For decades, software designed to manage rail shipments has been a mixed bag. Applications could deliver the basics but would take over a year to learn, and even longer before a user truly feels proficient. Others were confusing to navigate and incorporated numerous steps to deliver the information users most wanted. What if there was a more intuitive TMS for rail that anticipated users’ needs and made it easier to manage all things freight rail?
The TransmetriQ Rail Management System is that software. It’s a user-friendly system that is simple to learn and interact with, and it aids users with complex work. Developing the RMS to have an optimized user experience (UX) was one of our highest priorities when creating the tool, and we went through many steps to ensure a seamless experience.
To start the UX design process, we conducted voice of the customer research to gain insight into what users look for in a TMS and what some of their frustrations are. From there, we built features to solve these problems and let actual rail shippers test them. We repeated these steps a few times until there was a refined, simple UX that users felt had a better flow and functionality than systems they’d been using for many years.
Our UX designers also stressed the difference between usability and UX when creating the RMS. A tool can be usable and help a user complete a task, but if more time is spent figuring out how to do the task or trying to understand the software, the user ends up frustrated. One defining feature that separates RMS from other systems in the field is how we have simplified processes to the point where they are intuitive to users, requiring less effort to complete tasks.
Simplifying Rail Shipping: Creating a Bill of Lading (BOL)
Another way our UX team looked at the design process was to try and create a tool that someone with little rail experience would be able to operate. Eliminating that barrier to entry makes anyone on a team capable of operating the system. For example, rail operates on complex terminology, systems and location information. Railroads use standard Point Location Codes, or SPLCs, to specify station locations. Previously, when creating a BOL, shippers had to figure out the exact SPLC of their shipping location, which our customers informed us was time consuming. As a result, RMS allows customers to type in the standard kind of address they are used to, and using embedded rail industry knowledge, RMS will identify the SPLC automatically. This is one of many examples of RMS leveraging embedded rail knowledge and user experience design to make things simpler for shippers.
Another example of this is our automatic party lookup. In our electronic bill of lading tool, we embedded an integration to the Railinc CIF database that allows users to search for existing parties and select data that meets industry standards, all without leaving the RMS interface. This eliminates manual work creating the shipping party while developing a bill of lading (BOL) and, most importantly, eliminates rework after BOLs are submitted. Similarly, the automatic commodity lookup feature allows users to search the database for both hazmat and non-hazmat commodities. This ensures that railroads recognize the commodity information.
Lastly, we created what is essentially a route building assistant within RMS. Our route builder guides a shipper through the creation of a route from origin to destination, ensuring that the route is valid. Essentially, if you know you’re going from point A to point B, RMS will help build the correct route for you. RMS even provides a list of marks to choose from, ensuring you don’t have to search for or input carrier and interchange data manually.
A One-Stop-Shop for Rail Shipping
A feature that enhances overall UX is the “one-stop-shop” component of the RMS. Instead of going through the tedious process of accessing different systems, websites, and spreadsheets to facilitate shipping, the RMS houses all of freight rail’s needs under one roof. The customizable interface allows users to prioritize the features they need so they can be seen at a glance, which creates a much more seamless experience than constantly changing tabs and programs to access necessary data.
By understanding why and how a user wants to do something, we created the TransmetriQ RMS with UX at the forefront. While we wanted features to be new and unique, we needed to prioritize their ease of use. This way, we can ensure every user can access insights to help them compete and win.
Learn more about RMS here.