UPS Will Conquer Its Biggest Shipping Day With Temps And Automation

While the second-to-last Monday before Christmas is usually the busiest shipping day of the year for the U.S. Postal Service and FedEx, for UPS the biggest day is today, the last Monday before the holiday. The company has invested a lot of money and technology in making sure that there isn’t a repeat of last year’s massive delay caused by bad weather and a flurry of last-minute shopping.

Today, the Wall Street Journal tells us, UPS will deliver 34 million packages to homes and businesses nationwide. Its biggest weapon in fighting against a repeat of the Christmas 2013 disaster is automation and idiot-proofing. That might sound mean, but part of what helps all of the major carriers play Santa to the entire nation is an army of temporary workers who help deal with the package volume during the important holiday period.

One new system put in place this year tells workers which chute that a given package should go in, rather than depending on workers to memorize hundreds of ZIP codes. UPS says that it allows facilities to process 15% more packages with the same number of workers, and to cut the training period for new employees in sorting facilities from a few weeks to only a couple of days.

If another massive winter storm sneaks up on the country during a busy shipping period, UPS says that it will be ready: the new system also automatically re-routes packages around bad weather, rather than depending on workers to learn about and remember which areas have bad weather and where the packages should go instead.

UPS has other weapons, too: they’ve turned the parking lots of some of their facilities into temporary sorting centers, boosting their capacity even if it means a chilly workplace for some sorters.

A Test for UPS: One Day, 34 Million Packages [Wall Street Journal]