The Great Package Race, 2006

Sponsored by The Supply Chain & Logistics Institute, Georgia Institute of Technology

The challenge

We sent packages to:

The contestants

The start: Friday 14 April

We began by going to the web sites of each carrier to get the essential forms, such as for the commercial invoice required for international shipments. These were easy to find at at the UPS and DHL web sites, harder to find at Fedex. If we had been registered users of any of the services, we could have filled out all the required paperwork on the web; but we are not and so we looked for forms that we could print at our office. The forms were available only in pdf format. They seemed designed for printing and then filling in by hand; to edit them electronically requires Adobe Acrobat, which is proprietary software.

FedEx pickup
Fedex pickup: 1425h
DHL pickup
DHL pickup: 1520h
UPS pickup
UPS pickup: 1600h

The race

All carriers quoted guaranteed delivery times before 24 April 2006 and all packages but one were delivered before this time; the last package was delivered at the end of the day 28 April.


Destination Carrier Cost Delivery Route Comments
Ouagadougou FedEx $202.82 19 April 1709h Atlanta; Memphis; Newark, NJ; Paris; Ouagadougou (details) WINNER!
  UPS $202.47 20 April 0919h Atlanta; Hapeville, GA; Louisville, KY; Philadelphia; Paris; Abidjan; Ouagadougou (details) This package was delayed in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. The tracking message read: "The scheduled flight was cancelled and caused this delay due to circumstances beyond UPS control". Strangely, this package was reported as having been scanned again at Abidjan on 21 April, a day after delivery! We are not sure what this means.
  DHL $165.02 28 April 1651h Atlanta; Wilmington, OH; New York; Cologne; Brussels; Lagos; Ouagadougou (details) Our package sat in Ouagadougou for one week before delivery. DHL said the address was inadequate.
Punta Arenas DHL $124.93 18 April 1626h Atlanta; Miami; Santiago; Punta Arenas (details) WINNER!
  FedEx $170.57 20 April 1141h, as reported to tracking, but recipient says it was actually delivered 19 April at 1730h Atlanta; Memphis; Miami; Santiago; Punta Arenas (details)
  UPS $167.67 20 April 1050h but recipient says 1115h Atlanta; Hapeville, GA; Louisville, KY; Miami; Santiago; Punta Arenas (details) Tracking message on 18 April: "A processing error has at destination caused this delay [in Santiago]; the package was missorted at the hub. It has been rerouted to the correct destination site." A message later that day says "The address is in a remote area and deliveries are not made daily." Our recipient noted that the package was carried from Santiago to Punta Arenas by LANCargo and delivered locally by ChileExpress
Split UPS $224.16 19 April 1000h Atlanta; Hapeville, GA; Louisville, KY; Cologne; Zagreb (details) WINNER!: ahead of DHL by only 3 minutes! (The recipient was not home to receive the package but we consider the race over when the package reaches its destination, even if the recipient is not there to receive it.) UPS returned the next day to deliver.
  DHL $157.68 19 April 1003h Atlanta; Wilmington, OH; New York; Cologne; Brussels; Bergamo; Zagreb; ... (details) No one was home at this, the first delivery attempt.
  FedEx $222.82 24 April 0905h Atlanta; Memphis; Panama City, Panama; Alajuela, Costa Rica???; Memphis, Paris; Frankfurt; Split (details) A keying error by courier: "CR" apparently sent our package to Costa Rica instead of CRoatia
Surabaya UPS $111.94 18 April 1205h Atlanta; Hapeville, GA; Louisville, KY; Anchorage, AK; Incheon, Korea; Singapore; Jakarta; Surabaya (details) WINNER!
  DHL $76.15 19 April 0955h Atlanta; Wilmington, OH; Singapore; Jakarta; Surabaya (details)
  FedEx $116.01 20 April 0913h Atlanta; Indianapolis; Chicago; Anchorage; Subic Bay, Philippines; Cengkareng, Jakarta; Surabaya (details)

The routes

UPS routes to our destinations

Figure 1: UPS routes to our destinations

After local pickup, each package was driven to a local freight terminal, sorted, and then flown to one of the major sortation facilities the carriers operate in the midwestern US: UPS uses Louisville, KY; FedEx uses Indianapolis, IN or Memphis, TN; DHL uses Wilmington, OH (northeast of Cincinnati).

What we learned

Next event

We welcome suggestions for subsequent competitions, where we will be sending a set of GT baseball caps, t-shirts, etc. somewhere in the world. Send us an address, preferably with accompanying telephone number and email address, and we will race the hats by vying package couriers to your parents, nephews, nieces, etc. All that we need is sufficient address and a promise to document the delivery.


Thanks to Paul Goldsman, Sergio Maturana, and Sriram Subramanian for help in sending off the packages; and thanks to the recipients for documenting their arrival! Also thanks to Bob Foley for catching some errors in the original html coding for this web page and to Anton Kleywegt for correcting some of my lapses in the geography of Africa.

(My colleague George Nemhauser has visited two of these cities, Split and Punta Arenas. Has anyone else visited more than two?)