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UPS Reducing Driving Waste

ABC News: UPS Figures Out the ‘Right Way’ to Save Money, Time and Gas

“Efficiency is so much a part of the culture at UPS…” UPS has always been known as an Industrial Engineering driven company. Here’s an example of reducing driving waste:

Listen to driver Bert Johnson describe his route in Gardena, Calif.

“We’re gonna make a right turn onto 135th to Western. We’ll make another right on Western down to 139th,” Johnson says. And he goes on, “Right turn on 139th and go down to the end of the block and we’ll make another right turn.”

You getting the idea? UPS plots its delivery routes to make as many right turns as possible. In a world where half the driving choices are left turns, they avoid turning left.

And how much of the time are UPS trucks turning right? Tasha Hovland, an industrial engineering manager, said, “A guesstimate, I would probably say 90 percent. I mean we really, really we hate left turns at UPS.”

Would I call this “lean”? Sure. At least partly — the focus on standard work and on eliminating waste is strong, which is a very good start. I wonder how much employee input they get into continuous improvement. Is it all driven by engineers and VP’s?

Is there a mechanism for employee suggestions (no, not a “suggestion system”)? See Chuck Yorke’s column on harnessing employee ideas  for more on this topic.


mark graban lean blog UPS Reducing Driving Waste leanAbout LeanBlog.org: Mark Graban is a consultant, author, and speaker in the “lean healthcare” methodology. Mark is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as the new Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. Mark is also the VP of Customer Success for the technology company KaiNexus.

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5 Comments on "UPS Reducing Driving Waste"

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  1. The making of a UPS driver — Lean Blog | July 27, 2011
  1. Dennis says:

    Yeah well, it may save time in one sense but I still think it is faster driving straight. The system is not that smart so you end up delivering two blocks, make a right, deliver two blocks, make a right, etc… Too many right turns if you ask me and people in the neighborhood think we are lost, driving in circles. When I do it my way, I drive less miles and that is cheaper for UPS.

  2. Mark Graban says:

    Thanks for the comment, Dennis.

    That raises a question I find fascinating: Is it better to have people following the rules or to do what works? The driver is talking about driving less, saving gas, but is he also considering time? I’m not saying he’s wrong, I don’t know, I’m not there.

    It makes me think back to the principles of Standardized Work that say we’re not trying to create unthinking robots who just follow our standard practices. Standardized Work should be followed unless there is a good reason, right? The challenge is getting agreement on what the “good reasons” might be. It can’t be used as an excuse to not follow the Standardized Work, to say we always have good reasons.

    The same question comes up quite often in hospitals, as well. We’re not doing the same 45 second Toyota assembly line job over and over, so we need some leeway to use judgment in deciding exactly how we do the work, at times, that’s what people will say.

    From my perspective, I would be happy that a driver is “breaking the rules” to save money for the company, at least in this case. Speeding or breaking the law would obviously NOT be a good violation of the Standardized Work.

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