UPS recently opened a new ground package sortation and distribution hub in Tacoma, Washington.
The facility at the Port of Tacoma adds 777,000 square feet of automated processing capacity to the company’s global network. The state-of-the-art facility, the largest in the state, increases UPS’s delivery capabilities in the Seattle-Tacoma area.
To increase network efficiency, the facility features several advancements in technology including autonomous tow tractors, or ‘tugs.’ Tugs quickly move packages throughout the facility, assisting UPS Smart Label applicators for packages of all sizes.
The tugs move large and irregularly-shaped packages from one area to another using lasers to navigate the building’s terrain and avoid obstacles.
“We’ve pre-mapped out the building and the machine compares that to what it’s seen in the past to figure out where it is,” said Ben Myers, automation engineer for the hub. “Then it identifies unknown obstacles in its way and slows down or stops depending on the circumstance to make sure it doesn’t hit anything.”
The automation of the tugs helps free up UPS employees to do other things. “Having the autonomous tugs allows us to assign a relatively simple task to a robot and use our personnel in more effective ways,” said Ben Myers, automation engineer for the hub.
The Tacoma hub operates 15 autonomous tugs. Autonomous tugs are used in UPS facilities throughout North America including Louisville, Columbus and Sacramento.
UPS Smart Labels applicators operate within various areas in Tacoma as well. Using compressed air, they place labels on packages at a rate of three per second and are used to assist employees when loading package cars.
Take a virtual tour
Take a peek around the new Tacoma hub in a video hosted by Northwest District President Joe Braham.