Coordinating the most time-sensitive shipments during the most hectic time of year has always been a challenge for UPS, but the Internet has made Abell’s job more crucial than ever. It’s become so easy for people to shop via computers and smartphones that they frequently delay their purchases until the last minute. Mr. Peak’s job, in effect, is to fulfill the Internet’s promise of instant gratification.
If Abell can’t come up with a viable scheme, UPS is in trouble. The company expects to ship more than 132 million parcels globally during the week before Christmas alone. If it can’t find space for them all, retailers will almost surely turn to FedEx. In addition, Abell must keep a lid on costs. In the past some investors have worried that UPS is too e-commerce focused. David Vernon, an analyst for AllianceBernstein, notes that it’s usually more profitable to carry large shipments to businesses than to transport books to the cozy homes of Internet shoppers. But he says UPS is managing to turn a profit on the latter with careful planning. “I think some of those fears are starting to recede,” he says.