CRF Blog

They Call Him Mr. Peak

by Bill Hayes

In its cover story, They Call Him Mr. Peak, Bloomberg Businessweek profiles Scott Abell, the man in charge of UPS’s holiday shipping.

Perhaps the biggest holiday challenge for UPS is satisfying Amazon.com (AMZN), which doesn’t behave like a traditional retailer. In November, Amazon unveiled a plan to deliver packages on Sundays with the help of the U.S. Postal Service rather than UPS. In December, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive officer, told 60 Minutes the company was experimenting with delivering packages by drone. Many people snickered. UPS did not. Ross McCullough, vice president of corporate strategy, says UPS is studying drone delivery, too. “I believe these things will be part of the system in the future,” he says. “I don’t know when.” He says UPS is also weighing the potential use of driverless vehicles.

Then there are the factors Mr. Peak can’t control. This year there are only 26 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, compared with 32 last year. That means UPS has to shove what it describes as a record number of parcels through a smaller window. Winter storms can also upset Abell’s plans. “The biggest challenge is the weather. When you have a shorter season, you have less time for recovery,” says UPS CEO D. Scott Davis. “You just hope you don’t have ice storms.” It isn’t only that ice can ground UPS jets and halt its trucks. The company has found that when people are snowed in, they do more online shopping. So when UPS digs itself out, it has to deliver even more presents. Abell doesn’t know what to expect this year from the weather, but he is ready to sort boxes by hand himself if an emergency arises. “I hustled boxes before,” he says. “I can do it again.”

Abell has four calendars in his office. There’s the UPS corporate calendar. Another shows the deadlines for circulating his peak plan to UPS district managers. The third displays dates for when he has to submit his plans to the company’s airplane pilots. Then there’s the small calendar on his desk. Mr. Peak keeps it there so he doesn’t have to constantly crane his neck to look at the other calendars when he’s on the phone. [more]