In the sticky Southern heat, hundreds of workers streamed in for the 11 a.m. shift last month at United Parcel Service Inc.’s local package-sorting facility, one of dozens nationwide that help it move millions of parcels daily.
In a windowless room, a 30-year-old analog control panel about the size of a chest freezer monitors operations, with rows of green and red lights indicating when something goes awry in the building’s web of conveyor belts.
“Thirty years ago, this was top-notch,” UPS plant engineering manager Dean Britt said of the control panel. Today, the panel’s computing capabilities “can probably fit on your phone,” he said, “and not even a good phone.”
The site, and other similar UPS facilities, haven’t automated much over decades — despite a rush of new warehouse technology in many industries. Today, the company is paying a price.