How UPS (might) Steal Christmas

Last year, there was a very well-known fiasco due to an increased amount of purchases on the internet. It was such an unforeseen forecast that it is now infamous and glued to UPS’ reputation. The harsh winter across the country and the spike in online orders, as opposed to brick and mortar stores where delivery is likely sufficient in absenteeism, are the two most cited reasons as to why there was such a failure in operations. The Christmas deadline guarantee is such an important concept to consumers who do not want to miss out on that magical Christmas morning that failing to abide by such explicit guarantees is harmful for business. Personally, I have not used UPS since this inexcusable fiasco caused multiple packages to be delivered after Christmas. Thankfully, out of coincidental luck, the one package that was late was to someone who was Jewish.


Now, online ordering is expected to grow even more. With the increased presence of mobile ordering through smart phones and tablets, online ordering is even easier and more accessible across the country. Amazon even offers a bar code scanner to instantly price check and of course purchase the scanned item when a customer is in a store. Often, Amazon can win these price wars; instead of a customer buying something in the store and bringing it home themselves this causes another package that must be delivered across the country. Amazon’s presence is so large in the online marketplace that about half of UPS’ packages have that familiar smile box.


The article claims that shippers are bracing for an even busier season: USPS is expecting to deliver 15.1 billion parcels which is the high end of the estimates. As we learned in class, forecasts are rarely accurate. However, there are certain reliability factors that UPS and FedEx have used to differentiate themselves from a more economical service (USPS).  Shouldn’t there be a higher standard when reliability is such an importance in the business component?


In addition to forecasting errors last year, there was a misattribution of efficiency. There was not enough workers to load the trucks, and it caused a severe backload of packages. This year, UPS has determined they need an additional 95,000 seasonal workers in the hopes this will be sufficient to combat demand.


Forecasting a holiday season is hard enough in such a fast-evolving marketplace, but adding in the operations component of worker efficiency, inventory management (they can’t have too many packages at one shipping hub or they won’t have enough room), and the unpredictability of the winter season it is almost an amazement they have been so reliable throughout the years.


Were you affected last year by the UPS fiasco?

Do you now trust UPS less due to their mistakes of the past?

Do you tend to purchase your products online or at a traditional store?



Praying for Efficiency and Paying in Naivety

A key aspect of a project manager’s job description is to improve efficiency; this post discusses how, while upgrading new technology has its many benefits, it must be done with thoughtful care to ensure it does not have a negative reaction.

As technology continually improves, electronic records are increasing in nature; I still remember checking in to my dentist on a notepad and having to visit a kiosk in the airport to check into my flight whereas now both of these are done through a computer and in some instances – remotely.  Efficiency is abundantly salient. Rather than causing a backlash of lines, checking into a flight can be done before even arriving at the airport. This moves the consumer quickly and thus allows a greater amount of flights to further drive revenue (i.e. the faster the airport can move people onto the plane, the more planes they can fly in and out of the airport). Updating records and improving technology is not invariable to improved efficiency, however. Without proper consideration for implementation there can be an opposite end-reaction. One need not look farther than patient records to clearly observe an example of records slowing the process.

The change in record keeping changed the way the hospital staff communicates on a fundamental level. This attempted to fix something that was not broken and, “clogged up a well oiled machine”. When electronic records were first implemented it was shown to increase physicians data entry time and decrease time with patients: hardly a beneficial result. This led to a patient’s data entry to be delegated and further studies to be conducted focusing on efficiency with regards to an improved delegation. What was found was in larger practices there was an improved efficiency (assuming an increase in delegations from physicians to nurses), but in smaller practices there was, again, a negative result.

While electronic record keeping has its benefits through increased accuracy and interoperability across multiple systems, it must be carefully integrated. There was a class example in week one about Starbucks improving efficiency from an operations standpoint by not requiring signatures on nominal purchases. Updating records to an electronic format is just another example of operations trying to increase efficiency for both the end consumer and the entity.

An interesting caveat that is more imminent and pressing is the recent mishap of ebola in Dallas. Doctors blame their electronic record keeping systems as the reason the patient was sent home before becoming symptomatic and readmitted. Doctoral error is now a more frequent cause of death than car crashes. This further highlights just how catastrophic negative efficiency results can be.


How do you feel about upgrading to electronic records?

Do you think these records were implemented too soon in hospitals?

Do you feel as though communication breakdowns in hospitals is a real concern?