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ORION: How Route Optimization Keeps UPS Drivers On Time

How UPS' proprietary route optimization software, ORION, efficiently manages its vast network of deliveries.

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UPS delivers around 5.5 billion goods every year with the help of its 125,000 delivery vans.

The fleet includes over 10,000 “alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles,”

Customers today expect carbon-free last-mile deliveries, and these low-emission vans are helping UPS to move towards this goal.

UPS has successfully executed and managed rising amounts of deliveries (and pickups) for many years.

Could UPS complete 5.5 billion deliveries in a year with “just” 125,000 cars if route planning and route optimization software technologies weren’t used?

Absolutely not.

Because UPS drivers must perform a last mile delivery, which is an extremely costly aspect of the last-mile lifecycle, this is the case.

Despite UPS’ multibillion-dollar, world-class distribution network, airplanes, and distribution centers, delivery drivers outnumber everyone else by a significant margin.

How does UPS efficiently distribute work among all of these drivers while managing vehicle routing and scheduling?

This is done through operations research, industrial engineering, and route optimization software used at UPS’ scale.

Many of these disciplines are complicated, yet they all work together to power UPS’ last mile.

UPS’ route optimization software, formally known as the On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation (“ORION”), is a key component of the company’s delivery platform.

UPS uses ORION to improve delivery routes to increase customer satisfaction and support UPS’ expansion.

Let’s take a closer look at ORION and how it powers UPS’ deliveries.

Table of Contents

  • What is ORION?
  • Smartphone Dispatching vs UPS’ DIAD
  • Why do UPS Drivers Avoid Left Turns?
  • The Importance of UPS’ Employees
  • Is ORION Really Foolproof and How well does UPS’ GPS Tracking actually work?
  • How To Ensure Your Drivers Make On-Time Deliveries
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
  • Conclusion For UPS Route Optimization Software

What is ORION?

ORION is UPS’ delivery platform route optimization software that optimizes multi-driver, multi-stop routes. The software has been under development for more than a decade, and is the result of years of research.

Because UPS’ system is one of their most unique and critical intellectual property assets, there isn’t much information about it available to the public. We do know the company has invested heavily in ORION.

According to experts in operations research, truck routing, and scheduling, we know UPS’ ORION uses the following:

  • Workloads for parallel computation
  • Geospatial algorithms with complex metaheuristics
  • Algorithms for vehicle routing and scheduling
  • Constraint algorithms for a capacitated vehicle routing problem
  • A unique routing engine that can change and improve building metadata to assist drivers with parking, loading/unloading, and other tasks.

The use of GPS tracking and vehicle sensors was one of the most important components in the development of the highly effective ORION.

The sensors and trackers aid in the collection of data on delivery truck routes and idle time during each delivery.

ORION, which has been collecting massive amounts of driver biometric and customer-specific data for years, is highly influenced by all of this data.

Smartphone Dispatching vs UPS’ DIAD

The Delivery Information Acquisition Device (DIAD), a hand-held device that may also be put on vehicles, is another contributor to the development of ORION.

DIAD was first established in 1991 and collects and transmits package delivery data over cellular networks.

The DIAD gadget has been updated extensively (it is now in its sixth version) and has aided UPS in becoming what it is today.

The 1,000-page algorithmic optimization of ORION was created using all of the data obtained from sensors, tracking, and DIAD.

ORION efficiently solves the traveling salesman problem by determining the fastest and shortest routes.

ORION, to put it simply, determines the most efficient route that saves time while lowering fuel usage. This is accomplished in a matter of seconds.

In 2013, UPS debuted its delivery route optimization software on 10,000 UPS routes across the United States. Because the change was so successful, UPS accelerated ORION’s deployment and officially launched it in 2016.

Since then, there have been a number of small modifications to this hugely popular UPS route planning software.

The following are two recent additions:

  • ORION added a new function called UPSNav in 2019, which assists UPS drivers by offering turn-by-turn directions to locations that are not immediately obvious, such as entrances that are not visible from the main road.
  • UPS also announced last year that its award-winning tool would get a new feature called “dynamic routing.”

Until these modifications, the routes were static, which meant that once an efficient route was established, the drivers had were unable to change it.

Using dynamic routing, ORION will be able to reoptimize and reroute in real-time in response to any road disruptions or to honor a customer’s special request.

You might be asking what makes ORION such a sought-after tool, given that it has only just added a function that Google Maps’ delivery route planner has had for years — dynamic routing.

Let’s dig deeper.

Why do UPS Drivers Avoid Left Turns?

ORION learns from experience and uses that information to make better routing decisions because it uses a blend of AI and machine learning.

For example, ORION discovered that left turns aren’t efficient from the data it accumulated over years of the GPS tracking of automobiles.

This is one of the most significant and potentially life-changing variables revealed by UPS’ route optimization software.

To conserve fuel, time, and money, you should avoid turning left as much as possible.

UPS saved 10 million gallons of petrol, 100,000 metric tons of CO2, and went from $300 million to $400 million by paying attention to this seemingly minor issue.

UPS’s official website states that:

“left turns mean idling, which increases the time a route takes. Left turns mean going against traffic, which increases exposure to oncoming cars. Right turns are faster. Right turns save fuel.” UPS Website

The Importance of UPS’ Employees

Apart from UPS’ route optimization software, the company’s personnel are the most critical cornerstone to its success. The majority of UPS’ delivery managers and supervisors used to work for the corporation as delivery drivers.

UPS drivers’ training and on-the-road experience allows them to train new drivers and continue to provide excellent customer service.

