Freight.Tech 25: Long history of innovation, cutting edge technology earn FedEx #8 slot

(Photo: FedEx)

FreightWaves announced the Freight.Tech 25 at MarketWaves 18 earlier this month. The list highlights the most innovative and disruptive companies in transportation and logistics. Industry giant FedEx (NYSE: FDX) ranked high on the list, coming in at number eight.

Founded in 1971 with the goal of accommodating urgent, time-sensitive shipments, FedEx has been on the cutting edge since day one. When FedEx CEO Frederick Smith started the company, its hub and spoke system allowed for overnight express delivery. The company was also the first to pioneer tracking and tracing capabilities, according to its website.

“Over more than four decades, FedEx has built a portfolio of innovative solutions that connect customers to more than 220 countries and territories,” the website reads.”That’s 99% of the world’s global gross domestic product. Imagine the possibilities.”

From electric vehicles to robots, FedEx is still innovating today.

The company began using all-electric vehicles in its fleet in 2009, and it has continued to add more electric vehicles ever since. At the end of 2017, FedEx operated over 2,860 alternative-fuel vehicles in its Express and Freight fleets.

Just this month, FreightWaves Managing Editor Brian Straight reported FedEx ordered 1,000 electric vans from Chanje Energy, to be delivered over the next two years. The vehicles will operate throughout California in the FedEx Express fleet, working in commercial and residential pick-up and delivery.

“FedEx continually seeks new ways to maximize operational efficiency, minimize impacts and find innovative solutions through the company’s Reduce, Replace, Revolutionize approach to sustainability,” said Mitch Jackson, FedEx chief sustainability officer. “Our investment in these vehicles is part of our commitment to that approach of serving our customers and connecting the world responsibly and resourcefully.”

FedEx also has robots on the floor at one of its shipping hubs in North Carolina to pull large and irregular items across the floor. Before the bots were introduced, employees used “tuggers” to move the items around, according to a New York Times article.

“Their initial robotic colleague drew a three-dimensional digital map of the place as it tugged freight around,” the article reads. “A few months later, three other robots — nicknamed Lucky, Dusty and Ned in a nod to the movie ‘¡Three Amigos’ — arrived, using the digital map to get around on their own.”

By March 2018, the hub had added two more robots to the mix. Now, they move around the floow in conjunction with 20 tuggers that still require human operation.

FedEx may soon be upping their robot game even further though. The Memphis Business Journal reported that the company submitted a filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, requesting a trademark for “FedEx SameDay Bot.”

“According to the filing, the purpose of the trademark is to use ‘robots for documents and package delivery’ that would primarily be for ‘shipping and delivery services, namely, pick-up, transportation and delivery of documents and packages,’” the article reads.

FedEx has since remained silent on the filing, but its current SameDay program is intended to provide delivery within hours.

FedEx’s history of innovation and penchant for being on the cutting edge no doubt played a large role is helping the company score spot number eight in the Freight.Tech 25.

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Ashley Coker, Staff Writer

Ashley is interested in the opportunities and issues that arise at the intersection of law and technology. She is the primary contributor to the news site content. She studied journalism at Middle Tennessee State University and worked as an editor and reporter at two daily newspapers before joining FreightWaves. Ashley spends her free time at the dog park with her beagle, Ruth, or scouring the internet for last minute flight deals.