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Ultimate logistics challenges revealed

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Learn how selecting the right shipping solutions and tools can make all the difference.

Even a mildly rabid college basketball fan can appreciate the combination of dedication, hard work and painstaking preparation teams need to survive March Madness® and compete in the NCAA® Final Four®.

From vaccines to basketball floors to pies – and more, UPS delivers.

What fans may not know is that the floors those teams play on go through a process almost as rigorous and a journey almost as long.

The court used for the 2013 Final Four in Atlanta started as strips of the finest northern maple hardwood in a mill more than 1,000 miles away in Amasa, Mich. Workers at Connor Sport Court lovingly graded, planed and built enough rectangular sections to cover more than 7,200 square feet of the Georgia Dome.

Just as much care went into shipping. For the trip to Atlanta, the sections were loaded onto a UPS truck with precise temperature and humidity controls to prevent warping, and special padding to prevent the slightest damage that might affect the appearance of the court or the bounce of a ball. The truck, emblazoned with the words "Road to the Final Four," stopped at several cities and colleges along the way, spreading excitement about the upcoming tournament.

Why so much effort for a floor? "The court is the signature piece. It's what everyone will see watching the Final Four," says L.J. Wright, director of Championships and Alliances for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which runs the tournament. "Having UPS in the mix allows us to have the court delivered on schedule, and it allows us to bring people together from all over the country to really feel they're a part of the Final Four."

While every shipment is a priority, some items just won't fit in a standard box, envelope or crate. They're outsized, highly perishable, supremely time-sensitive or all of the above. UPS specialists don't shy away from such challenges – they live for them. "We're always looking for ways to demonstrate the capabilities that we bring to the logistical supply chain," says Ron Rogowski, vice president of UPS Global Sponsorships.

Takeaway: Whatever the size, shape, urgency and budget, finding the best shipping solution is key. Investigate smart (and creative) options to get your shipments delivered. Read more about how UPS helped deliver the Final Four floors.

Care, where it's needed most
Of all the areas that demand sophisticated, innovative shipping, none is more urgent than healthcare and pharmaceuticals. When pharmacy retailer Walgreen Co. donated 375,000 doses of vaccine to help Laos stave off an oncoming flu season in 2012, the trip from Louisville, Ky., to Laos covered 9,000 miles by plane and truck. Throughout the journey, the temperature of the vaccine had to be precisely maintained and monitored.

Exclusive to UPS, the PharmaPort™ 360 kept the vaccine from varying more than 1.5 degrees Celsius during the trip. Specialists at the UPS global control towers monitored conditions inside the container each step of the journey.

To prevent transportation and customs clearance issues from delaying transit from country to country, "our team on the ground worked with customs to break down barriers," says Bee Koong Lim, director of healthcare marketing for Asia Pacific, UPS. "It was the first shipment of seasonal flu vaccine into Laos. It showed how logistics can save lives."

But that was just the first shipment. This past May, UPS again delivered flu vaccines to Laos, in a partnership that included the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and bioCSL, an Australian firm that manufactures vaccines. This time the three-day movement went by truck from Parkville, Australia, to Melbourne, then by air to Bangkok, Thailand, and by truck to Vientiane, Laos.

"Our logistics experts create contingency plans from A to Z. If something happens that could cause a delay, we've got plans in place and we're ready to take action," says Karen Mothner, manager of integrated communications for UPS.

Takeaway: For extra-sensitive shipments, use tools that maintain precise temperature and quality controls throughout the journey. Watch an inspiring video about transporting the vaccine.

Great pie, great solution
Not all ultimate shipping challenges revolve around high-profile sporting events or airlifts of medical supplies. In the end, there's no such thing as a small challenge when it comes to making sure your customers receive your products safe and sound.

Consider the Hawaiian pie bakery, The Right Slice. In 2009, Wisconsinite Sandy Poehnelt fell in love with Hawaii on vacation and decided to stay. She started selling pie by the slice at a local arts festival. Soon, residents were just as head-over-heels for Poehnelt's fruit and cream pies, baked with the freshest ingredients from local farms.

Like most entrepreneurs, Poehnelt finds herself wearing multiple hats, from head baker to business manager to closing up shop at night. "It is a lot of responsibility," she says. "At the end of the day, it's on me."

But when customers asked if she could ship her pies to the mainland, Poehnelt needed expert help. Joel Groomes, general manager of The UPS Store® on Kauai, developed a custom packing solution with pie tin-shaped Styrofoam, frozen gel packs and packing foam to ensure that the pies arrive intact, by UPS 2nd Day Air®, and just as tasty in Kansas City as Kauai.

"Sandy bakes her pies from scratch," Groomes explains. That attention to detail deserved the same care when it came to shipping methods. "They are a custom item, so we had to create a custom solution to get them where they needed to go.

Takeaway: The UPS Store can serve as a partner for small business challenges, from printing and packaging to finding the best way to get your products where they need to go. See a video of Poehnelt's story.

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