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How Does FedEx/UPS/DHL/and The Like Work?

Thu May 18, 2006 1:31 am

I've always wondered how organizations like FedEx, UPS, DHL, and the like functioned....especially with their overnight service. It seems so big and complex, I wonder how they deal with delays due to weather, heavy airport traffic, etc... All I know is that they have hubs of their own (Memphis being one for FedEx) but then, does it go to different airplanes/trucks? Does anyone care to shed some light.

PS: Before I get flamed, I did do a search but nothing came up.
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RE: How Does FedEx/UPS/DHL/and The Like Work?

Thu May 18, 2006 1:49 am

Indeed these operations are very complex and strong management of resources is important.

The systems are traditionally called a hub and spoke system with the hub being the focus of the operation. Due to the complexity of the operation there may be several hubs involved around the country and world, each able to stand on its own (operation wise) and yet interconnected as well.

The drivers or couriers go around each city picking up and delivering the packages. Then they all return to their offices each night with the packages all labeled and ready to go. They are all consolidated in trucks or aircraft containers depending on the destination. Planes or trucks either originate in a city or may be shared with other cities. Typically the operation is at night but many of the company have daylight sort and traffic flow activities.

The packages all then fly/truck to a main hub sort operation where they are unloaded and sorted according to destination. In each hub there are lots of conveyor belts and high tech solutions to speed up the operation and accurately sort the packages. In a matter of a few hours, many packages are sorted and then loaded back into containers and put back on the destination truck and aircraft to the final destination.

As far as difficulties that can arise during the course of a day, there are many. Weather can contribute to traffic and airport delays. Again since many of these operations are at night, there is less other traffic that hampers them, but they also have nighttime noise issues to deal with as well. Mechanical issues occur but by having a good maintenance department and operating good equipment help minimize this. Many companies strategically place floater aircraft around the system that can swoop in and take over extra duties if an aircraft should fail at the last minute or accomodate overload situations.

While the operations are quite complex, this is what it involves at its basic level. As I said before, strong organization and management are key to a successful operation.

I worked for 10 years for Emery Worldwide in operations, so have lots of experience in what can go right and wrong. Hope this helps you understand what goes on.
Hurry...Before the parade passes by !
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RE: How Does FedEx/UPS/DHL/and The Like Work?

Thu May 18, 2006 1:53 am

Quoting B777A340Fan (Thread starter):
I've always wondered how organizations like FedEx, UPS, DHL, and the like functioned....

To give you a short and simplified answer the big importance is to be on time. Since Norway is a small country it is easier to follow the logic than maybe other places but they all follow the same logic. The planes arrive in the morning and the cargo is unloaded, and sorted out to every routes. The plane is supposed to land at the exact time every morning. Then the routes which deliver and picks up new shipments have a certain time in which they are supposed to be back at in the afternoon. If one courier is too late, the plane will leave on time so there want be a delay further down in the system. There is a slack in the system so even if the plane doesn't go on target they can still manage to make it. But with severe delay from the airplane, it puts a huge pressure on the system to get everything delivered. And sometimes it is impossible to make the connection. But as I said from the start, it is important to be on time.
Dream no small dream; it lacks magic. Dream large, then go make that dream real - Donald Douglas