Carrier Portal Options with SAP Transportation Management

Having a carrier portal is a rather common requirement for companies that are looking to implement a Transportation Management System (TMS). Fortunately, SAP has a number of solutions that can help provide your carriers with a web portal that they can access via the Internet and utilize to display and edit critical transportation-related information as well as collaborate with you in a typical end-to-end transportation management cycle.

SAP Transportation Management (TM) solution has included an external-facing carrier portal since version 9.1 called the Collaboration Portal. In its current state, the Collaboration Portal includes the following main features:

  • Freight Order Management
    • Ability for carriers to see current and historical shipments (aka freight orders)

    • Ability for carriers to accept and reject outstanding tenders that you have sent to the carrier
    • Ability for carriers to report actual “events” for things like arrival and departure at a given stop
  • Freight Agreement Management
    • Ability for carriers to see the freight agreements (aka contracts) that they currently have in place with your company, along with detailed rates structure in terms of line haul, fuel surcharge, accessorial, etc.

    • Ability for carriers to submit updates to their freight contracts, such as rate changes.
  • Freight Settlement
    • Ability for carriers to review completed shipments (aka freight orders) and associated freight charges that have been calculated in SAP TM
    • Ability for carriers to either accept the calculated charges and initiate the freight payment process or dispute them by filing a dispute management case

The biggest advantage of the Collaboration Portal solution compared to the SAP Logistics Business Network (LBN) solution that we will discuss further in this blog post is the fact that the Collaboration Portal does not require any additional SAP licensing on top of the SAP TM licensing. However, the Collaboration Portal is only available on the AnyDB stack version of SAP TM and it is not available on the S4 stack version of SAP TM. As we’ve discussed in our previous SAP S/4HANA Embedded TM – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) blog post, the future of SAP TM is clearly on the S4 stack with AnyDB stack seeing its last and final release with version 9.6. In that sense, implementing the Collaboration Portal today is generally not a good long-term solution and should be avoided if possible.

This brings us to the Logistics Business Network (LBN) solution from SAP, which is in many ways a modern successor to the Collaboration Portal. Generally speaking, LBN provides the same functional coverage as the Collaboration Portal (that we listed above) plus 2 additional key components:

  • Slot Booking (aka Dock Appointment Scheduling)
    • Ability for carriers to see a list of available time “slots” at the pick-up location that they can then book

  • EDI Connectivity
    • LBN allows you to onboard carriers for EDI connectivity – EDI 204 (outbound tender request), EDI 990 (inbound tender confirmation), EDI 214 (inbound shipment status).

The EDI Connectivity bullet point warrants additional explanation. SAP has partnered with a company called project44 to provide “out-of-the-box” EDI connectivity to a large number of carriers. Of course, not all carriers are part of the project44 network and you can work with SAP to determine which carriers are already connected and which ones are not. For those carriers that are not yet connected, SAP can work with you to get them connected for a nominal fee. Based on our experience in North America specifically, project44 has very good coverage when it comes to LTL carriers, lagging slightly in their FTL coverage and more so in their “specialized” carrier coverage, such as bulk carriers. To be fair, this is a pretty typical picture with most transportation EDI “networks”. At the time of writing of this blog post SAP is still finalizing the integration between project44 and LBN, but given the latest information we should see the full EDI 204/990/214 coverage be available in Q2/Q3 of 2020.

It is important to note that LBN is a separately licensed SAP product, which is not included in your SAP TM licensing. As usual, work with your SAP Account Executive to get the details.

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