Off the Cuff

Leaders in the world of business share their thoughts on the way we work, spend, and prepare for the future.

No question, United Parcel Service is shedding its plain brown wrapper.

The giant shipper is becoming known on Wall Street as an Internet stock that actually makes money. The more people buy online, the more products they'll have shipped.

According to one survey, UPS delivered 55 percent of goods ordered on the Web.

The company also handles shipping and tracking for other companies, such as Ford, which have begun moving their goods to market themselves.

But UPS isn't doing anything it hasn't always done; it's just facilitating business, says Mike Eskew, executive vice president, in an interview with Monitor staff writer Eric Evarts. Mr. Eskew says it's really still all about being the classic middleman and outsourcing consultant.

"It's hard to know where the physical-package business cuts off and being a Web portal begins.

"We think we're a technology company. We are an e-business. But we're not a pure dotcom play. We're an enabler of commerce - moving goods, information [about the goods], and funds [from sellers to buyers and back].

"We know the buyer and the seller, and we're the trusted broker on both sides.

"Outsourcing has been around a long time. We started in 1907, delivering for the stores in Seattle, because the stores didn't want to deliver themselves.

"And we see the same thing now. [Ford] recently came to us and said, 'You know, you guys know where every $5 package is everywhere along the cycle. We don't know where $70,000 Jaguars are. They may sit [at] railheads for weeks, and we don't know that. Can you help us?'

"We see two phenomena. One is consumer pull. It's a one-by-one order as opposed to mass-production order. The other is globalization. The Net lets folks reach customers they've never been able to reach.

"And as shipments get smaller and as folks [grow] internationally, our business is going to grow.

"The US has a trillion dollars of inventory sitting on shelves. [The] supply chain needs to get much more streamlined. Consumer pull is going to allow that to happen.

"We think that folks are going to do more and more business [online]. Things have changed. There are two working people in households now. And city folks don't have cars to go to the store.

"We think the 'e' is going to come off, and that's the way people are going to do business."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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