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UPS Announces Smart Pickup, a New Green Shipping Option for Businesses

Kathryn Siranosian | Wednesday March 24th, 2010 | 19 Comments

Shipping options for small- and mid-size businesses just got a shade greener.

Yesterday, UPS announced the launch of UPS Smart Pickup, an eco-friendly shipping system that uses innovative UPS technology to ensure that a UPS driver stops at a customer location to pick up a package only when a package is, in fact, being shipped.

Up until now, many of UPS’s small- and mid-size customers have opted for the convenience of a daily scheduled pickup. And, while that option is certainly convenient, it also comes with a significant hitch: on some days, there simply isn’t a package to ship. UPS shows up as scheduled, but the trip is completely unnecessary.

Once a company starts using UPS Smart Pickup, however, these superfluous trips can be eliminated. In short, the new system allows customers to automate the pickup process and schedule UPS service only when it’s needed.

UPS says its new UPS Smart Pickup is expected to:

  • eliminate 8 million miles from the total driven by UPS each year in the United States
  • save an estimated 793,000 gallons of fuel, and
  • reduce CO2 emissions by 7,800 metric tonnes.

All told, that’s the equivalent of keeping about 1,500 cars off the road for a year.

The weekly flat fee for UPS Smart Pickup is $10 (significantly less than the $75 or so companies pay for scheduled daily pickup options). But, at least for now, the service is only available in the U.S.

UPS announced UPS Smart Pickup at a forum it held yesterday morning at the Benjamin Hotel in Manhattan.  Called the “Decision Green Technology Forum: Greening Your Supply Chain,” the event showcased how technological innovation has been an integral part of UPS’s sustainability efforts.

For instance, UPS is the first and only delivery company to use a paperless inventory process –an initiative that has saved 105 million sheets of paper since 2008. The company also uses high-tech route planning to minimize left-hand turns by delivery drivers.  This seemingly “small” step has significantly decreased the idling time of UPS trucks, which in turn reduces fuel use, costs and GHG emissions. (UPS estimates that one hour of idling time burns the equivalent of one gallon of fuel.) What’s more, minimizing left turns also improves route efficiency and safety.

All of these initiatives are part of UPS’s comprehensive environmental platform, called Decision Green. This platform encompasses a wide range of programs, including ones designed to improve data center energy efficiency, employ alternative fuel fleets, research effective packaging options, analyze and optimize supply chains and help customers achieve carbon neutral shipping.

According to Dave Barnes, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at UPS, the company considers environmental performance an opportunity for business advantage and competitive differentiation among both customers and investors.

“We think that our drive to be lean and green is the right cultural aspect for UPS,” he said.”This is not just an initiative that’s going to go with the wind. This is part of the DNA of UPS, part of our culture.”

In fact, as Barnes sees it, “all companies can do well by doing good.” The key, he said, is for businesses to balance three things: economic prosperity, social responsibility and environmental stewardship.

“Each one of these elements is important to UPS’s bottom line. Not one is more important than another. They all have an equal weight at UPS,” Barnes explained. “We continue to see the truth behind this fundamental principle at UPS, not only in our business and those things that UPS does around the world, but in what we do for our customers’ businesses, as well.”

Increasingly, companies are looking to UPS for ways to reduce GHG emissions and improve environmental performance in their supply chains, Barnes said.

“Sustainability is part of reality today. Customers and investors are expecting it,” he concluded.


▼▼▼      19 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • johnhowley

    Wow. How long did it take to figure out that this saved energy (and driver time)? I applaud them, but this should have been implemented a long time ago.

    • Kathryn

      I hear you, John. However, one of the reasons why I enjoyed covering this story is because to me, it's a “textbook” illustration of how the drivers for competitive advantage are shifting. Before, I imagine the most important thing for UPS to stress to customers was the convenience of a daily scheduled pickup. Now, UPS and its customers are focusing more on sustainability, and “green” is becoming more and more of a top priority. Of course, as UPS highlighted in its forum yesterday, technology is what brings it all together. Now that customers can seamlessly communicate with UPS to customize their pickup schedule, there's a solution that's the best of both worlds: green and convenient.

    • nickaster

      Indeed, it's obviously common sense, but as Kathryn says, the complexity of a company the size of UPS means that sometimes it takes a much more elaborate system to get efficiencies like this implemented

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  • Treee

    Nice job Kathryn, however it might appear that you're a slightly biased fan of UPS as you passed along their marketing data without digging in to verify more about this 'new' service. I am a long time UPS customer who had a Daily Pickup account and who was recently penalized for it when UPS without annoucement or notice doubled their weekly fee from $10 to $20 simply because 'they hadn't invoiced us greater than $75 per week” We had daily pickups available each day but since, in an effort to optimize our own business the majority of our shipments were being billed to 3rd party accounts so our own personal weekly invoices had dropped even if our quantity of daily pickups had not. UPS said “too bad” and suggested that we use “Smart pickup” as it would only be $10 per week instead of the newly increased $20 that they demand for Daily Pickup. UPS assured us that if we have shipments posted through our account on their website then they would still see them as “Smart pickups” but in fact we are routinely ignored and the driver goes on by to my neighbor since his board doesn't list us as a stop on any day when the shipments are all 3rd party billing. So now he has to contact dispatch nearly every day to verify that we have a pickup at all since their software (so far) is ignoring our account when we're not billing under our own name. Not so smart. Still as nick mentions UPS is a gargantuan behemoth and we can't expect them to turn on a dime…unless it comes to preemptive billing changes without notice. And when queried about the same UPS customer service said “too bad”. Wow thanks UPS!

