ISyE's Annual Great Package Race is Underway

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You may have been to Alabama, but what about Opp, Alabama (population 6,000)? How about Ulan Bator, the capital city of Mongolia? These two diverse locations are the destinations chosen for the 2009 Great Package Race, which began when packages were shipped from the Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistics Institute (SCL) in early October.

This annual undergraduate exercise, begun by Professor John Bartholdi in 2003, tracks packages shipped from SCL to locations around the world via different parcel carriers (UPS, FedEx, DHL, and USPS). The purpose of the event, undertaken in an environments that is fun as well as educational, is to give students an opportunity to track how packages actually get from sender to consignee, analyze the freight network taken, and determine which carrier can get a package to its final destination first and in the best condition.

The destinations these packages travel differ from year to year. Each location is chosen to, in some way, challenge the business processes of the package carriers, resulting in both dramatic lapses and dramatic finishes. Bartholdi cites the time one package crossed the Atlantic Ocean nine times before delivery, while during another race two carriers arrived at the door simultaneously even though the packages had taken completely different routes to get there.

"It's remarkable," Bartholdi notes, "that most packages eventually reach their destinations." These destinations have included Khartoum, Sudan (where the White and Blue Niles meet), Tikrit (center of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq), Punta Arenas (in Chilean Patagonia and southernmost city in the western hemisphere), and Lome (capital of Togo).

Bartholdi and his students are quick to remind everyone that the outcome of the race is not a reliable basis for choosing a carrier. The annual package race is not a careful business experiment, but rather an event designed to stimulate student interest.

Does this sound like something in which you would like to participate? Well you can, sort of. Bartholdi and his students welcome suggestions for subsequent locations. In the next race, they will be sending Georgia Tech baseball caps, t-shirts, and other paraphernalia somewhere in the world. If you have family or friends who would be overjoyed to receive such a package, contact Professor Bartholdi at

He and his students ask only that the recipient document the delivery, preferably by sending a digital photo. Regrettably, he adds, they cannot choose every suggested destination.

To follow this year's package race, visit:




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  • Created By:
    Barbara Christopher
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  • Modified By:
    Fletcher Moore
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