There are many companies that are doing some really innovative things. But there is one company that just reached a huge sustainability goal thanks to decades of investment in technology. If I had to bet, I would guess that most of my readers know this company’s iconic brown trucks driving around delivering packages. I am referring to the United Parcel Service of America, better known simply as “UPS.” But I would also bet that most people would not know how focused this company is on technology and sustainability.
As of this month, UPS has reached its goal of driving 1 billion miles with its alternative fuel and advanced technology fleet. The company set a goal to reach 1 billion miles driven with alternative fuels by the end of 2017. it’s pretty impressive that it’s August 2016, and UPS seems to have already met its goal more than a year early!
UPS calls its fleet of more than 7,200 alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles its “rolling laboratory.” You can’t help but like this verbiage, “rolling lab,” because UPS is recognizing that alternative fuels and advanced technologies are not one-size-fit-all and some testing needs to be done to figure out what works best in different places and in different situations.
The global “rolling lab” is one way UPS’ dedication to innovation is helping transform the commercial transportation and logistics space. And its efforts are paying some really nice dividends as well. Recently the company released its 14th annual sustainability report, which reports that after driving 1 billion miles with its alternative fuel and advanced technology fleet, UPS has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 370,000 metric tons and avoided more than 134 million gallons in conventional gas and diesel.
But before we get to all the good stuff, and talk about the technology that has helped UPS reach this critical milestone, let’s take a brief look down memory lane at the company’s history of technological innovation and adoption.
UPS began back in 1907 as the “American Messenger Co.” It was the brain child of two teenage entrepreneurs. Leap forward to the 1920s and one of the company’s most important innovations was the adoption of conveyer belt technology.
This system foreshadowed other technologies that would help UPS create operational efficiencies several decades later.
In the 1990s, UPS adopted new operational technologies, including handheld delivery information acquisition devices called “Diads” and Web-based tools to manage supply chains. The proprietary Diad devices helped employees capture and upload delivery information to the UPS network. The solution allowed drivers to stay connected with operational centers and keep on top of changing pickup schedules and traffic situations.
UPS has invested billions of dollars in technology development and infrastructure since the ‘90s because it recognized that the world was changing. Thanks in part to this consistent investment, UPS has become a leader in global supply-chain management.
One reason it has been so successful is because the company recognized that global distribution and logistics involves managing the movement of goods as well as managing the information that travels with those goods. In other words, UPS knows the value of Big Data.
Today, through its “on-road integrated optimization and navigation” system (or “Orion”), the company leverages fleet telematics and advanced algorithms to reduce the number of miles driven.
In the words of Mike Britt, UPS’ director of automotive: “the greenest mile is the mile never driven.”
So, any technology that can improve the performance of UPS’ fleet, for instance, by improving scheduling and routing, has been a step closer toward meeting its sustainability goals.
UPS says when its Orion solution is fully implemented, the technology will help it avoid 100 million miles and 10 million gallons of fuel every year, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 100,000 metric tonnes annually.
All in all, by the end of 2016, the company says it will have invested more than $750 million in alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles and fueling stations since 2009.
Key takeaways are that in meeting your company’s sustainability goals, you must focus on innovation, be willing to adapt and tailor technology solutions, and find ways to collect and leverage Big Data.
UPS’ commitment to reducing its impact on the environment through technology has helped it succeed in many ways. And the company’s success is a good thing for the rest of us, too.
As the demand for goods continues to grow, we need to work together to leverage IoT (Internet of Things) technology in a way that reduces the impact transportation and logistics has on the environment.
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