Challenging Times Put Our Technologies to the Test

Bala Ganesh spoke at the Third Annual Digital Empowers Summit, hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which featured global business leaders who exemplify the changemaker spirit within the industries shaping our world. Digital Empowers, a national campaign led by TCS, celebrates the crucial role technology plays in improving our world. Visit us.digitalempowers.org for more information.

What a year it’s been! 

Nine months ago, with very little notice, the coronavirus pandemic threatened to upend global supply chains, testing the capabilities of shipping companies like UPS as they shouldered enormous package volume rarely seen outside of the peak holiday shopping season. Meanwhile, we prepared our network to continue supporting the urgent work of medical professionals as they combat this deadline virus. 

This year has confirmed that our unmatched global smart logistics network is up to the challenge. But we must ensure this network keeps getting smarter so we can meet our commitments to our customers today and in the future.

The UPS Advanced Technology Group (ATG) plays a huge role in this mission. Our job is to quickly identify, evaluate and implement technologies that generate customer benefits, network efficiencies and profitable revenue streams. 

Sometimes, we advance or repurpose well-established technologies like advanced analytics tools for use in our network. We also develop newer technologies like artificial intelligence or augmented reality for use in logistics. 

As we go about our work, we keep the UPS mantra “Customer First; People Led; Innovation Driven” close to our hearts. As you can see, everything we do is in service to the customer.

The ATG’s work is organized around four technology pillars: Autonomy and final mile delivery; sensor and IoT technology; drones; and robotics and automation.

Let’s take a closer look at each pillar below:

Autonomy and Final Mile

The e-commerce revolution we’ve seen over the last decade has sparked a surge in package delivery directly to consumers’ homes and businesses. Automating certain aspects of the final mile of delivery is essential to our success as we see more and more demand.

If we deploy automation technologies correctly, we can meet that customer demand efficiently, sustainably and safely. We’ve explored, tested and implemented lots of technologies in this space, including self-driving cars. We’ve made great inroads that will lead to faster and better service for our customers.

Sensor Technology and IoT

Sensors and other IoT technologies are the lynchpin of our customer-facing technology strategy as they increase our customers’ visibility into their shipments and provide them with better control over their deliveries.

UPS Premier, for example, is a new technology-enabled platform that improves service reliability and visibility for critical healthcare packages. UPS Premier uses next-generation sensor technology and monitoring to generate package-tracking capabilities, enabling 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.

Drones

UPS began testing drones for package delivery back in 2016, first for the delivery of urgently needed medical supplies to remote, hard-to-reach locations. In 2019, we launched the first ongoing, revenue-generating drone delivery service at WakeMed’s flagship hospital and campus in Raleigh, NC. 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 a related use case in which we use drones to deliver prescription medicines to a retirement community in Florida.

We’re developing UPS Flight Forward in a pragmatic way and letting our customers’ needs guide us. The customers fuel the continued growth of UPS Flight Forward. 

Robotics and Automation

The potential for robotics and automation is great within the UPS network. We will continue exploring applications for multi-use robots as we build a strategy and explore use cases for them with a goal to create financially viable use cases that benefit our customers, increase revenue and decrease costs. 

Stand by for exciting news in this space!

Lessons Learned

If there’s one thing 2020 has taught us, it’s that life can serve up some disruptive surprises, and times like these test our mettle. I could not be more proud of the UPS response to the global pandemic this year. We’re rising to the challenge, and it’s invigorating to be in the thick of such efforts.

The UPS ATG recognizes that our work is far from over. The pandemic rages on, and we must be prepared to support the medical professionals in their fight. This knowledge underpins our drive to bolster the UPS network with the latest and best technologies.

Challenges like the ones we face today test our network. But they also inspire us to push forward.