The Great International Package Delivery Race

The Idea

How do packages actually get from sender to consignee? Each carrier has its own freight network through which a package travels and the experience of each package depends on the construction of the network.

We decided, for fun, to track two packages sent from The Logistics Institute, Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA (USA) to The Logistics Institute Asia-Pacific in Singapore. To make this more interesting we staged a race: One package, weighing 3.25 lbs, would be sent via FedEx; the other, weighing 4.5 lbs, would be shipped via UPS.

The start

We phoned both FedEx and UPS at approximately 11AM on January 15. Each would be making their daily, regularly-scheduled visit to Georgia Tech. FedEx picked up their package at 1PM and UPS picked up theirs at 4:05PM. (Later pick-up can be seen as a service to dawdling customers; but it could endanger delivery times.)

The race

The path by which UPS sent our package from Atlanta to Singapore

Figure 1: The UPS path from Atlanta to Singapore.

Each package went through a sortation facility in the midwestern US. Both packages stopped in Achorage, Alaska because all air freighters must stop for fuel between Asia and North America. (It is possible to load enough fuel to fly direct but only by traveling without cargo!) The FedEx package was scanned there but the UPS package was apparently not.

Both packages went through sortation facilities in Japan. The UPS package then went through a UPS hub in Taipei, Taiwan; however, this stop was not shown on the UPS package-tracking web site. Mark Sobolewski, VP of International Industrial Engineering at UPS, explained that not every scan is publicly visible because much of it is too detailed to be useful to most customers. Presumably this is true of FedEx as well, but we do not know the interim stops of the FedEx package.) Both packages then went to Singapore.

We also learned from Mark Sobolewski that the UPS package was transported via Boeing 747 from Anchorage to Osaka, then on a Boeing 767 to Taipei, and finally on a Boeing 757 to Singapore.

Singapore customs is very efficient and the packages were logged through within minutes of arrival.

UPS Tracking Report
Date Time Location Activity
Jan 18, 2003 11:30 The Logistics Institute Asia-Pacific, Singapore Delivery
  01:12 Singapore, SG Through customs, ready for delivery
  01:09 Changi Airport, Singapore Import scan
Jan 17, 2003 21:21 Changi Airport, Singapore Arrival scan
  11:52 Osaka, Japan Departure scan
Jan 16, 2003 12:23 UPS Sortation Center, Louisville, KY, USA Arrival scan
Jan 15, 2003 23:07 UPS air terminal, Hapeville, GA, USA Departure scan
  21:46 UPS air terminal, Hapeville, GA, USA Arrival scan
  21:33 UPS truck terminal, Atlanta, GA, USA Departure scan
  20:42 UPS truck terminal, Atlanta, GA, USA Origin scan
  16:10 Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA, USA Pickup scan
FedEx Tracking Report
Date Time Location Activity
Jan 18, 2003 11:39 The Logistics Institute Asia-Pacific, Singapore Delivery
  09:43 On FedEx delivery vehicle  
  08:56 At FedEx terminal, Singapore Arrival scan
  06:00 Changi Airport, Singapore Cleared customs
  06:00 Changi Airport, Singapore Arrival scan
Jan 17, 2003 13:50 Narita Airport, Tokyo Departure scan
Jan 16, 2003 10:33 Anchorage, AK, USA Departure scan
  08:52 Anchorage, AK, USA Arrival scan
  05:46 Indianapolis, IN, USA Departure scan
  00:25 Sort facility, Indianapolis, IN, USA Arrival scan
Jan 15, 2003 19:19 Atlanta, GA Departure scan, FedEx facility
  13:10 Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA, USA Pickup scan

The results

Both packages were delivered Saturday, 18 January (Singapore time, which was then 13 hours ahead of Atlanta time). The office to which they were delivered is open but not very busy on Saturday and so the front door was locked. There was a knock on the door at about 11:30AM (Singapore time) and both the FedEx and the UPS delivery men were standing at the door. The UPS fellow held the door open for FedEx, so, strictly speaking, FedEx arrived first; but UPS apparently got the signature first. Also, UPS gets extra credit for courtesy and so we may call it a tie.

Next event

We welcome suggestions for subsequent competitions, where we will be sending a matched pair of GT baseball caps somewhere in the world. Send us an address and we will race the hats by vying package couriers to your parents, twin nephews or nieces, etc. All that we need is sufficient address and a promise to document the delivery.

Copyright © John J. BARTHOLDI, III. All Rights Reserved.
Last modified: Sat Feb 18 15:59:23 EST 2006