Package and parcel delivery companies collectively share a $240 billion market that will expand to over $360 billion by 2020.
The shipping and courier industry forms the lifeblood of e-commerce. Precision must be maintained for these companies to function. A million packages move each day with three-quarters of a billion near holidays.
2-day delivery, the most popular offering of courier and shipping services, a lot of logistics to pull off seamlessly.
It also uses a fair fewer robots (for now) than you might expect. Let’s take a look at exactly how this miracle of modern convenience works.
2-Day Delivery Basics
To get a single package across the planet in a window of 36-54 hours seems easy enough. You could make whole movies about a plucky courier with a heart of gold getting into misadventures making sure that delivery happens.
Ramping that concept up to over 1 million packages a day requires more than hiring a million plucky adventurers. We tend to run out of pluck somewhere in the 100k range. So sorting and shipping logistics take over where the pluck runs thin.
These massive achievements in logistical and statical know-how empower the network. Planes, sorting warehouses, and trucks enable packages to move through the night and arrive at their destinations on time.
The core of express two-day shipping is the superhub. These massive sorting terminals usually take the form of cargo airports. Here, planes loaded with packages from all over the world arrive within a narrow window in the night.
The planes get unloaded and the packages spend the next 2-3 hours carefully being sorted and reloaded onto other planes.
Centralizing the sorting allows the packages to be placed on a strict timetable.
The next time you order something, follow the tracking information. Note that so many times the packages go to the same locations, even if these locations are not closer between you and where you ordered from. This is the work of hubs in action.
This is the work of hubs in action.
So, you may be asking how does next day shipping work? The answer here is the next stop on the shipping method express: secondary hubs and routing centers.
A superhub gathers everything (or nearly everything) to sort and send to hubs. Hubs repeat the process on a smaller scale. Except arrivals shift their timetable forward a few hours.
So if a superhub receives places at midnight and sends out sorted packages at 3, a hub receives at 4 and sorts until 6.
Some hubs begin distribution while others will send on to a sub-hub.
By using tiered sorting, hubs create a data stream that saves the most time by sometimes sacrificing distance. Essentially, a truck or plane sent out half-full can arrive faster than one that needs to wait to accumulate packages.
This isn’t good for the environment or the company. Logistical software works to put a new hub in any place where enough cargo needs to go but not enough that it would be easier to send to a bigger hub. This is the secret behind the whole process, to maximize time while minimizing waste.
Delivering on the promise of express shipping means knowing how to move a single package among a million. That is where sorting technologies come into play
The system has three major components. The first uses RFID and scanners to check in each package to an indexed table. This way a package loaded into a palette for a plane gets a single tracking indicator internally, but that has a cross-index for the individual box.
This helps the system and know what plane to load a palette on and also constructs palettes so they can be loaded for efficiency.
Next, individual tracking numbers get rescanned when a package splits from a shipping palette in a sorting center. This enables the system to quickly resort all of the packages into new shipping palette units.
Finally, the third step involves loading the smaller shipping packages into delivery vehicles. Information, ferried from the initial package scan, gives the delivery person the information they need to drop the box in the right place.
Packages often travel between hubs and superhubs via air travel. Air travel clearly takes less time than other shipping methods. However, air travel also has cost benefits in a pound per pound of cargo moved.
One of the ways that air travel saves money for shipping companies comes from the second-hand purchase of aircraft. Cargo craft only operates a few hours a day, so they don’t need to be top of the line. Whereas passenger craft can operate for 12-14 hours a day (especially international flights).
When it comes to ground travel, new technologies propels the trucks and drivers to better fuel economy and time-saving methods.
Modern drivers can use route planning software to give them the most efficient routes. This assists them in covering the most ground faster without the need to backtrack. Real-time updates through GPS can alert to delays on a route via traffic or accident.
Newer systems even send information from traffic lights so drivers can plan to make more green lights, which saves time and fuel.
Convoys of delivery vehicles may soon be using platooning tactics to further decrease fuel usage. If you have ever seen a truck with multiple trailers, you understand this principle.
By keeping the distance between vehicles small, the air resistance of the first vehicle offers an advantage to the next in the line.
Now if somebody asks you “What is 2-day shipping?” you can give them a thorough answer. Looking for more knowledge about how shipping and delivery services work? Check out our blog for all things on-demand and delivered to the door.
If you have a need for express or 2-day delivery in your area, contact us and find out what we offer that can help you and your business stay in the mix. We pride ourselves on getting your packages to their destination using all the best in logistics and know-how.