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FedEx Innovation: Four Decades of Breakthroughs

Innovation has always been part of our DNA. It started in 1965 when our CEO and Chairman Fred Smith, then a Yale undergraduate, came up with a system to allow for the delivery of time-sensitive shipments. Within a decade, that idea established an entirely new industry — hub and spoke express shipping. But we didn’t stop there. We’ve continued to pioneer new innovations, all with an eye on connecting people and possibilities by providing better solutions for our customers.

OurPeople_InnovationOur innovations have taken multiple forms: the first PC-based automated shipping system, later named FedEx PowerShip®; FedEx® Tracking, which allows customers to keep tabs on the status of packages in transit; and the first all-electric trucks to be used in the U.S. parcel delivery business. And we’re now working on another first: Starting in 2017, we will launch the use of alternative jet fuels that feature sustainable ingredients including algae, tree pulp, and scrub brush. (See infographic below.)

A systematic, ongoing approach

These sorts of developments emerge naturally out of our focus on innovation. All of our team members are tasked with looking for ways to streamline operations and improve the customer experience. But we also employ a methodical approach. FedEx Innovation is a cross-disciplinary team with one mission: Develop game-changing ideas. The team systematically researches and identifies emerging customer needs — some of which customers might not be aware of yet. Team members then put all potential solutions through a series of rigorous tests. Only the best ones end up seeing the light of day.

For advanced research, we sponsor the FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis. The institute has a versatile, high-tech facility, and it’s home to research teams that work on everything from artificial intelligence and biotechnology to geospatial analysis, multimedia arts, nanotechnology, and more.

The never-ending breakthrough process

FedEx Innovation has engineered remarkable advances. One recent example is SenseAware®, a powerful multi-sensor device that detects and transmits near-real-time shipment data on six key variables, including location, temperature, humidity, and shock.

The thing about innovation is that it’s a never-ending job. Case in point: We now have more than 1,000 electric, hybrid, natural gas, and hydrogen vehicles in our fleet. But we’re still working to identify and invest in future technologies that will provide cleaner, more efficient options with engines that are optimally sized for the weight and power needed.

Shipping more than 10 million packages per business day around the world offers new challenges every day. Those challenges drive us to develop better solutions — and build the connections that allow people and communities to flourish and prosper.

FedEx biofuel sustainability infographic

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