Magazine Article | March 26, 2014

UPS' Unparalleled Mobile Strategy

Source: Honeywell

By Brian Albright, Field Technologies magazine

UPS has mastered field mobility and recently added route optimization software that will save millions in fuel costs.

UPS is a pioneer in mobile computing and delivery automation, having debuted its first DIAD (Delivery Information Acquisition Device) mobile computer in 1991. The company has continued to break new ground in mobile technology and real-time supply chain tracking in the ensuing decades. There are now some 108,899 DIADs in use around the world, which help provide the data to manage the 47.5 million tracking requests the company receives each business day.

So when a company like UPS — which has been doing so much with mobility for so long, so well, and on such a large scale — finds a way to further improve the flow of packages through its network, this effort is worth a closer examination. In this case, UPS spent more than five years developing a new platform to use the data it collects (in this case, very, very Big Data) in a new route optimization solution. While it was at it, it also upgraded its venerable DIAD devices to a smaller, lighter platform — for the first time, using commercial off-the-shelf technology.

In 2013, UPS announced that it had launched its On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation (ORION) solution, new route optimization software that has saved the company in excess of 1.5 million gallons of fuel in its first year. While the system was deployed on 10,000 routes last year, its development was a decade in the making.

Shaving Miles Off Routes
More than 10 years ago, UPS launched what it calls its Package Flow Technology (PFT) solution, which moved the company from manual driver dispatching to an electronic dispatch system. “Customer data flowed into the package operation centers, we married that data with a dispatch plan, and produced a manifest that is downloaded each day to the drivers’ DIAD devices,” says Jackie Woods, director of IT at UPS. “It worked very well. The drivers understood exactly what packages they had to deliver. Prior to that, they were working from hand-written sheets with address ranges and shelf positions.”

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