A&P 2007 - UPS strategists envision future for drivable pods, self-dispatch

By: | at 07:00 PM | Channel(s): Logistics  

By Paul Scott Abbott, AJOTSelf-dispatch of parts to end users. Mode optimization through telematics. Up-charges for daytime deliveries. High-speed trains composed of individual drivable pods. New energy sources powering transit vehicles made from advanced materials.As strategists for transportation logistics leader UPS reflect upon a century of company history and prepare for the 100 years to come, such notions are being discussed not as nebulous concepts but rather as foreseeable realities.
When Kurt Kuehn, senior vice president of worldwide sales and marketing for UPS, addressed National Industrial Transportation League and Intermodal Association of North America leaders in November in Atlanta, he stated, “If 100 years of history has taught us anything, it’s that you have to constantly adapt and transform to thrive.
“To be fair,” said Kuehn, who on Jan. 1 is to become chief financial officer of UPS, “I think we’ve made more progress in terms of transportation and technology and economic growth in the last 100 years than any other period in the history of the world.”
Kuehn made that observation after noting that horse-drawn vehicles moved through New York City streets at an average of 11.5 mph in 1907 (the year UPS was founded in a Seattle basement as a bicycle messenger company), while automobiles today crawl through New York City at a daytime average of 6 mph.
Against such a challenge-filled framework, the UPS strategy team has dedicated itself to scenario planning, research and development work and technology assessment.
Indeed, if projections hold true, there may soon be a change in the latter part of the title of Bob Stoffel, UPS senior vice president for corporate strategy, engineering and supply chain.
“Progress will continue, accelerated by dynamic technologies and information management,” Stoffel told the American Journal of Transportation. “There will be a continued migration to a ‘demand chain’ rather than a ‘supply chain,’ where products get manufactured and delivered based on real demand rather than forecasted demand.
“Build-to-order will be supported through virtually all product categories, with delivery to buyers in days rather than months or years,” Stoffel continued. “Visibility of goods in motion will be foundational to information systems that will keep track of the goods and allocate them through all phases of production, distribution, post-sale support and de-manufacturing at end of life.
“Technology will advance to allow goods to self-identify the mode of transport and accelerate or decelerate based on the demand need,” he added. “Dynamic routing will adjust arrival to be available just in time to take advantage of consumer trends and geo needs.
“At the same time,” Stoffel said, “machinery and consumer products will ‘self-diagnose’ and end-user installable parts will ‘self-dispatch’ to the need before any failure would impact production or end-user functionality.
Stoffel said he believes that, to reduce congestion and improve environmental impacts, delivery through all modes will be consolidated, reducing the number of suppliers in the marketplace.
“Advances in technology, assisted by telematics, will result in the most efficient execution of transportation to optimize mode, travel paths and delivery sequences to meet service levels,” he said. “This will drive efficient and cost-effective operations and reduce energy consumption and environmental impacts.”
The future, according to Stoffel, will still be multimodal and “suggests balancing strategies for both regional and global product-sourcing to shorten supply chains and alter mode requirements.”
“UPS has advanced that the dialogue across mode and assorted government entities – local, state, federal – begin now in a collaborative fashion,” he said.
Solutions may include a combination of tolls and taxation to effectively increase transportation costs during peak congestion periods and, therefore, offer incentives to carriers to transport and deliver during off-p

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For more than a quarter of a century, Paul Scott Abbott has been writing and shooting images for the American Journal of Transportation, applying four decades of experience as an award-winning journalist. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, with a master’s magna cum laude from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Abbott has served as president of chapters of the Propeller Club of the United States, Florida Public Relations Association and Society of Professional Journalists. Abbott honed his skills on several daily newspapers, including [em]The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Richmond (Va.) News Leader, Albuquerque Journal and (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel, and was editor and publisher of The County Line, a weekly newspaper he founded in suburban Richmond, Va.[/em] A native Chicagoan, he is a member of American Mensa and an ever-optimistic fan of the Chicago Cubs.