Furthermore, every UPS driver goes through extensive training, which includes lifting big items, walking on slick roads, and driving with one hand. UPS drivers are expected to deliver items in a simulated setting as part of their hands-on training.

A reward system is also in place to keep the drivers motivated, and the money is not bad either. UPS drivers, according to Glassdoor, are paid $22 per hour and receive generous tips on the job.

Is ORION Really Foolproof and How well does UPS’ GPS Tracking Actually Work?

ORION is rumored to have a few flaws, according to drivers on internet forums.

Since its inception, drivers have faced a slew of challenges that have caused them problems on their travels.

Back in 2013, ORION would ignore drivers, giving no time breaks, food, or even gas.

The UPS route optimization software, according to several users or drivers, also advised them to make impossible highway turns.

Despite their dissatisfaction, UPS drivers continued to support the system, but the situation has only become worse over time.

When the latest version of ORION, ORION 3.0, was introduced, it turned into a nightmare for UPS drivers rather than actually making their lives easier.

Almost every UPS location was unable to get the app to work.

"Orion 3.0 crashed every other day when you rolled it out last year. UPS stopped deploying it and has had 6 months to fix the problems yet the same ones still exist. You’re doing great though." PhillyCraft (@Philly_Craft) April 28, 2021

UPS drivers around the country described the situation as a return to the “Stone Age,” as they were forced to use maps and navigate their routes without any assistance.

How To Ensure Your Drivers Make On-Time Deliveries

That being said, it’s unlikely that you’d want to build your own ORION.

To construct the software, you’d need an expert team with considerable knowledge, abilities, and expertise. As a result, you’d have to invest a lot of time and money.

Your total cost of ownership (TCO) would also rise, and you’d have to make constant trade-offs.

With a smart route optimization software like EasyRoutes, you can plan correct routes and ensure your drivers arrive on time.

In just 30 seconds, an AI-powered route planner can help you construct well-optimized routes.

Weather, traffic, road conditions, one-ways, dawn and sunset times, left turns, and a variety of other factors that can affect your drivers on the road are all taken into account by EasyRoutes.

EasyRoutes ensures that your drivers are not overworked or underworked by distributing duty evenly.

EasyRoutes can assist with re-optimization, lowering fuel costs, increasing driver productivity, and maintaining driver motivation.

Here’s a quick review of some of EasyRoutes’ delivery scheduling software’s most useful features:

  • Creating multiple delivery routes at once by simply selecting your orders and the number of routes you need.
  • Driver breaks can be scheduled to prevent fatigue and increase productivity.
  • Show a digital proof of delivery by attaching images.
  • Geocoding is used to automatically fix any incorrect addresses entered into the system.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

UPS uses which route optimization software?

According to publicly available information, UPS develops and uses ORION, its own proprietary route optimization software. The platform is a vertically integrated, end-to-end multi-stop route planning, execution, forecasting, and analysis tool that develops extremely efficient delivery routes by solving complicated computational issues in milliseconds, among other things.

With the support of GPS tracking and car sensors, the ORION technology platform conducts significant study and data collection. Although it’s unknown how ORION will employ AI and machine learning to continue offering the most effective routing solutions to UPS drivers, it’s a safe bet that significant investments will be made in these technologies.

UPS’s Delivery Routes: How Do They Work?

UPS uses its proprietary route optimization software, ORION, to plan the majority of their domestic (USA) routes. The application creates approximate solutions to the traveling salesman problem / vehicle routing and scheduling problem using complicated algorithms. The route optimization software algorithm is an NP-hard issue that is currently difficult to solve with 100% accuracy on routes with numerous stops.

What Is a UPS DIAD?

Since its introduction in 1991, UPS drivers have utilized a hand-held gadget known as a UPS DIAD. From the time the box is picked up for delivery until it arrives at its destination, the device keeps track of it. It’s also used to capture recipients’ digital signatures.

Over the years, the device has received numerous revisions (it is now in its fifth version) and has been essential in collecting data for UPS to streamline the delivery process.

Is it common for UPS drivers to make left turns?

UPS drivers will only make a left turn if it is absolutely necessary. This is because “left turns mean idling, which increases the time a route takes,” according to UPS. When you make a left turn, you’re travelling against the flow of traffic, which means you’re more vulnerable to approaching traffic. Turning right is quicker. Right turns save you money on gas.”

In reality, by ensuring UPS drivers avoid left turns as often as possible, UPS has saved gallons of petrol, effectively decreased its carbon emissions, and saved millions of dollars each year.

How do UPS drivers figure out where they need to deliver?

Each driver is allocated a route to deliver packages in the area where they work. Each UPS driver is taught the routes they must deliver on before their shifts begin, and they either take a picture of the map for reference or some centers provide a navigation system in the trucks that shows the drivers where to travel next, according to the UPS drivers.

Conclusion For UPS Route Optimization Software

UPS has gone a long way since it was founded by two adolescents, and their success is owed in large part to UPS’ route optimization technologies. UPS’ continuous performance demonstrates the multiple advantages of using route optimization software. It not only speeds up package delivery, but it also saves fuel, making it a win-win situation.

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About Roundtrip

Roundtrip's mission is to equip every business with the software tools they need to deliver products to their customers in a delightful way. Thousands of Shopify merchants worldwide choose EasyRoutes to power their local deliveries across dozens of product categories, from meal kits and groceries to coffee, cupcakes, kibble, and so much more. Our easy-to-use route planning and delivery optimization app is certified Built for Shopify, a two-time Shopify staff pick, and the top rated local delivery app on the Shopify App Store.

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