Creativity: How Right Turns Saved One Company $3 Million
January 20, 2012 1 Comment
The other day a couple of my colleagues were talking about sustainability when someone mentioned how FedEx optimized their truck routes so that drivers only take right turns. Why, you ask? Supposedly, right turns save on gas.
I was a bit skeptical and figured the story had to be an urban legend, so I did some digging. The story is indeed true. Well, mostly true. The company that implemented the right turn program was UPS, not FedEx. And, UPS does take some left turns…but only about 10% of the time. Here’s how the right turn policy came about.
A few years ago, UPS was facing pressures to cut costs. UPS also had an environmental stewardship policy. In thinking about how to solve their budget challenge, UPS put two seemingly unconnected ideas together.
After analyzing driving routes and realizing left turns resulted in wasting gas waiting in traffic, UPS rearranged their routes so that drivers turned right 90% of the time. Some drivers were skeptical. Christopher Broder, a driver for 25 years was willing to give the right turn policy a try, but in the same breath asked, “Am I going to be driving in a circle all day?”
Well, this story has a fairytale ending. The creative right turn policy had a big impact. Take a look at how Scott Davis, chairman and CEO, described the program:
We have implemented many environmental programs company-wide, but our efforts in this area are perhaps best illustrated by our initiatives relating to our vehicles.
For nearly 80 years, we’ve been focused on fuel conservation, long before it became the critical issue that it is today. In the 1930s, for example, we pioneered the use of electric-powered vehicles in New York City.
Today we operate the world’s largest fleet of low-emission vehicles, approximately 20,000 of them, and that number will continue to grow.
We also operate the largest alternative fuel-fleet in private industry. That includes natural gas, liquefied natural gas, propane, fuel cell, electric, hybrid electric, and hydraulic hybrid fleets.
Our entire delivery network has been re-engineered for more environmental benefit. You may have heard it described in the press as the UPS Right Turn Policy.
I can see a few of your smiling out there, and I know what you may be thinking, but it really works.
We carefully map-out routes for all our drivers to reduce the number of left-hand turns they make.
Now get this: In 2007 alone, this helped us:
* shave nearly 30 million miles off already streamlined delivery routes.
* save 3 million gallons of gas, and
* reduce CO2 emissions by 32,000 metric tons¿the equivalent of removing 5,300 passenger cars from the road for an entire year.
What I love about the UPS solution is its simplicity. In this day and age where so many folks turn to complex technical solutions to solve problems, the right turn program serves as a reminder that human ingenuity and a dash of creativity can bring about fascinating innovations.