- UPS has a new navigation system for its 60,000 drivers.
- UPSNav makes delivery drivers’ lives easier, but it also has the potential to cut up to $15 million a year in spending, Juan Perez, UPS Chief Information and Engineering Officer, told Business Insider.
- The new system follows UPS’s massive tech build-up in recent years, which also includes a push into drone delivery and automated package facilities.
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UPS hasn’t been shy about technology investments in recent years. The delivery titan is investing millions to increase its package-sortation capacity by seven-fold from 2017 to 2020, thanks to a number of new or refurbished automated sort facilities. That equates to about 400,000 additional parcels sorted per hour.
And UPS is also diving into drone deliveries of medical supplies and samples. It’s making five to 10 drone deliveries around WakeMed’s medical campus in Raleigh, North Carolina — cutting the transit time to move life-saving materials from up to 30 minutes to just over three minutes.
Those investments have been in flashy tech sectors like automation and drones — as well as the more seemingly mundane. In an interview last week with Business Insider, Juan Perez, UPS Chief Information and Engineering Officer, highlighted one new tool that’s saving the package giant millions: a new navigation system custom-built for its drivers.
UPS drivers make an average of 120 stops per day, so optimizing their routes is key to saving the company money. Less driving means less money spent on gas and fixing vehicles. It also means more time delivering packages and less time stuck in traffic.
In total, UPS can save up to $15 million per year if each driver could shave a mile off their route every day. Some drivers cover up to 200 miles in a single day.
It’s not the first time UPS has dialed in on the mundanities of driver activity to save serious cash. In the early 2010s, UPS homed in on left turns. Now, just 10% of turns are left turns, a move the company claims helps them move 350,000 more packages a year.
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When it comes to day-to-day navigation, UPS drivers have used “tribal knowledge,” Perez said. But the best route is always changing due to traffic, construction, weather, and a host of other headaches.
Commercial mapping apps were also commonly used, but they aren’t ideal either. “If you plug in the address to the New York Stock Exchange, that tool will just drop you off at the front of the building,” Perez said. “But in the case of UPS, that’s not useful for us. We need to know where drivers need to go to make pickups and deliveries.”
As of late 2018, some 20,000 UPS drivers have been transitioning to a tool called UPSNav. By the end of 2019, up to 50,000 drivers will use UPS’s proprietary app. (Not all 60,000 UPS drivers need the system, Perez said. Drivers who work in dense urban areas might park their truck on one block for the whole day, but those in rural or suburban areas might need a full day of directions.)
It’s an update to a six-year-old technology called On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation (ORION). ORION provided drivers with the optimal organization of which stops they had to make.
UPSNav now provides turn-by-turn navigation based on information available at the beginning of the day, and soon it will also update throughout the day with changes based on traffic.
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UPS developed the solution in-house with support from third-party products, the names of which UPS did not share. The company also relied on its own drivers to create the tool.
“Although I’m a technologist, and I believe in the value of technology in our company, I can tell you that technology works best at UPS when we compliment the drivers’ vast knowledge with the technology that we give them,” Perez said.
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