Sidebar: FedEx vs. UPS: The Technology Arms Race

FedEx Corp.'s main hub in Memphis can more than match the UPS Worldport hub in Louisville, Ky., in terms of package throughput, thanks to its automated systems, according to Alex Vergos, a senior technical adviser at the company's services division.

Vergos says FedEx could move 325,000 pieces per hour through its Memphis "small sort" facility, which primarily handles overnight letters. He adds that FedEx can also sort 125,000 small packages per hour using separate automation systems and conveyors in the same 3 million-square-foot building.

That tops the UPS hub in Louisville, which can move 304,000 packages per hour through a 4 million-square-foot building. However, UPS moves a higher volume of large packages through Worldport, such as automobile tires strapped onto wooden pallets, which in turn are placed in metal transporters for sorting.

Vergos says the average transit time for a small package in Memphis is about seven minutes. Ted Gallagher, Worldport's systems manager for operations planning and control, says Worldport could move a package of any size through that facility in between eight and 43 minutes.

UPS and FedEx are in a "technology arms race" to move packages smarter and faster, with each "light years" ahead of competitors such as Belgium-based DHL International Ltd. and the Emery Forwarding division of Palo Alto, Calif.-based CNF Inc., says Brian Clancy, a consultant at MergeGlobal, a transportation consulting firm.

Clancy declines to say which rival has the most automated hub. But he says that UPS tops FedEx in using IT and automation to reduce manual workloads in Louisville.

"The number of man-hours per package is less in Louisville than in Memphis, which on that basis makes Worldport the best hub," Clancy says.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon