A Delivery for Santa

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A Delivery for Santa

Just how hard is it to deliver a package to Santa Claus?

Georgia Tech’s Great International Package Race seeks to find the answer through a light-hearted contest pitting UPS, FedEx, DHL, and the U.S. Postal Service against one another.

Students in the Supply Chain and Logistics Institute in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering packed up four identical packages and shipped them to Santa Claus Village in Lapland, Finland.

The packages were sent Dec. 13 and should arrive in four to 10 days, said Professor John Bartholdi, who is leading the project. DHL won this year, delivering the package Dec. 17.

Bartholdi started the exercise in 2003 as a fun way to demonstrate how carriers operate. The race allows students to see which hubs are used and what can go wrong when packages travel overseas.

This is the first time the race is being held during the busy holiday season, said Bartholdi, who bears some physical resemblance to St. Nick.

Why ship to Santa Claus? “Well, we think it’s time he got a package,” Bartholdi said.

Also, this is the busiest time of the year for parcel delivery. That makes it an ideal time to test the shipping system and should produce a more interesting race.

“There are so many variables you just don’t know how it will get there,” he said.

Each box - measuring 11 ¼ inches by 8 ¾ inches by 6 inches - includes a Georgia Tech hat, bag, coffee mug, and an XXL T-shirt.   

While the packages all start at the same place – the Supply Chain and Logistics office – they often take different and complex paths to reach the final destination.

Bartholdi will track the packages and post updates here.

One year a package traveled across the Atlantic Ocean nine times before it was delivered. Once a package was sent to Costa Rica instead of Croatia. A carrier has even claimed that the destination country didn’t exist. Of course it did.

The race has had some tight finishes. UPS beat DHL to Croatia by three minutes. A race to Singapore ended in a tie when UPS and FedEx arrived at the door simultaneously, although they used different routes.

The major carriers seem to be aware of the race. Some of their employees smile when they see the same package for different carriers and ask if the race is on, Bartholdi said.

While Atlanta-based UPS is the home team, Bartholdi promised there is no favoritism.

“We wish them well, but everyone plays by the same rules,” Bartholdi said. “We’ll see who wins.”

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