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Building a Culture of Innovation

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Data can help companies gain insights, operate more efficiently and bolster engagement with customers. However, investing in data science, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and other technologies will not automatically grow your company’s revenue, provide greater scale or save money without the right approach.

That takes strategy, best practices and deliberately cultivating innovation across the enterprise.

Historically, the gathering, analyzing and deploying of data lay squarely within specialized teams who eat, sleep and breathe data science. Those who speak the language and know the secret handshakes, so to speak.

Today, organizations must ensure all corporate functions have understanding and access, at a high level, to the value of available data. That includes frontline workers and leadership.

The democratization of data

The power of data lifts all corporate functions — from customer service to digital marketing, operations, finance and beyond. Data and technology can even enhance sustainability efforts or improve corporate social responsibility.

Because data management is so integral to our logistics network, virtually everyone at UPS taps into these tools.

Our supply chain solutions team uses data to design the most efficient models available for sourcing, manufacturing, transportation order fulfillment and returns management.

Data tools also make it easier to move packages around the world from shipper to consumer, including when in the hands of our drivers.

“Today, organizations must ensure all corporate functions have understanding and access, at a high level, to the value of available data. That includes frontline workers and leadership.”

Connecting with customers

At UPS, we use AI and Operations Research tools that connect us with our customers and improve our ability to serve them. For example, our customer service teams interact with data constantly.

We incorporate AI throughout our customer-facing technologies, including our chatbot. This communications channel can immediately respond to shippers and their customers in conversational language. It assists with determining shipping rates, finding UPS locations and tracking packages.

Our customer experience team uses a data-driven tool to analyze and troubleshoot the customer journey. Our machine learning models let UPS know when and how to follow up with customers.

We use Network Planning Tools (NPT) to predict and forecast the needs of our customers to improve their experience.

All about service

Data helps companies stay nimble and make real-time decisions. UPS uses data, AI and machine learning to optimize its network.

For example, our network planning and operations teams deploy tools that tell us the best way to run our transportation routes and facilities. Advanced analytics allow us to adapt to changing conditions and design contingency plans.

“Data helps companies stay nimble and make real-time decisions. UPS uses data, AI and machine learning to optimize its network.”

We use AI to facilitate the automation of custom brokerage entries for shipments, reducing the need for human intervention. We are exploring initiatives with IBM Garage that include using data science to reduce customs fees.

Our Enhanced Dynamic Global Execution (EDGE) system tells us where and how we should sort packages while quickly locating operational assets. UPS drivers use data virtually every day. Drivers employ a proprietary software system that uses predictive algorithms to determine the optimal delivery route.

Developed by UPS, On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation (ORION) analyzes massive amounts of data, including package deliveries, pickup times and past route performance. Drivers also carry handheld devices called DIADs that capture and upload delivery information to the UPS network.

Operating sustainably

Data fuels our sustainability efforts. Not only does ORION facilitate faster delivery, but it also helps us reduce our carbon footprint by minimizing total miles driven.

Every year, ORION saves UPS about 100 million miles, 10 million gallons of fuel and $50 million. It reduces carbon dioxide emissions by about 100,000 metric tons.

Innovative companies that operate sustainably try new things. UPS’s rolling laboratory, one of the industry’s largest private alternative fuel and advanced technology fleets, is a transportation equipment and technology incubator on wheels.

The rolling lab includes electric hybrids, e-bikes, compressed natural gas and more. Data analytics comes into play in testing alternative fuels and technologies in real-world operating scenarios. 

Advanced analytics is also central to research and development efforts when evaluating future network and last-mile technology changes for operating margins and sustainability.

Using the power of data for greater good

At UPS, we use our Network Planning Tools to solve logistics challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Technology aids us in supporting nonprofit partners to expedite the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.

In addition, UPSers with data science skillsets provide logistics planning and operations to support patient test facilities and deliver test kits. There is also a data analytics volunteer program taking place in conjunction with the UPS Foundation to bolster the humanitarian response to COVID 19.

“Democratizing data and making technology accessible is key to developing a culture of innovation.”

UPS is testing how unmanned aerial systems can assist medical professionals in the fight against COVID-19. These drones, which use AI software to perceive their surroundings and provide real-time feedback, can deliver emergency medical supplies quickly.

With those examples in mind, here’s how to foster a culture of innovation through data analytics:

  • Create a center of excellence. Consider your data science and data strategy team as a central hub that provides resources, best practices and toolsets for the organization. Members of this team can offer anything from a full service consultation to a statistical technique to brainstorming a quick fix.
  • Communicate across audiences. Make sure your data professionals can communicate analytics concepts to people throughout the business. Speaking clearly with functional area managers opens the conversation to everyone at the company.
  • Invest in training. Educate people in the concepts and tools available to them to assist in making smart decisions, do their jobs more efficiently, improve reporting and develop products and services for customers. Focus on continuous learning to teach employees how to use emerging technology.

Successful organizations help all stakeholders leverage data, from leadership to frontline workers. Democratizing data and making technology accessible is key to developing a culture of innovation.

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Longitudes explores and navigates the trends reshaping the global economy and the way we’ll live in the world of tomorrow: logistics, technology, e-commerce, trade and sustainability. Which path will you take?

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