Extreme weather events and natural disasters have the potential to significantly impact logistics planning and operations. In the hurricane or tornado season for instance, forecasts can be unreliable. A hurricane projected to follow path A, can turn around without warning and follow path B, sometimes in a matter of hours. How does United Parcel Service of America, Inc. (UPS), one of the world's largest package delivery companies brace for impact in such a short period so that customer deliveries still arrive at the agreed upon time? How does the delivery service company identify facilities that are best equipped to handle large, unplanned shipments? And, how does it figure out the most efficient way to deliver the packages to those facilities? UPS needs to do this for each potential scenario.
Additionally, with a surge in competition, coupled with a push for faster delivery service from customers, UPS needed a comprehensive solution to effectively plan its network and efficiently deliver packages as promised. A solution that would protect—and potentially increase—the company’s market share as well as customer satisfaction. A smart, integrated, flexible and global tool was needed, which would operate at scale and generate a plan to optimally run the network volume of 60 million packages, 1,500 facilities and 230,000 vehicles, trains and planes a day -- a solution that would provide a bird’s-eye view of package volume and distribution across its pickup and delivery network.
The Best-Laid Plan
Partnering with TCS, UPS undertook the goal of digitally transforming its global transportation planning system and collaborated to engineer an integrated route and hub application suite – Network Planning Tools (NPT). NPT forecasts package volume and weight based on analysis of historical data. The machine learning algorithm also analyzes past decisions of the company’s engineers and assesses the impact of those decisions on customer satisfaction and internal costs. NPT self-learns and provides route options that best define a happy customer.
NPT provides the engineers with options that UPS’ algorithms have vetted. Essentially, the algorithms understand the distribution of all the packages in every UPS trailer or plane and can figure out the best way to bypass a problematic location, while still meeting deadlines and not overwhelming other UPS facilities.
Playing it SAFe
For this strategic effort, TCS engaged with UPS on a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) program with defined development metrics. On a strict timeline, multiple scrum teams distributed across three time zones operated with defined SAFe agile engineering practices to build a functionally heavy and complex platform. Using smart design principles to handle numerous transactions in a single click, the platform leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze millions of data records to make decisions on the go. Hosted on an internal cloud platform with user friendly screens using angular and containerized microservices, NPT is fully devops-enabled, with all kind of automation and latest features like toggling to enable faster go-to-market.
A Smart Network Translates to Growth
NPT continues to evolve with new features added to UPS' armory of smart logistics network.
- Real-time assessments allow planners to quickly respond to sudden shifts in projected volumes -- online shopping during peak seasons or an e-commerce boom due to the COVID-19 pandemic, can all be easily addressed
- UPS has a sprawling global system of road, rail and air operations and NPT gives them the ability to promptly switch between modes
- NPT allows UPS to optimize staffing at sites, the number of transportation vehicles and operators for those vehicles based on the evaluations
- NPT enables UPS to utilize low-cost transportation modes to optimize UPS’ margins without affecting service or customer experience
- The global intelligent planning suite optimizes the flow of approximately 60 million packages in UPS’ global network each day
In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars in annual cost savings, UPS’ global transportation planning network is a future-ready platform. The agile and responsive platform gives the courier giant a competitive advantage along with growth potential as it is capable of handling a volume surge.