UPS CEO Tomé calls on logisticians to take “totally different perspective” post-COVID

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Supply chain experts need a “totally different perspective on inventory management” in the wake of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and its aftershocks.

That means moving from “Just-in-Time” inventory distribution programs to “Just-in-Case” worldwide distribution strategies. That would mean more industrial production in or near North America or closer to where customers exist.

That’s the word from UPS CEO Carol Tomé, who discussed issues that will shape 2022 and beyond during the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s State of American Business video conference on January 11. Issues she covered included economic trends and global competition to policy challenges and opportunities.

“There’s been a few wakeup calls throughout the year,” Tomé said.

UPS is one of the stars of the COVID-19 era. Its 540,000 worldwide employees have delivered more than 1 billion COVID vaccines around the globe with a stunning 99.9% on-time rate to some of the most remote places on earth, she said.

In delivering those doses “It’s not just the number, it’s how we did it,” Tomé said.

Using sensors on every package, UPS tracked every dose and delivered vaccines with 99.9 on-time record. “We’re proud of that,” she said.

“It’s been an incredible journey,” she said. “We were a 112-year-old company, and we weren’t ready for the pandemic.”

Tomé assumed the top post at UPS in March of 2020. The company was immediately hit by a global pandemic followed by a supply chain crisis and a labor shortage. How has that affected the world’s largest transportation company? 

Her first act was to order enough personal protective gear for UPS employees. To help distribute the gear, she said, UPS hired 40,000 additional workers.

Moving our world forward to deliver what matters is her mantra. “We don’t just move goods. We do good,” she said.

UPS made serious investments in both services and its employees, including raises for workers.

“In these unprecedented times, UPS just didn’t survive. We thrived,” Tomé said,

In addition, the UPS Foundation, its charitable arm, delivered another 20 million of doses to the underdeveloped world. Those deliveries included some via drone in Rwanda.

“Innovation-driven is part of our strategic platform,” she said. “Technology is leading the world. But digital learning will give way to digital fluency.”

UPS has declared a goal to be carbon-neutral by 2050. UPS is looking into battery-powered aircraft, taking first deliveries of that type of plane in 2024. Drones “have lots of issues,” Tomé said. But she did predict they would have a utility in world transportation soon.

As for the labor shortage, Tomé said the Teamsters-covered company looks at its workers as “the secret sauce” of the $84.6 billion company. It hired more than 100,000 seasonal workers during Christmas, and Tomé said about a third will stay on with the company.

“We have career opportunities not just job opportunities,” she said. “We’ve been able to manage through it pretty well.”

UPS Teamsters pay nothing for full health care coverage. To which Tomé said, “How cool is that?”

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