UPS, DHL Streamline Sorting, Trim Delivery Time

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If you think your packages are getting to customers faster, you may be right.


UPS and DHL announced initiatives last week that have streamlined sorting processes and shortened the time it takes for packages to reach major cities. For UPS, delivery of more than half a million packages daily in its U.S. ground package network has been accelerated by a day or more.


The Atlanta-based carrier said the enhancements focus on 11 major metropolitan areas but affect more than 3 million ZIP code pairings. The upgrades, made over the past several months, improve service for 1.2 million customers without changing pickup and delivery hours. The 11 areas are New York City, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Philadelphia/eastern Pennsylvania, San Antonio and Washington, DC.


The faster deliveries benefit daily package pickup customers as well as general consumers who ship via UPS or The UPS Store. Shipments between New York and Dallas now are guaranteed to arrive in three business days instead of four, while ground shipments between Atlanta and New York will take two business days instead of three.


"The biggest benefit for consumers here is that if something was sent in three or four days it will now be sent in two or three," said Satish Jindel, a transportation consultant at SJ Consulting Group, Pittsburgh. "It allows customers to slide down the scale from Express to Ground service at a lower cost without sacrificing delivery time."


To promote the upgrade, UPS plans a national and local campaign of radio and television spots, online and print ads and direct mail. Customers can view the improved transit times at ups.com. The campaign began last week, and direct mail pieces, which will target businesses in the 11 metropolitan areas, will be sent this month.


Meanwhile, DHL, Plantation, FL, said it started a route optimization effort to help its facilities map out optimum delivery routes, streamline sorting processes and balance daily loads. Using customized software, the initiative will let DHL facility managers develop optimized routes so the composition of the couriers' delivery areas are more consistent. The software also will give DHL managers information to evaluate each facility's daily schedule and reduce planning time.


The program will be implemented at 340 DHL sites nationally in the next nine months. The installation began in January and is expected to be completed by September.


"This ... is about optimizing delivery routes so packages arrive earlier in the day," Jindel said. "This will improve the productivity of workers because if they deliver packages earlier, they may be able to deliver a few extra packages, and DHL will see some cost savings."


Also last week, UPS said it would retrofit much of its jet fleet with a computerized display system to improve safety and reduce fuel use. The program is thought to be the first of its type attempted by any airline, cargo or passenger, "and basically reflects our belief that this technology is ready and should be applied to jets now in service," said Bob Lekites, vice president of UPS Airline and International Operations.


UPS said this will help pilots with navigation; let them call up the most complete and accurate long-range weather maps; warn of potential collisions on the ground; push the maintenance logbook into the digital age and place the entire flight manual within easy electronic recall.


DHL also is undergoing fleet renewal, a phased replacement of older, smaller delivery vehicles with new, larger-capacity and more fuel-efficient step vans. The new step vans offer more than twice the capacity, allowing easier loading, greater flexibility for pickups and more room for couriers to maneuver and access shipments.


Jindel said the announcements are the parcel companies' continuing efforts to realign their networks to improve service quality and gain competitive advantages. For example, he said, UPS cut its transit times in 2003, and between 2002 and 2005, "FedEx Ground has improved transit times by one day in 48 percent of its ground lanes." UPS extended its U.S. premium early morning delivery territory last year by more than 7,200 ZIP codes, serving 19,200 ZIP codes in total.


Jindel also said the big carriers aren't just looking at the other parcel carriers as competitors, but the "less-than-truckload carriers, which can handle one-day deliveries."


Melissa Campanelli covers postal news, CRM and database marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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