If you ask Jack Levis about big data, he’ll tell you it’s a how, not a what. As the Senior Director of Process Management for UPS in his fortieth year at the company, Levis knows that the importance lies not in big data, but in big decision and big insight. “In business, analytics is about decision making and improvements,” he said. “The value is not in the data itself, but in knowing what to do with it.”
Levis led the decade-long development of On Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation (ORION), a 1,000-page algorithm and operations research project that determines the most efficient delivery routes for UPS drivers. ORION evaluates more than 200,000 alternative ways to run a single route and has led to an annual reduction of 85 million miles driven, 8 million gallons of fuel, and 85,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide - all while achieving the highest service levels in the company’s history.
To tackle a project of ORION’s scale, Levis advised students and future analytics practitioners to truly understand the business process, to mitigate data limitations, and to embrace change management. “You’re never going to get a better result by doing things they way you’ve always done them,” he said. “Communicate, educate, and change the conversation. Achieving gains means changing behavior.”
For UPS, those achievements have translated into a savings of more than $300 million per year. ORION is now used in more than 70% of the company’s routes across the U.S., and, according to Levis, enables more personalized services to UPS customers through the use of analytics. “We’ve really turned from a trucking company with technology to a technology company with trucks.”