Technology Trends


Those brown UPS trucks have been doing more than hauling online purchases and wedding gifts. For the past few years, the delivery company has used tens of thousands of its trucks as “rolling laboratories,” analyzing data from on-board sensors and using the findings to optimize routes, cut idling time, assess driver safety and make vehicle maintenance more efficient.

This “telematics” data contributed to UPS’ recently deployed route-optimization software ORION, or On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation, which the company says reduces miles driven, fuel used and carbon dioxide emitted. Most routes designed by ORION, which combines mapping data with algorithms, have shown a mileage reduction, according to UPS, which says it can save $50 million annually if each driver travels just one mile fewer per day a year.

Deployment to all 55,000 U.S. routes is scheduled for completion in 2017.

“UPS is one of the best examples of pushing analytics out to front-line processes – delivery routing in particular. This initiative, ORION, is arguably the world’s largest operations research project. It will eventually reconfigure a driver’s pick-ups and drop-offs in real time,” Tom Davenport, International Analytics Institute co-founder and Babson College professor, said in the UPS release announcing the rollout.

UPS’ optimization initiative is one example among a wide range of new technologies that manufacturers, logistics providers, retailers and other companies are using to make their supply chains and general operations more reliable, adaptable and efficient. The broader emergence of cloud-based and mobile technologies, along with other advances, has fueled growth in new supply chain tools and made them available to a wider array of businesses.

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– By Dinah Wisenberg Brin