ORION Backgrounder


Arguably the world’s largest operations research project, ORION uses expansive fleet telematics and advanced algorithms to gather and calculate countless amounts of data to provide UPS drivers with optimized routes.

Each business day, UPS drivers make an average of about 100 delivery stops. The number of route combinations a driver can make is far greater than the number of nanoseconds the earth has existed. To ensure UPS drivers use the most optimized delivery routes in regard to distance, fuel and time, UPS developed On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation (ORION).

Arguably the world’s largest operations research project, ORION uses expansive fleet telematics and advanced algorithms to gather and calculate countless amounts of data to provide UPS drivers with optimized routes. The technology helps UPS drivers to determine the optimal way to deliver and pick-up packages within a set of stops defined by start time, commit time, pick-up windows and special customer needs. The system relies on online map data, customized by UPS, to calculate miles and travel time to plan the most cost-effective routes.

The ORION program is the result of a long-term operational technology investment and commitment by UPS. ORION was more than a decade in the making from the initial development of the algorithm to full deployment to nearly 55,000 routes in North America. 2013 marked the first major ORION deployment by a team of 500 dedicated resources to rollout ORION to 10,000 UPS routes. As results exceeded expectations, UPS sped up the U.S. deployment and completed it by fall of 2016.

The origin of ORION

The long-standing UPS culture of “constructive dissatisfaction” (stemming from UPS founder, Jim Casey’s belief that companies and people should always be looking for ways to improve themselves) led UPS to initially develop the ORION program. UPS is committed to continual investments in technologies, investing approximately $1 billion a year in operational and customer solutions. However, the company not only had to invest in technologies in order to develop the ORION program, they had to get creative in the solution.

In 2008, UPS piloted telematics technologies on delivery trucks to gather data to understand where efficiencies can be improved. By installing GPS tracking equipment and vehicle sensors, combined with a driver’s handheld mobile device, UPS could capture data related to vehicle routes, as well as the amount of time vehicles idled, and even whether drivers were wearing seatbelts.

While implementing solutions to gather the necessary data, UPS was developing a complex algorithm that could quickly solve complex routing problems. The resulting algorithm includes about 1000 pages of code and turns the captured data into instruction to optimize driver’s routes.

The ORION algorithm was initially developed in a lab and tested at various UPS sites from 2003 to 2009. The company prototyped ORION at 8 sites between 2010 and 2011 and deployed to 6 beta sites in 2012.

An infrastructure for ORION

Today, ORION can solve an individual route in seconds and is constantly running in the background evaluating routes before drivers even leave the facility. This level of route evaluation conducted through the ORION program requires extensive hardware and architectural provisions. Running on a bank of servers in Mahwah, NJ, ORION is constantly evaluating the best way for a route to run based on real-time information. While most of America is sleeping, ORION is solving tens of thousands route optimizations per minute.

In addition to architectural enhancements, the drivers’ Delivery Information Acquisition Device (DIAD) is enhanced to serve as the tool for communicating optimized routes to drivers while on the road.

Results with ORION

ORION saves UPS about 100 million miles per year. That's a reduction of 10 million gallons of fuel consumed.  It also reduces carbon dioxide emissions by about 100,000 metric tons.

Initial results show miles reduced with each route using ORION and a reduction of just one mile per driver per day over one year can save UPS up to $50 million.

ORION also benefits customers as it will enable more personalized services, even on peak business days. This includes the UPS My Choice® service, which allows consumers to have online and mobile access to see their incoming UPS home deliveries, and enables them to actively choose delivery preferences, reroute shipments and adjust delivery locations and dates as needed. Currently millions of customers take advantage of the UPS My Choice service, and ORION technologies will continue to make possible even more personalized services, with international on the future roadmap.


For more information about this factsheet, contact:

UPS Public Relations