Tour de FedEx

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NEW YORK -- Are you curious about the steps taken after you drop a package off in a FedEx box? I had a chance to get an inside look into the process courtesy of a visit to the 48th Street FedEx Express Station on 48th Street and Twelfth Avenue.

The facility, which has been in existence for about four years, is one of FedEx's busiest stations. It handles all FedEx Express packages, including FedEx SameDay, FedEx First Overnight, FedEx Priority Overnight, FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx 2Day and FedEx Express Saver. These packages are delivered to businesses and residences between 41st and 59th Streets and between the East River and the Hudson River.

Each day, eight trucks enter the facility from Newark airport, where a FedEx Express hub is located, carrying Express packages designated for these areas.

The busiest time of the day for the facility is from 5:30 a.m. (when the first sort occurs) to 8:30 a.m. (when the last sort occurs) Monday through Saturday. For the sorts, the trucks from Newark enter the facility and package handlers unload the packages and place them on a conveyor belt that runs throughout the entire facility.

The 20,000 packages that enter the facility daily are manually routed to the proper floor. The second floor handles deliveries for the West Side of the city and the basement handles deliveries for the East Side. So that the right package goes to the right destination, the packages are equipped with a special FedEx ZIP code to let the handlers know which way to push the package.

As the packages make their way on the belt, 150 couriers pick up the packages that will be delivered on their routes and deposit them into the 56 trucks that are parked beside the belt. About two couriers work on each truck. A courier's average delivery or pickup area can range from one building to two blocks due to density

Before placing the packages in their trucks in order of delivery, the couriers scan their packages with their FedEx PowerPads, which enable couriers to wirelessly send and receive near real-time information and updates from any location.

The FedEx PowerPad immediately transmits shipment information to FedEx networks for visibility directly to customers via www.fedex.com. Couriers can provide rate and shipment update information straight from the PowerPad.

One issue that I did notice was how disruptive it became when packages had incorrect addresses on them. In fact, at 7:30 a.m., processes stop as couriers and handlers meet and exchange packages at a "missort" meeting. While bad addresses is not that big of an issue for the facility, it was clear the process would run much smoother if this could be avoided.

Any other trends? Virginia Martinez, senior manager of domestic ground operations at the facility and the tour guide, said that right now it seems as though the facility is busier than ever. She said it is most likely because more employees are having their FedEx packages delivered to their offices.

"It seems as though more [consumer] packages here have office addresses rather than residence addresses on them," Ms. Martinez said. "It's probably easier for them to receive their packages there because they can be sure to sign for them."

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