As we’ve all learned much too intimately, there are few things that have the power to impact global ecosystems as profoundly as a pandemic. In a matter of months, the coronavirus touched nearly every country and person in the world, upending life as we know it and paving the way for long-term changes we can only begin to predict.
Ultimately, the effects of the coronavirus have transcended industry, country and our way of life. Our global communities have been dealing with its fallout for nearly a year, including increased stress on health care systems, schools and workplaces, to a profound shift in the purchase and consumption of goods and services. In my role at FedEx, I’ve witnessed first-hand how interconnected our world is. And just like the rest of society, the pandemic has challenged me and our company in brand new ways.
So just what has it taken to keep our world in motion? And what profound changes has the pandemic accelerated across our industry?
Just as quickly as the pandemic rippled across the world, our team members leapt into action to keep goods and services flowing. These men and women have worked tirelessly to ensure the medical community has the supplies it needs, businesses can continue to sell their products online, and people can obtain necessary goods and “creature comforts”. When looking back at the last several months, that’s the No. 1 reason we’ve been able to keep the world in motion. Our people have buoyed us during this great test of human will and spirit.
Similarly, the size and scale of our global reach allowed us to keep the world’s industrial, health care and at-home supply chains moving. Simply put, we flexed the power of our network to meet new demands the world had never seen before. I am especially proud of the critical supplies we’ve delivered and the humanitarian efforts we’ve supported in recent months. As a result, we have:
- Transported more than 60 kilotons of personal protective equipment globally, including more than two billion face masks.
- Worked with the Government of India and its agencies to ensure continued FedEx air operations, safety protocol and the required access for our aircrews.
- Orchestrated nearly 150 charter flights and 1,000 ocean containers to supply critical personal protective equipment.
- Executed the transport of more than 9,600 humanitarian aid missions globally through collaborations with our nonprofit partners — including personal protective equipment, medical shelters, boxes for food banks and more.
Ultimately, the effects of the coronavirus have transcended industry, country and our way of life.
As we look to the future, there will surely be more instances in which our people and our networks must rise to the occasion – perhaps none more important than impending vaccine distribution efforts. FedEx is already transporting these critical distributions. In fact, a FedEx Express courier made the first U.S. vaccine delivery in mid-December, and we continue to deliver the first wave of COVID-19 vaccine shipments here in the U.S. This monumental undertaking has been designed in close coordination with the government, health care companies and organizations like FedEx. Our team stands ready to transport additional vaccine shipments internationally as they become available. We are well-positioned to safely and efficiently move it through our comprehensive global network with temperature-control solutions, near real-time monitoring capabilities, and a dedicated healthcare team to support the express transportation of vaccines and bioscience shipments.
Partnerships between companies, governments, NGOs and others will be critical in navigating the pandemic’s challenges and we can expect to see coordinated, ongoing efforts to address the global crisis, much that will have a long-lasting impact on how we come together to solve future global problems. I am convinced that by breaking down barriers and working together we will make significant headway in curtailing the virus in 2021.
Partnerships between companies, governments, NGOs and others will be critical in navigating the pandemic’s challenges.
Outside of the above factors, COVID-19 has also created dramatic changes within two areas I know well—trade and supply chains.
I’ve had a unique vantage point of watching our global economy and how it moves through the FedEx network every day, given our more than 18 million daily shipments in 220 countries and territories around the world. As such, I find myself resolute in my commitment to creating opportunities for expanded trade relations throughout the world.
Similarly, the pandemic accelerated global supply chain trends that were already underway, demonstrating even further the interconnectivity of our world. I see FedEx as a key contributor to connecting people with possibilities–now and increasingly in the future. Because while the ways in which the movement of people, goods and services may change—the need to do so safely and efficiently will not.
The pandemic accelerated global supply chain trends that were already underway, demonstrating even further the interconnectivity of our world.
We are also seeing unprecedented growth in e-commerce as consumers increasingly shop online. Pre-pandemic, we projected that the U.S. domestic market would hit 100 million packagers per day by 2026. Now, we believe the U.S. will meet that mark by 2023—quite a jump from our previous estimates! We’re seeing similar trends throughout the globe as more and more people go online to make purchases. From small businesses to global giants, companies that invested in digital shopping solutions have been better positioned to address the e-commerce surge.
To take this a step further, across the board the pandemic accelerated the need for new digital technologies to better visualize the journey of a package. As more and more shipments traverse our network each day, we’ve relied on both our physical infrastructure and digital technologies to keep pace. In 1978, our Chairman and CEO Fred Smith recognized before anyone else that “the information about the package is as important as the package itself.” That has never been truer than now. To give you one example, a shipment in our network undergoes roughly 20 to 30 scans during its journey. And, with approximately 18 million packages in our system at any given time, this leads to robust data about global supply chains. Data that helps inform every solution we develop.
I believe that digital innovation is key to how we’ll deliver the future. At FedEx, there are numerous efforts already underway by our world class teams to ensure the goods people rely on are where they’re needed and when they’re expected, including leading cutting-edge innovation through autonomous delivery devices, like Roxo, the FedEx SameDay Bot. Advancing our industry-leading tracking technology through two new solutions:
- FedEx Surround, which predicts shipment success by combining the physical information about the package with external data about where the package is traveling to manage risks before, during and after a shipment.
- SenseAware ID, which uses a lightweight, compact sensor that transmits precise package location data every two seconds.
Finally, as we emerge from the pandemic, I cannot overlook the importance of connecting our world in more responsible and resourceful ways. It’s more important than ever to increase our use of renewable energy while reducing carbon emissions, and I believe all companies have a responsibility to a take a critical look at their business and to develop progressive plans for minimizing environmental impact.
As we emerge from the pandemic, I cannot overlook the importance of connecting our world in more responsible and resourceful ways.
As the world’s largest cargo airline, FedEx has focused on aircraft and vehicle efficiency, modernizing our air fleet with more efficient planes, adding electric vehicles to our operations and building on our Fuel Sense program, which saved more than 250 million gallons of fuel in our 2019 fiscal year and reduced CO2 emissions by 3.1 million metric tons. We will continue to seek out ways to build sustainability efforts into the core of our business operations.
No one could have predicted the profound impact of the coronavirus, and it’s hard to imagine the long-term changes it will bring. Yet, I am confident we will emerge from the pandemic stronger, more resilient and with a greater understanding of how we can continue to move our connected world forward.