The purpose of this series of articles on thinking out-of-the-box is to continually point out the numerous examples of creative thinking that we can find in our daily environment. I find something every day that reminds me that there’s no limit to the creative solutions we, as a nation, can produce to solve problems, overcome obstacles, and navigate the speed bumps of life.
I may be rare in the fact that I just naturally draw assumptions from time to time. For instance, ask me to quickly toss out the name of an organization I would consider as creative and innovative, and I might offer up something like Disney or Google, and I would obviously be correct. Both of those choices were relatively safe bets. However, you might be stunned at the number of tremendously enterprising businesses that dot the landscape from coast to coast … companies which, at first glance, appear to be Clark-Kent-like in their daily mild-mannered appearance. However, under closer scrutiny, their “super” inner-structure is remarkably focused on ingenious and revolutionary outcomes to cope with an ever-changing and increasingly competitive environment.
One such company today is UPS—The United Parcel Service. Mention “Big Brown” and many folks think of the Kentucky Derby winner that captured hearts and headlines earlier in the year. Others immediately envision the traditional over-sized brown delivery truck which has been manipulating our streets for decades to deliver packages and documents to customers worldwide.
Creativity probably does not come to mind as you visualize one of those vehicles or those who navigate those monstrosities along their daily routes. You might be surprised at what goes on within this organization. UPS is breaking ground every day with its cutting-edge technology and innovative breakthroughs. Let me share just one of the many.
UPS boasts a delivery fleet of 93,637 package cars, vans, tractors and motorcycles worldwide. Can you imagine its concern over rising gas prices the past few years? Rather than sitting back waiting for someone else to solve this rapidly growing dilemma, UPS put their heads together in an effort to deal with this critical challenge.
UPS apparently made the right choice. Literally. After deliberate research and study, UPS discovered it could squeeze the most out of each gallon of gasoline by simply turning right as often as possible. Stay with me here.
UPS drivers are trained to map their routes to turn right whenever possible. It saves fuel and reduces emissions by minimizing the length of time their trucks are idling. And it’s safer too, because they don’t have to cross traffic. With left turns, more time is spent idling while waiting for oncoming traffic, and right-on-red regulations also help save fuel.
UPS drivers have been doing this for several years, and they say the savings are substantial. In the beginning it was an informal trial and error approach. Now they have a combination of not just experience but computers, codes, and programs that allow them to plot out right-turn routes in seconds. UPS dispatchers map out directions on tablets known as DIAD boards. Every route is designed to take right turns whenever possible.
The company estimates that in 2007, UPS saved 3.1 million gallons of fuel and avoided discharging 32,000 metric tons of emissions into the air by turning right whenever possible. Do the math. In the U.S. alone, UPS has 61,000 drivers so if it can save one gallon of gas on each of those 61,000 routes, that’s a lot of fuel. Last year alone, it saved over $12 million on fuel costs! You can bet UPS has also saved a bundle by avoiding accidents by not having to turn into oncoming traffic thousands of times a day.
Can you imagine the tremendous amount of gas we could save in this country if everyone would practice this very simple technique?