Meeting Today's Logistics Challenges with Tomorrow's Technologies

Meeting Today's Logistics Challenges with Tomorrow's Technologies

Bala Ganesh, Vice President, UPS Advanced Technology Group

Bala Ganesh, Vice President, UPS Advanced Technology Group

At UPS, we delivered on average 24.4 million packages and document a dayduring the second quarter of 2020, a testament to the growing role of the logistics provider during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a monumental task, only made possible thanks to our unrivaled global smart logistics network.

For context, my team’s job is to ensure this network keeps getting smarter so we can meet our commitments to our customers today and in the future. I run the UPS Advanced Technology Group (ATG), which through a diverse team of technologists, leverages cutting-edge technology for cutting-edge customer solutions and disruptive innovations.

In some cases, we work internally to advance or reimagine existing technologies. In others, we align with innovative vendors and partners to develop emerging technologies. Sometimes we even explore budding technologies and decide not to proceed with them because they aren’t right for our network — at least not yet.

This is how UPS operates at the intersection of customer needs and technology.

Committed to serving customers all over the world, we organize our work around four technology pillars: Autonomy and final-mile delivery, sensor and IoT technology, drones and robotics.

Autonomy and Final Mile

Automating certain aspects of the final mile of delivery is essential to our success in the e-commerce revolution spurring a surge in package delivery. If we deploy the right automation technologies in the right ways, we can efficiently meet soaring customer demand sustainably and safely.

Earlier this year, for example, UPS and self-driving technology company Waymo announced a first-of-its-kind partnership to pilot package pickup by autonomous vehiclesin the Metro Phoenix area. Waymo minivans now shuttle packages from The UPS Store locations to a local UPS sorting facility for processing. The tests are proving that by getting packages to our sortation facilities sooner and more frequently, we can create an opportunity for later drop-offs for next-day service—and add enormous value for our customers.

Technologies like these lead to faster and better service for our customers, especially small and medium-sized businesses looking to level the playing field with their larger competitors.

Sensor Technology and IOT

The use of sensor technology throughout our global smart logistics network epitomizes the Internet-of- Things (IoT) concept. Technologies in this space are the lynchpin of our customer-facing strategy, as they increase our customers’ visibility into their shipments and provide them unprecedented control over their deliveries.

One perfect example is UPS Premier, a new technology-enabled platform that improves service reliability and visibility for critical healthcare packages. UPS Premier, which uses next-generation sensor technology and monitoring, amounts to a network for healthcare packages within our broader package delivery network. In other words, it leverages package-tracking capabilities to enable priority flow paths, sortation, contingency actions and delivery services for critical healthcare shipments.

As a result, we are in our strongest position ever to support the healthcare industry, a priority business segment for UPS that will only grow in magnitude alongside the production of a potential COVID-19 vaccine and a wide range of biologics.

Drones

UPS has been exploring the use of drones in its network since 2016, when we began testing them for delivery of urgently needed medical supplies to remote, hard-to-reach locations. Over the years, we have provided input to the Federal Aviation Administration to help inform regulations governing drones in the United States.

Last year, however, UPS cemented its leadership position in the drone delivery industry when it launched the first ongoing, revenue-generating drone delivery service at WakeMed’s flagship hospital and campus in the Raleigh, N.C. A few months later, UPS established UPS Flight Forward (UPSFF), the first U.S. drone delivery airline. UPSFF earned the government’s first full Part 135 Standard certification to operate a drone airline.

Since then, we have launched other drone delivery services in the healthcare space, even branching out to deliver prescription medicines to a retirement community in Florida.

We’re developing UPS Flight Forward in a pragmatic way, and our customers fuel its continued growth. As we master different use cases for drone delivery, we gain experience that enables us to provide new solutions and faster service.

Robotics

The world of robotics and automation is intriguing, and the potential for such technologies is great within our network. UPS continues to explore the applications for multi-use robots as we build a strategy and explore pathways for them.

Our aim is to create financially viable use cases that benefit our customers, increase revenue and decrease costs. We’re excited about innovations on the horizon as robotics round out our global smart logistics network.

Customer First, People Led, Innovation Driven

For well over a century now, the people of UPS have put the customer first and leveraged innovative technology in service to them.

Today, we have as our company mantra “customer first, people led, innovation driven.” To us, these are not just words. They are the values that drive the UPS Advanced Technology Group in its pursuit of innovation.

We’re on a thrilling journey today, even as we plan for the next 100 years. We are meeting today’s logistics challenges with tomorrow’s technologies.

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