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ORION optimizes deliveries at UPS

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UPS recently launched its route optimization software known as ORION (On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation), just in time for the busy holiday season. The rollout of ORION will optimize 10,000 delivery routes by the end of the year, thus reducing miles driven and reinforcing UPS’ sustainability efforts by saving more than 1.5 million gallons of fuel and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by more than 14,000 metric tones in that time frame. A reduction of just one mile each day per driver over the course of a year saves the company up to $50 million.

ORION consists of more than 250 million address data points. The sophisticated software combines customer’s shipping requirements with customized map data the company has compiled to provide UPS drivers with optimized routing instructions that meet service-level requirements, while reducing miles driven.

Jack Levis, director of process management at UPS and vice president of practice activities for INFORMS, describes ORION in a recent episode of Nova’s “Making Stuff,” the popular science series on PBS.

Besides Nova, the launch of ORION has garnered attention from Forbes, Information Week, Business Technology, Bloomberg and several other mainstream media outlets.

“UPS is one of the best examples of pushing analytics out to front-line processes – delivery routing in particular,” says Tom Davenport, author of the best-selling book “Competing on Analytics. “ORION is arguably the world’s largest operations research project. It relies heavily on online map data and optimization algorithms, and will eventually reconfigure a driver’s pick-ups and drop-offs in real time.”

“The development and deployment of ORION is one of the strongest examples of our company’s commitment to continual investments in operational and customer technologies to deliver significant operational benefits, taking advanced mapping and route optimization to new levels,” adds Dave Barnes, UPS senior vice president and chief information officer. “These benefits range from cost savings to positive environmental impacts and enable our company to raise the bar even higher on efficiency and customer service.”

ORION is the result of a long-term operational technology commitment, more than a decade in the making. To gather the necessary data, UPS operations research scientists began piloting telematics technologies with the installation of advanced GPS tracking equipment and vehicle sensors in 2008. The integration of these technologies allows UPS to capture data related to vehicle routes and performance and driver safety. The driver’s handheld mobile device and telematics technologies combined with custom mapping data and ORION algorithms provide more efficient routes for UPS drivers.

UPS prototyped ORION technology at 11 different sites between 2008 and 2011 and engaged senior UPS drivers to “beat the computer.” This challenge helped to identify business rules to bolster the algorithm.

The number of route combinations a UPS driver with an average of 120 daily deliveries could make is a number far greater than the number of nanoseconds the earth has existed. ORION is constantly evaluating routing options up to the moment a driver leaves the UPS facility. At full deployment it will be running tens of thousands route optimizations per minute.

ORION will enable future enhancements to UPS’ My Choice service, providing close to six million consumers with the ultimate flexibility over their home deliveries by way of rerouting shipments and adjusting delivery locations and dates. U.S. deployment to nearly all 55,000 routes is planned to be completed in 2017 and global deployments are planned for the future.

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