E-commerce emerged as a potent force for changing the ways companies and consumers did business. Technology linked buyers and sellers in new ways that propelled globalization. Since the late 1990s, UPS has invested billions of dollars in technology development and infrastructure.
In 1993, UPS delivered 11.5 million packages and documents daily for more than one million regular customers. With such massive volume, UPS needed to develop new technology to maintain efficiency, keep prices competitive, and provide additional customer services. Operational technology at UPS spans a broad range, from small handheld devices, to specially designed package delivery vehicles, to global computer and communications systems. The company's online presence now extends beyond UPS.com. Popular shipping and tracking systems such as WorldShip, Quantum View, and CampusShip are Web-based tools that provide customers with efficient and leading edge technology driven tools to process, track, and manage shipments and supply chains.
The handheld Delivery Information Acquisition Device (DIAD), carried by all UPS drivers, was developed to capture and upload delivery information to the UPS network. The DIAD even includes digital images of a recipient's signature, giving shippers quicker confirmation of final delivery. This proprietary device also allows drivers to stay in contact with their operational centers, staying abreast of changing pickup schedules, traffic patterns, and other important messages. Finding technological efficiencies have led to environmental benefits. Use of the DIAD eliminates the use of 59 million sheets of paper, equal to 5,187 trees per year.
In 1992, UPS began tracking all ground shipments electronically. In 1994, UPS.com debuted, and provided the perfect interface to make what was primarily internal operational information available for customer access. The following year, UPS added functionality to its Web site that enabled customers to track packages in transit. The resulting popularity of online shipment tracking surpassed all expectations. Today UPS.com receives 39.5 million online tracking requests daily.
Toward the end of the 1990s, UPS began another transition. While the core business continued to focus on package delivery, UPS expanded its vision to become an enabler of global commerce. The strategy that emerged was to drive growth through a new set of global services to meet the needs of customers seeking more efficient supply chains. Services added included transportation and distribution for larger shipments via road, rail, air, and ocean. Specialty services were developed for high-tech, automotive, and consumer goods industries, because they increasingly were sourcing globally. UPS began to acquire companies with supply chain management and target industry expertise. In 1998 the company also established UPS Capital, a financial services business unit, expediting the flow of funds and mitigating trade risk throughout the supply chain. In its beginning, UPS Capital offered COD enhancement services, and eventually purchased First International Bank, allowing commercial lending capabilities.
While embracing new technological and strategic business developments, UPS also took a bold financial step for an established company. On November 10, 1999, UPS offered 10 percent of its stock to the public for the first time. This initial public offering gave UPS the ability to use a publicly traded security to make strategic acquisitions. Prior to this, UPS had been owned primarily by management employees, a practice established by Jim Casey in the 1920s when he gave staff the opportunity to purchase company shares.