An excellent article from 'Wired' on the logistical challenges of UPS, and the use of heuristics to make their delivery methodology even more efficient.
Here is a quick summary of some of the numbers that they deal with on a daily basis:
30—The maximum number of inches UPS specifies a driver should have to move to select the next package. This is accomplished through a meticulous system for loading packages into the truck in the order in which they’ll be delivered.
74—The number of pages in the manual for UPS drivers detailing the best practices for maximizing delivery efficiency.
200—The number of data points monitored on each delivery truck to anticipate maintenance issues and determine the most efficient ways to operate the vehicles.
55,000—The number of “package cars” (the brown trucks) in UPS’ U.S. fleet. If the figures involved in determining the most efficient route for one driver are astronomical in scale, imagine how those numbers look for the entire fleet.
16 million—The number of deliveries UPS makes daily.
$30 million—The cost to UPS per year if each driver drives just one more mile each day than necessary. By that same logic, the company saves $30 million if each driver finds a way to drive one mile less.
85 million—The number of miles Levis says UPS’ analytics tools are saving UPS drivers per year.
100 million—The reduction in the number of minutes UPS trucks spend idling thanks in part, the company says, to onboard sensors that helped figure out when in the delivery process to turn the truck on and off.
200 million—The number of addresses mapped by UPS drivers on the ground.
15 trillion trillion—The number of possible routes a driver with just 25 packages to deliver can choose from. As illustrated by the classic traveling salesman problem, the mathematical phenomenon that makes figuring out the best delivery routes so difficult is called a combinatorial explosion.