UPS gives customers scope for growth
For top international logistics firm UPS, one defining characteristic is the ability to offer innovative services for customers operating around the world.
What underpins this is a collaborative approach, with a team of more than 400,000 experts ready to identify sector-specific challenges and devise new solutions for clients in fast-evolving industries.
This emphasises the fact that UPS, also known as the United Problem Solvers, is not just in the shipping business but in the problem-solving business – focused on working together to find the right answer for every situation. At a time when the speed, reliability and cost-effectiveness of logistics services are so important, that is exactly what manufacturers, retailers, SMEs and multinationals are looking for.
“Doing business today is complicated,” says Chris Buono, Vice President of Information Technology for UPS Asia Pacific. “Globalisation means companies have to deal with complex networks, often involving multiple entities and spanning diverse geographies with different trade environments. All this has placed greater emphasis on supply chain management as a strategy for success.”
Typically, customers have to contend with a wide array of external challenges. These range from greater regional competition and the shift of manufacturing to emerging markets to disruptive technology, shorter product life cycles and the rise of e-commerce.
But it helps immeasurably if they can work with a logistics partner who understands the changes and can suggest how and where to adapt. For example, UPS has added Trade Management Services to its portfolio in Asia as part of a long-term strategy to help customers do cross-border business more effectively.
“Specialised services like this complement our broad transportation offerings and global network to provide truly comprehensive solutions,” Buono says. “We are currently witnessing the rise of the entrepreneurial economy, which is bringing new competition and huge opportunity. As a result, companies of every size are rethinking and rebuilding their business models, and few places will feel the repercussions more directly than the supply chain.”
Already, UPS serves customers in well over 200 countries and territories. However, recognising that rules and roles are evolving in terms of trade practice and supply chain needs, the company keeps a close eye on both macro trends and developments on the ground in each market.
By drawing on a combination of the latest industry research and the know-how of in-house sector experts in areas like retail, high-tech, manufacturing and healthcare, it is possible to gain the necessary perspectives and remain one step ahead.
“Regular dialogue and ‘deep dives’ with customers also help to refine our insights, enabling us to develop optimal solutions,” Buono says. “For example, by working closely with a Hong Kong-based e-commerce SME, EZshopnet, we were able to help them forecast trends in demand and respond immediately to any spikes. Improving efficiency and automation at every stage of their supply chain led to satisfied consumers across Asia.”
The first - and probably the most important - step to being “United Problem Solvers” is to recruit the right people. To this end, UPS looks to hire individuals who are creative, curious and consistently demonstrate a passion for what they do.
Within the company, there is a strong culture of innovation and collaboration, with everyone encouraged to show imagination, ingenuity, initiative, and leadership. Understandably employees are also expected to be resourceful, to the extent of detecting possible problems before they occur and putting forward solutions.
“One thing we’ve long believed at UPS is that our company has grown because our people have grown - and vice versa,” Buono says.
In other respects, he predicts that advances in technology will continue to transform the marketplace. For SMEs, that can prove a particular advantage because “digital empowerment” is now creating new trade opportunities for even the smallest enterprises.
Their concerns about the cost, complexity and risk of doing business beyond borders are starting to diminish. However, to succeed, such businesses often rely on high-quality logistics providers to move parts, samples and products at short notice and within tight timeframes.
“UPS is committed to enabling global trade for businesses, especially small ones that are so important to so many economies and the creators of so many jobs,” Buono says. “By leveraging our technology tools, we can help them control inventory and maintain visibility over deliveries. We know too that when it's easier to trade, more trade happens. As SMEs start to plug their businesses into existing supply chains, they will become seamless parts of the whole network of international trade.”
Looking ahead, UPS is also gearing up for changes sure to follow the wider adoption of technologies like 3D printing. One foreseeable outcome for the manufacturing sector is that it will lead to faster production times, more demand for customisation and, perhaps, smaller order sizes.
All that will have a knock-on impact for suppliers and logistics providers.
“We believe 3D technology will transform manufacturing similar to the way e-commerce has disrupted traditional bricks-and-mortar retailing,” Buono says. “It will mean building more flexibility into our network and capabilities. For example, instead of requiring large spaces to store physical spare parts, we can potentially operate with smaller warehouse spaces in more locations and still fulfil time-sensitive orders for our customers.”
UPS is a gold sponsor of the SCMP Game Changer Series