BOSTON — DASHING out the door. Standing in line. Wondering if the package arrived. Keeping track of invoices. Corporate America has done it all in an effort to send important packages overnight.
Federal Express, the world's largest express transportation service, thinks it has an answer that is as simple and small as a personal computer.
After a trial run in late 1993, the company launched a desktop automation system called ``Powership 3,'' designed for small- and medium-sized businesses. With a personal computer, modem, software, and a printing system (for labels and receipts), companies can ship and track their FedEx packages and get automatic billing.
The system is a smaller version of ``Powership 2,'' which the company says is used by 25,000 of its larger customers who ship more than five packages a day.
TO qualify for Powership 3, a small- or medium-sized company must ship an average of three packages a day. Federal Express then gives that company the system at no cost and provides on-line connections to its offices.
About 8,000 Powership 3 systems are in use around the country; the company expects that number to double or triple by the end of May, says Robert Miller, vice president of marketing for the Americas and the Caribbean.
The Powership concept was launched because firms shipping hundreds of packages a day needed faster service, Mr. Miller says. ``It's helped us lower our costs. If our customers can access the mainframe system to track the status of their package, that's one less call to our customer-service representatives.''
Ingalls, Quinn & Johnson, an advertising and public relations firm in Boston, sends out 25 to 30 packages each day. The mail room, where its Powership 2 is kept, closes at 5:30 p.m., while business for the rest of the company stretches into the night. Federal Express approached the firm about trying Powership 3 for its late-night shipping.
The result, says traffic manager Glenn Williams, is instant billing and no need to write airbills after 5:30.