A powerful tool guides UPS drivers as they navigate thousands of routes daily, a tool that also enables the delivery service to offer more options to customers.
UPS's ORION platform (for On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation), launched in 2013, uses expansive fleet telematics, advanced algorithms, customized online map data and details on packages set for delivery to give drivers the best routes to follow.
"ORION thinks of the whole day: It runs 200,000 different simulations for a single route, and it does it in less than 10 seconds," says Jack Levis, senior director of process management at UPS.
Levis says ORION's roots date back to 2003, when the company deployed package flow technology that used data modeling to find efficient routes. That system helped UPS cut the distance its trucks travel by 85 million miles per year, so Levis and other company officials thought they could use a similar approach to gain even greater efficiencies.
The ORION project presented a number of challenges. For example, algorithms had to consider a host of factors, such as promised delivery times, says Jackie Woods, director of application development. UPS also had to customize its mapping capabilities because off-the-shelf tools didn't include certain details on routes that were important for deliveries. (She says telematics data from the GPS-equipped trucks was critical in providing that information.)
As of July 1, UPS was using ORION to calculate 28,000 of its 55,000 daily routes and is on track to save between seven and eight miles per driver daily -- "without anyone working faster, just doing things in a different order," Levis says. He says ORION should be in use on nearly all routes by the end of 2016.