September 4, 2014, 4:14 PM

UPS adds capacity for the holiday season

It will have 10% more doors for loading delivery vans than during the 2013 peak period.

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It was not a very merry Christmas 2013 for United Parcel Service of America Inc., which took the blame for many online orders arriving after Dec. 25. The company provided more detail today on some of the steps it’s taking to ensure its brown delivery vans deliver packages on time this holiday season.

“We are going to deliver,” Mark Wallace, vice president of industrial engineering at UPS says. “We’ve been planning since Dec. 26, evaluating opportunities to improve and to make the experience better for customers.”

Wallace told reporters gathered at the big UPS Worldport air hub in Louisville, KY, today that the company has focused on four areas as it prepares for the holiday peak: forecasting, capacity, visibility and communication.

In order to get parcels into and out of its sorting centers more quickly, he said, UPS is adding new facilities, adding on to existing facilities and making use of mobile warehouses that can be moved to busy locations and set up in parking lots. UPS tested the first mobile distribution center last November in Queens, NY, a collapsible warehouse that the company has since moved to Oakland. More of those mobile centers will be in use this year, he said.

In addition, he announced today plans for two permanent facilities in the Dallas area, a sorting center that can handle 240,000 packages per day in Alliance, TX, that also serves as a transit hub, and a hub in McKinney, TX. UPS previously had announced two new facilities in California, and will be announcing more, Wallace said, without providing details. What’s more, some other facilities are getting additional capacity to handle delivery vehicles.

In all, Wallace said, UPS this holiday season will have 6,000 additional doors for loading its delivery vans, a 10% increase in capacity over the 2013 holiday season.

He said UPS is also working more closely with large retailers to gauge their demand and to track their shipments. Among other things, he said some unnamed retailers have set up distribution centers in Louisville to be near the UPS Worldport air hub. UPS this season will be better able to handle the tractor-trailers those large clients send to Worldport, and is adding technology that will allow it to identify the packages on those trailers so that it can more efficiently route them to their destinations.

UPS is also making “significant” additions of cargo aircraft and flights, Wallace said, but he would not go into detail.

Wallace said UPS will soon issue its forecast for holiday package volume and disclose how many temporary workers it plans to hire. Last year, UPS initially hired 55,000 additional workers, then added 30,000 more when it realized it did not have enough workers to handle the package volume.

UPS executives disclosed in July plans to spend $175 million to improve its operations during the coming holiday season.

Wallace said UPS also will benefit this year from two extra delivery days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. UPS for the first time will make deliveries on the Friday after Thanksgiving, which previously had been a holiday for delivery drivers, and the calendar is cooperating by leaving one additional day between the two big days that define the holiday shopping season. As a result, there will be 19 delivery days between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2014, compared with 17 in 2013.

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