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34 - Special Report from Federal Express Global Hub (3 AM) in Memphis

1. (Memphis, TN 3:00 AM) - Federal Express Hub - This is the first in a series of Behind The Scene Looks at technology and learning perspectives gleamed from the operations of MASIE Center's TechLearn Collaborative Members. I am just finishing up an early morning tour of the overnight processing hub at Federal Express Headquarters in Memphis, TN. Imagine more than 200 airplanes landing right before midnight, offloading more than a million packages and then sorting these all by 2:07 AM and putting them back on planes. This is what has just happened. It is a sight to see. 1.3 million packages, envelopes, large boxes, computer monitors and even an occasional horse or sports car come thru this hub every night. The training staff at FedEx gave us a VIP Tour this evening and it was intriguing from both a technology and training perspective.

This is an awesome blend of bytes and brawn. The thousands of staff on duty are given every possible technological assistance to help with the muscle task of unloading, sorting and reloading these two hundred large planes. You get a sense of this as employees enter the hub building at the Memphis Airport. There is a gauntlet of television monitors that line the hallway to the operations area, allowing the staff to see updates on incoming flights and also watch short update video segments as they walk. This is truly just in time and small chunk learning in action.

Even for a kid that grew up in New York City, this was a traffic sight to be seen. A thousand vehicles scurry about, moving people, packages and letters throughout the hub operation. These crews are deeply trained, from both a procedural and safety perspective. Teams work in a highly coordinated fashion, unloading most airplanes in less than 25 minutes. Metrics are gathered consistently and bonuses are linked to hitting performance goals and keeping the accidents and delays to a minimum.

Tonight the mantra was 2:07. It was posted in large letters on monitors throughout the complex. This was the target time for getting all the packages off the planes, scanned and into the hub for final sorting. You could feel the energy rise as we got closer to that time. Monitors posted information on delayed planes and a countdown to the target time. Teams seemed to compete with each other to beat the clock and to make the mark.

Repetitive, muscle based jobs were executed here with an upbeat feel that I have not seen at hundreds of plants that I have visited over the years. Large benefit packages, good selection and strong training are part of the answer. (Benefits for part time workers and the ability to fly on FedEx planes on off-time are part of the mix). Technology is applied in large doses to make this process continually improve and the investment in safety is universal throughout the operation.

My tour guide was one of the off-loaders here at the hub and was proud of their training process and in fact wanted to know how one became a trainer. Hat's off to FedEx on their operation. The next time you see one of their envelopes or packages heading out the door think of this 3 hour high tech, large muscle dance they will be part of at the hub later that night. (Special Thanks to the FedEx Team that hosted The MASIE Center!)

2. Internet Based Question Packages Grow. One of the fastest growing areas of technology and learning tools is the assessment marketplace. Organizations that are entering the world of on-line learning often make their first stop at the on-line assessment island. Using intranets or the external internet for the delivery of tests, pre-class assessments or surveys is a no-brainer for most organizations, even those that are leery of adding actual instruction to the internet. We just received a press release about a new version of an on-line testing package, Question Mark Perception. This tool adds deeper browser authoring, delivery and management of questions and responses. Their URL is

3. Another Vendor Screening Question: Year 2000? A TechLearn Trends Reader (Robyn Grady) has added another question to our list of 5 vendor screening questions. She always asks: "Is your application, equipment or technology Year 2000 compliant and in what manner?"

4. TechLearn '98 Participation Hits 500 Registrations...! With more than seven months to go, we more than 500 of our colleagues have registered for TechLearn '98. This year's event will be quite different than any other conference. First of all, NO TRADE SHOW! We believe that the needs of organizations facing the critical issues of how and if to use technology are best served in a non-commercial environment, where you are treated as a colleague rather than a sales prospect. Secondly, we are conducting the largest Benchmarking Program at TechLearn '98. We will conduct a confidential pre-conference benchmarking process for every organization that is registered and provide you with a detailed view of best practices, comparative expenditures and routes followed. Finally, TechLearn '98 is programmed by your colleagues, including the corporate members of our TechLearn Collaborative (representing over 12 million workers and learners) To make your reservation today, just go to or call 800-98-MASIE (518-587-3522)

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