UPS: The Industry Leader in Quality?

            The United Parcel Service (UPS) has been recognized as an industry leader when it comes to quality for quite some time. In fact, in 2010 they were recognized in the third spot of 10 for top companies for quality only behind Disney and Intel. [1] They have always been concerned with being the best in the industry of their product, which is actually a service that is delivering packaged goods across the globe. UPS delivers 16.3 packages daily only losing less than 1% of those packages yearly.[2] UPS was one of the first companies to have tracking on their packages and more recently with the ever-growing use of smartphones was the first to have an app that allows senders and receivers to track their packages through their app, a first for the industry. With its excellent track record overall especially for on time deliveries one would think UPS has quality under control. Recently, however; the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) fined UPS $4 Million for failing to make required repairs on their aircraft, maintaining proper records, and flying unsafe aircraft (due to the failed repairs.)

One would think a company that has such a great track record for delivering goods on time and in good condition would have every aspect of their business including the quality and condition of their fleet on trucks, cars, and aircraft. Clearly the FAA does not think UPS is doing such a great job in that department. In thinking about the reasons why they may not be maintaining their aircraft, a few ideas come to mind. First, aircraft repairs take time and money. With profits of 5.8 billion dollars last year, it is safe to assume cost was not the issue.[3] Time is the single biggest thing UPS has to deal with. When providing their service, shipping, they are guaranteeing that package will arrive its destination at a particular time. If an aircraft is being repaired, it cannot fly. If it is not flying, packages are not being delivered. Packages, those are not delivered or not delivered on time is simply bad for business. It is easy to see the domino effect that ensues thereafter. Perhaps there has been a cutback in mechanics and/or inspectors and so there were many oversights. It is also possible that they did make repairs but failed to keep adequate records, which is also alleged by the FAA. Finally, maybe this is all a big misunderstanding.

A spokesperson for UPS states they will defend themselves for this “unreasonable and unwarranted fine.” He says, “UPS has a long history of operating a safe, compliant airline, there was never a safety issue.” Apparently, this fine is stemming from only 9 repairs out of the thousands of repairs they make. Overall UPS has a pretty good safety record. According to the Safety and Fitness Electronic Records System (SAFER), for the last 24 months UPS has had 0 air accidents and 0 fatalities. [4] Maybe this is just a big misunderstanding and poor reporting. I find it hard to believe that UPS would not properly maintain the very things that drive their business. Aircraft are the very thing that delivers the packages. Without them, UPS has no business. It will be interesting to see how UPS defends themselves. What do you guys think? Can you see a company overlooking the quality of their fleet in order to save time? Do you know of any other companies that actually do this?  Let’s hear them in the comments!

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