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Meet the new FedEx Efficient Containers. Lighter design. Less fuel.

October 3, 2013

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Taking weight off a jet isn’t a new idea. It’s a problem aviators have tried to solve since the early pages of aviation history. Extra weight equals extra fuel. When you find the right balance, you can fly farther, use less fuel and reduce emissions. But it’s how you take the weight off that gets interesting.

Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly across the Atlantic using a plane covered in lightweight linen. Today, this same mindset is inspiring a whole new generation of innovations and I’m happy to say much safer than some of those early ideas.

One of our newest EarthSmart Innovations, the FedEx Efficient Container, takes this mindset to heart. These unit load devices (ULDs) are the containers that keep packages safe during loading, transit and unloading of our aircraft. Efficient containers, which begin service with our maiden 767 flight later this month, will be significantly lighter than the models currently in our network. For example, our largest container used on the 777s will weigh almost 150 lbs. lighter.

In fact, once we finish retrofitting or replacing about 23,000 older-model ULDs, Efficient Containers will remove more than 1.6 million pounds from our air network. This equates to saving approximately 2.8 million gallons of fuel each year and reducing our CO2 emissions by 77.8 million pounds.

Efficient containerFor the past three years, I’ve collaborated with our strategic projects and air ops teams and our manufacturer to bring this idea to life. On the outset we all agreed to a few simple principles. Make it lighter, make it safe, make it use space more efficiently and make it 100 percent recyclable.

After countless Cad drawings and tests, three years of planning are paying off: 100 hundred test units on 21,000 flight cycles saved more than $200,000 in fuel costs. Now we’re about to bring four new models online consisting of a total of 38 new parts.

These containers join a host of weight-reducing efforts at FedEx from re-distributing weight in the cargo hull to streamlining galley equipment. Together with our new fuel-efficient aircraft like the 767s, and 777s, we’re making a significant impact on our goal to reduce aircraft emissions intensity 30 percent by 2020.   


    David F says:

    Great work Dave!

    Megan says:

    I am curious to know the actual weight of the old ULDS and the new ULDS, not just that they will be 150lbs lighter.

    Shakil Khan says:

    Completed my GSE training few days ago, great aircraft very user friendly. Looking forward to working and training on this aircraft soon….

    Alex says:

    Congratulations !!!!!!!

    Lori says:

    Very cool addition to the Fuel Sense program! I’m always amazed at the impact you all can have on our environmental footprint with seemingly small changes that make a big difference. Keep up the good work!

    Francois says:

    Well done Dave.
    Tremendous improvement on fuel consuming and good for Earth !!!!
    What asking more ?

    Jad Musallam says:

    Thats great news to hear the amount of savings the new ULD’s can potentially bring to the company and environment!

    Grant Wood says:

    Amazing !! Great idea, someone is always thinking of new ways to improve the system.
    Good work !!

    Tim Bruner says:

    Wow! Just amazing numbers on this!

    Elisabeth de Zagon says:

    Awesome. Can’t wait to see them on our European network!

    David says:

    What is the cost to replace 23,000 ULD’s and therefore what is the estimated payback?

    Rodrigo says:

    Wow. Very Nice add to our network. Can’t wait to see it in Brazil and new inovations from EarthSmart team! Congratulations

    Anderson Damiao says:

    This is a really good move for reducing costs and improve our margins.

    Dave Lee says:

    Thanks for the great comments! To answer a couple of your questions:

    1. We are purchasing new models only to support our new aircraft – the B767 and B777. The rest of our existing fleet will be changed over to lightweight ULDs as they transit in for repair. We’d be paying for repairs anyway, and with the new models we’re investing in a better long term product. Estimated payback is actually increased long-term savings.

    2. Total weight savings varies by the ULD type. For example, the AMJ containers used on our wide body aircraft have an average tare weight of 758 lbs. The new design weighs 607 lbs.

    -Dave Lee

    Beverly says:

    It gives me great pride to know that I work for a company who is always FORWARD thinking to make our worklife and where we live a better place. Awesome job!

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