01 June 2019

A Nightly Logistics Ballet

"Whatever we hope  to do with ease, we must first do with diligence."

--Samuel Johnson

There's an up-close look at the increasing speed of the logistics business in the May/June issue of Chief Executive magazine featuring FedEx, founded in 1971 as Federal Express by Frederick Smith.    

Rising expectations for immediate commercial gratification, especially among younger households, are pushing logistics and supply chain management to new levels of performance--aided by robots doing repetitive tasks.  


"Organizational culture contributes to FedEx success," Richard Smith, CEO of FedEx Logistics, is quoted as saying. "You must be able to pivot quickly and nimbly shift strategy to delight the customer in the face of inevitable surprises," he added.  

Adapting when necessary

FedEx announced that it would begin Sunday delivery to most U.S. homes this month. That decision comes amid significant changes in online shopping patterns.   

Additionally, FedEx said it planned to hire about 700 flexible part-time Express drivers in 160 residential and rural domestic markets, responding to mounting pressure from Amazon on traditional delivery services such as FedEx and UPS. 

While leadership and strategy get more attention, the daily routine shows what an organization is made of in terms of experience, processes, and results.

The evening sort

The next time you review internal collaboration to see if it's functioning correctly, consider the following operational complexity:

At the FedEx World Hub in Memphis, Tennessee, at what's referred to as the "evening sort," an intricate ballet is performed each evening.  

The sort involves:

-84 miles of conveyor belts

-150 cargo jets

-7,000 employees

-1.5 million packages

The simple goal? Make sure your package and mine get to where it needs to go.

And 24 hours later, FedEx crews do the evening sort all over again.

The next day

According to the FedEx website, the company covers every U. S. street address and services more than 220 countries and territories. In addition, air-ground express service flows through 650 airports worldwide, with just over 600 aircraft in the FedEx fleet.   

In addition to the late-night staff in Memphis, it's up to more than 240,000 team members globally to make the pick-up and delivery cycle work daily. 

What's a key factor for success in prompt delivery? An easy-to-read house or business address on the premises.


Ballet dancers make what they do look easy when it's one of the most challenging tasks. Just ask any associate working the night shift at FedEx.*

*No doubt similar efforts are put forth by United Parcel Service (UPS) employees and the United States Postal Service (USPS).

© Bredholt & Co.