what we did was we started with a load from scratch to cradle to gray. We built a load all the way through getting it dispatched and delivered. And it was so fast, so easy. And that's personally what I look at. And I know there's some people that don't care and there's a lot of people that do care about that. So that's my take on it.
Rob: I got to share a quick story about that. It's part of my job too at Rose Rocket to kind of bring new hires up to speed on the status of the industry and what our customers do and how they do it. And I won't forget the one of the first times I brought a very junior engineer along with me to visit a customer and to see what systems they used. They were using a DOS like system that you were talking about or something a little bit better than that. It was a legacy system. And on the drive home, I asked what they thought and the engineer said, "I don't believe it, I can't believe that that system was made by humans." Right? It was so unintuitive, so difficult to learn and use. He's like, "Only a robot would've built that." Right? And so I really appreciate those comments about our design, our UX. We take a lot of pride in it. We invest a lot in it because we know that it's what the users of today expect.
We hope you enjoyed reading some of the highlights of Rob, Nate, and Benjamin's conversation! When you have the chance, be sure to listen to the full episode.