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OM in the News: UPS’s Peak Week

December 21, 2013

UPSUPS expects to ship more than 132 million parcels this week before Christmas. But it must keep a lid on costs. Maintaining profitability is especially difficult during peak season when delivery expenses rise. This year, UPS is adding 55,000 part-time holiday workers, leasing 23 extra planes, and effectively building a second trucking fleet to handle the seasonal package flow. None of this is cheap.

UPS’s delivery personnel, who can be someone’s hero—or scapegoat– makes all the difference. To get a sense of what peak season is like on the front lines, Businessweek (Dec.19, 2013) joined driver Kim Gardenier on her rounds. A 19-year UPS veteran, Kim set out on her journey in Wayne, N.J., on Nov. 25, the first official day of the season, at 8:35 a.m. About 7 ½ hours later, Kim had delivered 347 packages, including two flat-screen TVs, ice skates, a box of instant coffee, a guitar, and paper towels.

Kim could probably have unloaded another truckful of stuff. A lithe 44-year-old with moussed platinum hair, she spent the day gliding in and out of the mailrooms of suburban office buildings, the loading docks of strip mall stores, and apartment complexes. She maintained a consistently swift pace throughout the day, exchanging short bursts of small talk with her customers.

UPS is famous for requiring its drivers to follow 340 delivery and pickup methods, which include a directive to “politely inquire” about any shipments customers are making with competitors.

Classroom Discussion questions:

1. How does UPS optimize employee time?

2. Why is OM such an important part of the company?

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