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UPS package lab

In 1949, the New Yorker Magazine sent writer Phillip Hamburger to see what kind of operation was being run by a then middle-aged Jim Casey, founder of UPS. Hamburger’s story focused on Jim’s nearly maniacal devotion to department store packages.  They were UPS’s bread and butter during the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. The New Yorker writer soon found out that Jim looked at packages like a jeweler looks at diamonds, each one special in its own right. It was during this era that a phrase was coined that still adorns the walls of local UPS facilities: Every Parcel a Guest of Honor. Sounding a bit archaic today, the slogan still holds solid meaning for UPSers like Worldport Security Manager Jeff Savage.

When nighttime falls at the UPS global air hub in Louisville, Ky, Savage has a lot to worry about. Jeff and others are responsible for the safe and secure movement of up to a million packages a night through one of the busiest shipping locations in the world.  But he’s gotten used to the frenetic pace and the push to make sure every package that comes through the UPS hub called Worldport makes it to its destination on time and in good condition.

So what does it mean to take your job so seriously that you look beyond the stuff on the surface, beyond the routine of hundreds of take-offs and landings and thousands of air containers changing planes? For Jeff it means breaking a few eggs.

Jeff heard about a special shipment due to arrive at Worldport in early March. The shipment contained reconstructed skulls and faces of two sailors who died in the USS Monitor, a Civil War-era ironclad warship that revolutionized naval warfare. The Monitor is best known for its battle with the Confederate ironclad, CSS Virginia on March 9, 1862. The engagement marked the first time iron ships clashed in naval warfare and signaled the end of wooden warships.

The skeletal remains of the two sailors were found in the Monitor’s gun turret during a 2002 recovery operation conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Navy. While much has been learned about the physical characteristics of the men, and DNA was obtained from their remains, their identities remain a mystery. NOAA hopes that the forensic reconstructions will prove successful in the on-going effort to identify the sailors.

Back to the eggs. Jeff Savage has worked at Worldport long enough to know the difference between a 757 and a 767. And he’s been around aircraft and air ramp equipment long enough to know the nuances of some very big machinery. He knew that based on the description of the forensic reconstructions, “fragile as an egg” was probably an understatement. These reconstructions are not designed to be moved. They are created to be photographed, with the pictures circulated to the media in hopes of someone in the public being able to identify a missing person or victim of a crime.

They actually never leave the FACES (Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services) Lab at Louisiana State University, where forensic pathologists create the likeness of someone who police hope to identify.

Back to those eggs again. Jeff knew that if he could maneuver some of the large air container loading equipment with hard boiled eggs balanced on top of road cones, he’d be able to ensure the shipments from NOAA got the “white glove” treatment they needed. “I’ve done some testing before of our ramp equipment and remembered the egg test,” Jeff said. “I balanced the eggs on some road cones inside an air container, ran the K-loader up and down and checked to see at what point the eggs might be jostled enough to fall.”

Jeff’s test was all that was needed to pinpoint areas of concern and devise a plan for smoothing out the ride.

And Jeff wasn’t the only one thinking about ways to smooth out the journey for these historic treasures. From the engineers at the UPS package test lab who devised the “belt and suspenders” shock proof containers, to the pilots who executed a softer landing by touching down earlier in the landing zone which meant they could use the brakes less for less vibration to the plane’s cargo, over 50 UPSers put their heads together (pardon the pun) to bring “guest of honor” status to these priceless artifacts. Jim Casey would be proud.

Category: Logistics, UPS News
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    Comments [1]

  1. Last night I read this article again and looked up Jim Casey. I didn’t realize that this was the same Casey who started the Casey Foundation-as a social worker, I have long been familiar with this amazing organization. Jim Casey would not be proud of any of the people at UPS who have been involved in the handling of my case of the destroyed cello. No one with any ethics would be proud of any of these employees. And Jim Casey would roll over in his grave if he knew.

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