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"Innovation is the key to dazzling our customers”

September 08, 2015: Innovation is the holy grail of both businesses and consumers around the world. At FedEx we know it is one of the keys to our continued success as a company. Our CIO Rob Carter recently said it well: "People won't respect us for our traditions; they will respect us for our innovation."

We certainly have a great track record for introducing some innovative firsts: Before FedEx there was no such thing as single carrier, door-to-door service for parcels carried by air. We led a movement that resulted in the deregulation of the air cargo industry in America in 1977 that allowed us to buy bigger planes and grow

Early on, we knew the information about a package is as important as the package itself. Today, of course, we know how critical digital data is; back then, few saw its potential. But we realized knowing where a package is and when it will be delivered was valuable information to our customers.

Other firsts we rolled out over the years include the world's first global tracking network for shipments, the first to enable customers to electronically request pickups, the first to use barcode labeling in ground transportation, and the first to allow customers to track packages on the Internet. All this sounds commonplace today, but these were first-of-a-kind technologies brought to customers by FedEx.

Getting technology right, at the right time, is a huge advantage for a business. But it's tough to do. If companies stay with outmoded technologies too long, they will fall behind competitors or even go out of business altogether. As author and speaker Ross Shafer said, "If you don't like change, you're going to hate extinction." If the bet on a specific technology is the right one, however, there can be a big payoff for being an early adopter.

We at FedEx have embraced new technologies to give our customers the easiest ways to ship and track packages, and we enable our team members to provide great service, all while reducing costs and energy use. More recent FedEx innovations abound:

  • FedEx Ground has the most automated hub network with investments in package-sorting systems that boost speed and reduce damages and in six-sided high-speed scanning systems that enhance data and image capture.
  • FedEx Freight is using technology to shorten its travel times as well as enabling true national less-than-truckload service, something highly uncommon in what has been a fragmented market.
  • FedEx Express has reduced many intercontinental delivery times with its new long-range Boeing 777 freighters.
  • And FedEx Office provides SameDay City service in 23 cities.

Another important innovation front for FedEx is alternative fuels. As a heavy user of jet fuel and gasoline, we know how important it is to reduce our consumption, both for the health of the environment and to minimize reliance on foreign sources. For years we've participated in research with various types of alternative energy.

We recently signed a long-term agreement to buy three million gallons of renewable jet fuel a year from a company called Red Rock. This innovative company uses scrap pulp left over from the logging industry to make its fuel. So it not only puts wood waste to good use, but also helps prevent forest fires in the western United States.

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When we look back over the last 40 years or so, we've gone from a world where choices were sharply limited to one where choices are abundant – and can be brought to you reliably and quickly, wherever you are.

Advances in technology has made all of this – and so much more – possible. FedEx is proud to be recognized as a technology leader and will continue to provide its customers with innovative options that are faster, better, and often cheaper than in the past. We know that continuous innovation is the key to dazzling our customers around the world.

- Author Fred Smith is the founder, chairman and CEO of Federal Express.

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