As much as I hate to admit it, Bugs Bunny might be wrong! At least, Bugs might not be right (pun intended). The Washington Post has finally documented UPS’ use of Big Data technology to identify the benefits of maximizing right turns.
This is an example I often use in Big Data presentations. So the basic facts are as follows. UPS’ computers have figured out that by routing trucks in such a way that they mostly turn right (90% of turns are right turns), it has saved itself over $36M in gas annually. Their study shows that
- Right turns are quicker than left turns in North America, since at most intersections, trucks can safely commit to a right turn, even at a red light, after first coming to a complete stop (time saving);
- Right turns are shorter in distance than having to cross over multiple lanes (gas saving);
- Right turns, since they do not cross over multiple lanes are safer – according to the article, 53.1% of crossing-path crashes are a result of left turns.(employee safety benefit); and
- Since it takes less time to do all these turns, there is a much higher likelihood customers get their packages on time or earlier (customer satisfaction benefit).
While saving $36M in gas for a company whose package operations generates $46.5B in revenues is insignificant, what the $36M does not describe is the impact of the safety of its drivers, the safety of pedestrians, other drives, and the customer loyalty that the safe, speedy and on-time delivery of packages represents.
In Big Data terms, it also reflects what pattern matching of disparate, unstructured data can yield.
Now, if only my UPS guy can deliver the right packages to me …