TMW Systems, Cleveland, Ohio, kicked off its Transforum 2012 User Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Fla., Monday with just under 1,700 attendees. CEO Dave Wangler welcomed attendees at the event's opening session by noting it had grown tremendously since the first user conference 25 years ago with four customers in attendance.

Connectivity was the word of the day, as Wangler noted that connections between companies and industries had been driving innovation since the earliest times.

To reinforce that point, he referenced the 1980's-era PBS television series, "Connections" hosted by historian James Burke, who would tie together seemingly unrelated historical events as the impetus behind many technological breakthroughs as people or groups, acting in their own self-interest develop new technologies or ways of doing business that impact the technologies that follow.

For instance, a prolonged cold spell in Europe in the late 13th and 14th centuries led to changes in building design so more heat could be retained inside a house. That led to the use of glass in windows, which kept the cold out but allowed light in. Glass production required a lot of wood, and as wood became scarce, people found out they could burn coal to stay warm. Burning coal produced coke, which provided a source of inexpensive iron, which led to the industrial revolution.

Those same kinds of connections, seemingly unrelated, are at play in the technology and transportation worlds as well, Wangler said, with connections between production and commerce and buyers and sellers forming the foundation for innovation.

Modern mobile devices and social networks continue this pattern, connecting carriers to their customers and providers, of course, but also allowing fleets to be more connected to their drivers and their vehicles as well.

"In the coming years, I believe we're going to see continued improvements in asset utilization coming from greater connectivity between fleet operators and their drivers," Wangler said.

And shippers demand connectivity, he noted, requiring trucking companies to provide data on their shipments - often in real time.

"Transportation service providers are no longer expected to just move the freight. They are also expected to provide a continuous stream of information about that freight to a broad group of stakeholders," Wangler said.

New Products and Enhancements

Connectivity was the key element of new products and enhancements announced by TMW. Wangler announced the release of TMW's Mode Planner and its Transportation Modeler for diversified transportation providers, whether they be asset-based, brokerage operations or third-party logistics providers.

A number of transportation firms are "blurring or altogether erasing the lines between asset-based, asset-light and non-asset business strategies," he said, and Mode Planner allows carriers to plan customer shipments based on the lowest total transportation cost - whether that be using a carrier's own trucks or other carriers.

Transportation Modeler is a multi-modal freight network simulation and analysis tool that can be used as a stand-alone product. Users include transportation planners for major corporations, distributors, third-party logistics providers and asset-based carriers.

"It marries asset-based, 3PL and brokerage operations," Wangler said in a press briefing during the event. "Some of our customers have gotten into the brokerage business and others want to take care of their customers but may not want to handle the freight themselves."

Also introduced were improved capabilities and broader integration of the company's Appian Logistics Software, which it purchased last year. The enhancements include simplified map displays, mixed delivery and pickup activities at stop locations, and closer integration with TMW's transportation management software for Appian DirectRoute and improvements to ResourcePro and DRTrack.

There are new business intelligence tools for TMW's Optimization product line, including IDSC's Netwise, MatchAdvice, TripAlert and ExpertFuel products, as well as TMW Data Warehouse, Data Warehouse Explorer and Transport Analytics Visual Solutions.

For Data Warehouse, the improvements create a common analytical database across TMW product lines and third-party data sources.

TMW's TruckMate transportation management software was updated to allow more efficient intermodal and multi-modal operations and warehouse management capabilities.

The newest version of TMW's Innovative family of software for IBM i systems includes a native browser-based graphical user interface developed by Profound Logic Software. The new interface offers programmable screens and mouse control along with features such as dashboards and maps.

Other improvements to the Innovative line include:
- a Carrier411 interface for verifying carrier qualifications such as insurance coverage;
- integration between the Innovative database and TMW's Data Warehouse for access to business intelligence tools;
- integration with TMT Fleet Maintenance software for SQL servers;
- integration with Appian DirectRoute for multi-stop routing and integration of electronic log features offered by Qualcomm and PeopleNet;
- an expanded brokerage function and integration with QuickBooks.

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