    • http://www.ups.com/ Debbie Curtis-Magley

      Hi Treee:

      I'm very sorry to read about the frustrating experience you're having with UPS. My name is Debbie Curtis-Magley and I work with UPS Public Relations. I'd like to offer help with getting this problem addressed. Please e-mail me at upsfeedback@ups.com so that I can follow up on your concerns.

      Debbie Curtis-Magley
      UPS Public Relations
      upsfeedback@ups.com

      • Treee

        Debbie, Thanks for commenting we'll be in contact as we too are interested in the most efficient total solution.

      • Beth S

        I am having the same problem and getting the run around from Customer Service and Tech Support. My packages are billed to a 3rd party so I understand the “Smart Pickup” will not be triggered automatically. So, I call for pick-up and no one shows. I schedule online and no one shows.
        Apparently my “Smart Pickup” request is not getting to the driver and no one can fix it. I am VERY disappointed with UPS.

  • Amanda Phillips

    This is the perfect example of how to make sustainability work for real companies- look for areas of financial waste and more often than not you'll find environmental waste too. Bravo UPS!

  • Rayle Atkins

    8 Milllion miles is incredible. I too see that it's just common sense to not go pick up packages if there are no packages to be picked up. I wonder why the guy couldn't have just called before? Why wouldn't the “smart system” just be the default for all companies?

    I also think it's pushing it a little to call this “green”. I mean, it is more efficient, which is awesome, but I'd like to see efficiency itself celebrated rather than throwing the “green” label on to everything. Since it looks like they are sending the savings directly to the customer in the form of lower weekly rates, they really should celebrate that innovation as the central point. Just my two cents.

    • Kathryn

      You bring up an excellent point: What qualifies as “green?” If a company improves efficiencies –by eliminating unnecessary trips (UPS) or shutting off computers when they're not in use (Ford) or updating their data center (eBay) or… –is that “green,” or just sound business practice? What if a business installs solar panels to reduce energy costs –is that business more (or less) eco-friendly than one that improves efficiencies, cut costs and reduces GHG emissions in their supply chain? As someone who writes in this field every day, I'm genuinely curious about your thoughts. What is green to you? How do you make that distinction?

    • http://www.CorporateWriter4Hire.com Kathryn Siranosian

      You raise a good point, and it’s something I think about often: what qualifies as “green?” If a company improves efficiencies –perhaps by making less unnecessary trips (UPS) or shutting off computers when they’re not in use (Ford)or updating its data center (eBay) or…–is that “green,” or is it just good business practice? What if a business installs solar panels to lower its energy bills –is this business somehow more (or less) eco-friendly than a company that improves efficiencies, cut costs, and reduces GHG emissions in its supply chain? As someone who writes daily in this field, I’m curious about your thoughts. What qualifies as “green” to you? How do you make that distinction?

  • Dave Shires

    If the weekly rate for smart pickup is $10 vs. $75 for the daily. Why would anyone keep the daily pick up? Does the latter still exist?

    • Treee

      Dave, perhaps you've misunderstood. Daily Pickup was $10 per week and still is $10 per week so long as your invoices total greater than $75 per week, if less than $75 was billed then the rates increased to $20 per week in addition to billings. Smart Pickup is now $10 per week like Daily pickup used to be.

  • Bernie Reeb

    Since the question about using Smart Pickup for third-party billing came up, I'd like to offer tips on how to use this capability. My name is Bernie Reeb, and I'm the Director of New Products at UPS.

    When processing your shipment with UPS Internet Ship, and you want to bill the shipping charges to a 3rd party, please follow these steps:
    • In box 6 “How would you like to pay,” select “Bill a Third Party” in the drop down box.
    • Enter the account number and associated zip code you would like to use to bill the shipping charges.
    • At the bottom of box 6, in the “Associate a Shipper Account” drop down box, select your Smart Pickup account.
    • Box 7 will now reflect your Smart Pickup status. If this is your first shipment of the day, the “Request a Smart Pickup” radial button will be highlighted. Simply select “Next” at the bottom of the page and your UPS Smart Pickup will be submitted.

    • Treee

      Bernie/Debbie, Thanks for your info…we knew all that…we do all that…but on days when there are only 3rd party billings the UPS Driver does not see there being a pickup on his 'board' for our account. Maybe a system glitch maybe something else…

      • http://www.ups.com/ Debbie Curtis-Magley

        Hi Treee:

        We'll do our best to get the problem solved – I look forward to hearing from you at upsfeedback@ups.com

        Debbie

  • marcstoiber

    I work in innovation, and applaud UPS for creating this new (un) service. It may seem commonsense in hindsight, but I'm certain it didn't seem nearly as obvious when the team was gathered to create new measures that helped both the environment and the bottom line.
    My colleagues and I at Maddock Douglas believe that it's impossible to read the label when you're inside the jar…I wonder how many other 'commonsense' innovations UPS could unearth by using the wisdom of the crowd, or simply tapping their 'expert network' aka their customers.
    Look forward to more great stuff.
    Cheers

    Marc Stoiber

  • marcstoiber

    I work in innovation, and applaud UPS for creating this new (un) service. It may seem commonsense in hindsight, but I'm certain it didn't seem nearly as obvious when the team was gathered to create new measures that helped both the environment and the bottom line.
    My colleagues and I at Maddock Douglas believe that it's impossible to read the label when you're inside the jar…I wonder how many other 'commonsense' innovations UPS could unearth by using the wisdom of the crowd, or simply tapping their 'expert network' aka their customers.
    Look forward to more great stuff.
    Cheers

    Marc Stoiber

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  • http://www.twitter.com/ShawnMazzarella Shawn Mazzarella

    Très utile poteau vous vous occupez de si I à traduire Italien pour notre blogs abonnés ? Si c’est acceptable de quel type dos de lien vous exigez ?

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