As you can imagine, transporting a package from one side of the globe to the other requires an efficient operation. An example: shipping from Tulsa, Okla., to Hong Kong. This could involve three modes of transport – road, air and rail – and a highly organized sorting process.
Now, instead of considering one package in transit, let's think about shipping upward of 14 million packages daily – shipping in all directions with varying delivery time frames. The logistical magnitude is mind-boggling.
It all starts with the pickup and ends with a trusty UPS driver in a package car pulling up to your business or driveway. But we bet you didn't know these five key processes that happen in between to make it all work.
1. A ground package has about nine "touch points" – meaning physical handling – during the delivery process. Most of these are in the loading and sorting phases.
2. When it comes to transport, UPS is synonymous with planes, trucks and package cars. Yet "there are some packages that go by rail," says Larry Gittleman, a UPS industrial engineering manager. "At night, after a sort, packages may be put on a train." An advantage of rail: It falls in line with UPS's commitment to sustainability, reducing our carbon footprint. So it really is a matter of planes, trains and automobiles – plus trucks and ocean vessels.
3. Packages designated for air travel typically go to one of six airports. They are: Rockford, Ill.; Philadelphia; Ontario, Calif.; Dallas; Des Moines, Iowa; or Louisville, Ky., the home of UPS Worldport®. "From here, they go through a finer sort before being transported to their final destination," Gittleman says.
4. Shipment status matters. Accurate tracking is one of the most important aspects of shipping. How do you get those status updates? A special code with a tracking number is automatically scanned at each stage of transportation or sorting, which allows UPS – and you – to track any package in the system. "The code acts like a GPS for your package," Gittleman says.
Packages may also be scanned by a "dim-weight" machine, which measures both package dimensions and weight. This information is then automatically compared with the information provided by the shipper. Read more about dimensional weight in this article, "Avoid billing corrections at the outset."
5. Sorting matters at the local UPS hub, too. Packages unloaded from a UPS truck typically undergo two or three sorting phases, the first splitting packages in eight to 10 directions – taking into account their geographic destination and the type of service requested. "Each sorting phase gets finer, all the way down to the packages' final destinations," Gittleman says.
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