After a successful first year partnership with FedEx, 1776 Consulting was invited to tour the night sort at the FedEx World Hub in Memphis, Tennessee.
With the volume of packages and orders we process, having a great relationship with our shipment carrier is critical. Our trip to Memphis helped solidify our confidence and trust in FedEx. To say the least, we were even more impressed with FedEx after seeing their operation.
It is difficult to overstate the FedEx operation in Memphis. The facility is over 850 acres, has over 40 miles of conveyor belts, and employs over 11,000 people to process over 1.3 million FedEx Express packages a day. Did I mention that Memphis is the world's bussiest airport, due to FedEx. FedEx purchased 1.27 billion gallons of fuel last year. Yes, billion with a B...
When our team arrived at 10:15 PM, we were greeted in the Pilot Training Building and got a snazzy yellow vest. Shortly thereafter, we were sadly informed that there were no photos on the tour. Understandable, but still disappointing.
Our tour group was lead by FedEx World Hub employees who could answer all of the trivia questions we threw their way. The tours consist of FedEx clients as well as FedEx employees. Our tour was just 1776 Consulting and FedEx employees. Most of the employees were long time; however, we also had two pilots who just began their training pipeline.
We then began our tour. First stop, the flight simulators. There were 8 simulators, each worth over $15 million. FedEx pilots have 10 years under their belt before they begin the FedEx training course and then take the controls of one of their 678 aircraft.
After passing through security, we stopped on the tarmac to view the unloading of an inbound plane.
After 9:30 PM, Memphis commercial traffic stops and all remaining traffic is FedEx. From then on, FedEx plans land until 1 AM. All packages should pass through the Matrix by 2:07 AM and for planes to depart from 2:30 AM until they are all gone by 4:30 AM. Over 150 airplanes land each night at the World Hub.
It looked like a NASCAR pitstop. As soon as the plane stopped and was secured, a team rushed up with a stairway for the pilots while another team opened the various cargo doors and began unloading large metal containers stuffed with packages. The goal is to unload a Boeing 777, the largest plane in the FedEx fleet, in one hour and 7 minutes. Yes, they are that specific. The scene from Castaway about the clocks, yea, it was legit. FedEx is obsessed with time, in a good way.
I was taken aback when I saw the volume of packages that are on one plane. After shipping over 120k packages in 2018, I have a new appreciation of what it takes to ship a large volume. When I saw a plane that can carry thousands of envelopes in a single cargo container, my mind was blown.
Once the packages are unloaded, standard packages are sorted by size and heavyweight, temperature controlled, and dangerous cargo have their own sorting areas. The largest packages leave on the bottom conveyor belt, the mid-size on the middle conveyor belt, and the smallest packages on the uppermost conveyor belt. The heavyweight cargo was interesting. I had no idea how much freight FedEx moved via air. It is not cheap to ship a pallet, skid, via air, but when you need something there in a hurry and don't want to use FedEx Custom Critical, it is a good bet. (We used Custom Critical twice this past election. That means you charter a FedEx designated truck or plane. It isn't cheap, but it does arrive faster than anything else.)
Our next stop was the Matrix, or beginning of the mid-size package sort. When the packages hit the matrix, it is like a flood. When the advance team opens a new area during a Presidential campaign and the supporters flood into the new space, it is something like that.
The packages are oriented and begin their journey through 12 barcode scanners and 19 diverters. A diverter is a device that moves a package from one conveyor to another conveyor.
After the mid-size packages go through the miles and miles of conveyor belts, they are loaded back onto a plane cargo container and await departure to their final destination.
The small parcels are a whole other animal. Our clients will recognize the small parcel as this is how we ship the majority of our two-day shipments. When your customers select "Expedited Shipping" at checkout, this is likely how we will ship their order.
Small packages enter the facility and are scanned and ride yet another conveyor. The system deposits the packages in the proper bin and they are loaded onto the outgoing plane.
Throughout the tour we visited other stops such as the control tower and I was able to sit in the pilot seat of a Boeing 777. That was pretty cool.
Once we left the FedEx facility, we realized that all of the packages we watched during our tour were on their outbound leg.
Our visit to FedEx was a great opportunity to see FedEx from the employee side. The people genuinely care. FedEx genuinely cares about their employees. I kept my eyes peeled for the average employee and how they looked. Just about everyone had a smile on their face. When I talked with their team, I could tell how proud they are about being apart of the FedEx machine. They were proud of what they were doing and excited about where FedEx is going.
This blog post basically reads like a FedEx commercial, and it in some ways is. FedEx forms a critical component of 1776 Consulting. We specialize in taking online orders and getting them to the customer in the most economical and fastest manner. When orders leave one of our warehouses, our job is only halfway done. The order still has to arrive at the customer's door. That is where FedEx excells.
Our trip solidified our FedEx relationship and we will be releasing some exciting news in the coming weeks about it.