Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

A Conversation with Mark Susor: Leadership in the Largest UPS Distribution Facility in the World

Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

A Conversation with Mark Susor: Leadership in the Largest UPS Distribution Facility in the World

Article excerpt

Often while driving around Chicago on the I-294 toll road crossing the Des Plaines River on what is locally called the mile long bridge, I can view an expansive structure just south and west of the bridge. The facility itself is bigger than a football stadium, virtually surrounded with hundreds of semi trailers and an intramodal loading facility operated by the Burlington Northern - Santa Fe railroad. I knew this is one of United Parcel Service's (UPS) sorting facilities, but I had no idea how important it was to the regional operations of UPS. The importance of speed and the need for highly coordinated multi-modal shipping schedules and processing of packages makes for some very serious leadership challenges in operational planning and control. I wanted to learn more about those challenges. Time and time again, we see where there is a need for very tight logistical controls, both in delivery of raw materials and in final products. Time and dependability are critical for any shipping operation, and this is especially true in the small package delivery industry of UPS.

I wanted to learn more about the leadership that it takes to make an operation like UPS work and particularly at UPS' largest sorting location in the world, the Chicago Area Consolidation Hub (CACH). I sat down with Mark Susor, the district industrial engineering manager. What I learned relates closely to the degree of leadership it takes to make a complex, interrelated system work effectively. I think you will enjoy the following interview.

Ken Thompson: What is the extent of operations here at the Chicago Area Consolidation Hub (CACH) facility?

Mark Susor: We sort from 1.3 million to 1.6 million packages per day. The CACH facility has 1.5 million square feet under one roof and a mezzanine of with an additional 400,000 square feet. The total site is 240 acres. The primary function of the CACH facility is to act as a consolidation hub for our North American ground network.

Ken Thompson: You obviously have widely varying levels of demand for your services particularly on a seasonal basis. How do you vary your operations to meet those different levels of demand?

Mark Susor: We have an operational plan that really serves us well. During the lower volume season, we complete much of our planned maintenance on the equipment and facilities. In addition, our various shifts have been designed to expand and contract to meet the demands for those particular needs for that shift for that day. During peak operating period, we will not schedule equipment off line for planned maintenance. For example, during the month of December, we have minimal preventive maintenance scheduled to make all the equipment available to the operation. That helps us handle the seasonal jump in volume as we go from 1.3 million to 1.6 million packages a day. During the peak time of the year, we use all the available equipment in the building. Our all time performance record for a 24-hour period is 1.85 million packages in a facility that was originally designed for 3 million packages per day when fully equipped.

Ken Thompson: That is incredible and employing shifts of four to five hours was important to this process?

Mark Susor: Yes, in this building, we have four four-hour shifts that operate daily. We have a Sunrise Sort that starts around 4 a.m. and will finish around 7:45 to 8:00 a.m. We have a Day shift that starts around 10:00 to 10:15 in the morning, and we usually look to put that operation down around 1:30 in the afternoon. We then have the building down until the twilight shift. The Twilight shift starts around 5:15 p.m. and we will run that until about 8:30 p.m. Once we finish out that sort, we will then start up a night sort, currently about 10:00 to 10:15 in the evening, and we will look to put that operation down about l:30 to 2:00 in the morning.

Ken Thompson: So, during the peak times, the 4-hour sort time might expand up to 5 hours? …

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