The Idea

Dr. John Bartholdi, Manhattan Associates/Dabbiere Chair and Professor and Co-Executive Director, Georgia Tech Panama Logistics Innovation & Research Center, explains the 2013 Great Package Race.

How do packages actually get from sender to consignee? Each carrier has its own freight network through which a package travels and the experience of each package depends on the structure of the network.

For fun, we race packages from The Supply Chain & Logistics Institute at Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA (USA) to sites around the world via different international parcel carriers (UPS, Fedex, DHL, USPS). We choose locations to challenge the business processes of the multinational package carriers, then observe the results. It is remarkable that most packages eventually reach their destinations, even under difficult circumstances, but there have been some dramatic lapses. One package was carried back-and-forth across the Atlantic Ocean nine times before delivery. Another was sent to Costa Rica instead of Croatia. One carrier claimed that the destination country did not exist. (It does.)

There have been dramatic finishes as well. In 2006 UPS beat DHL to Croatia by 3 minutes. A race to Singapore ended in a tie when delivery folk from UPS and FedEx arrived at the door simultaneously, even though the packages had traveled completely different routes.

Each race has a theme and we will vary the theme so that one time we will ship, for example, to exotic locales, another time to centers of business, and another time to our mothers. (Send us your suggestions!)

Just like the Braves, UPS is the home team and we wish them well; but everyone plays by the same rules and we call ’em as we see ’em.

Our Next Race…

We welcome suggestions for subsequent competitions, where we will be sending a set of GT baseball caps, t-shirts, etc. somewhere in the world.

Send us an address with accompanying telephone number and email address, and we will race the items by vying package couriers to your parents, nephews, nieces, etc. All that we need is sufficient address and contact information and a promise to document the delivery.

Check out the companion event, The Great Container Race, in which we sent 40-foot shipping containers full of medical supplies by alternate routes and carriers to a hospital in Ghana.