The 2007 Great Package Race is Underway
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. For fun, each year Professor John Bartholdi's class coordinates a race where they track packages sent from ISyE's Supply Chain and Logistics Institute at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA (USA) to sites around the world via different international parcel carriers (UPS, Fedex, DHL).
On Friday, April 13th, Professor Bartholdi's class contacted UPS, FedEx, and DHL to carry identical packages to contacts in:
Yangon: until recently, capital of Myanmar; formerly known as Rangoon, Burma
Tikrit: administrative center of the province of Salah ad Din, Iraq
Harare: the capital of Zimbabwe
Florianopolis: an island off the coast of southern Brazil
Apia, Samoa: in the western pacific
Sites are chosen based on locations that challenge the business processes of the multinational package carriers. It is remarkable that most packages eventually reach their destinations, even under difficult circumstances, but there have been some dramatic lapses. One package was carried back-and-forth across the Atlantic Ocean nine times before delivery. Another was sent to Costa Rica instead of Croatia. One carrier claimed that the destination country did not exist. (It does.)
There have been dramatic finishes as well. In 2006, UPS beat DHL to Croatia by 3 minutes. One race ended in a tie when delivery folk from competing companies arrived at the door simultaneously, even though the packages had taken completely different routes to the destination. Technically FedEx made the delivery first, but we gave extra credit to the UPS person for courtesy in holding the door.