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Among other things, ’tis the season for shipping. According to the United States Postal Service, the odds are pretty good that each American will receive some sort of bundle of holiday joy this year.
In fact, the USPS announced in mid-November that it alone expected to ship approximately 16 million cards, letters, and packages. And that doesn’t even take into account those items shipped by the major private shipping companies.
As we’ve learned, some packages are more special than others. As experts in warehouse management and shipping logistics, we’re always intrigued by the things people and companies actually ship—and we thought you might be intrigued, too.
So to celebrate the coming holiday season—this Season of Shipping—we recognize six of the most extraordinary things we’ve heard about being shipped.
Since 1982, French winemaker Georges Duboeuf has offered up his Beaujolais Nouveau to the world at one minute past midnight (Paris time) on the third Thursday of November—just in time for the holidays. Of the millions of bottles of this spirit shipped around the world over the past 34 years, a single shipment of Monsieur Duboeuf’s wine stands out: In 2004, a single order was placed for 42,000 cases of Beaujolais Nouveau—that’s approximately half a million bottles—to Japan, courtesy of FedEx.
To move an orphaned polar bear cub from Anchorage, Alaska, to the zoo in Louisville, Kentucky, UPS assembled a team of logistics experts, veterinarians, and load-handling specialists to handle the transfer, including the building of a “den” suitable for a 50-pound cub aboard a jumbo jet.
Whether it's a famous dish, a famous condiment, or just about any item from a famous restaurant, food products have been flying first class for decades now. One of the most famous and most popular items to be overnighted is deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati's in Chicago. For 25 years, the nine-inch pies have been delivered coast-to-coast. And in recent years, Lou Malnati's has even partnered with other famous Chicago eateries to include a sample of their respective specialties.
In 2010, FedEx began making its contribution to wildlife conservation by donating shipping services in a very unique way. Dubbed the "Panda Express," the company, working with the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. and Zoo Atlanta, flew two giant pandas non-stop–first class, naturally–from Washington’s Dulles International Airport to Chengdu, China. The two Pandas, named Tai Shan and Mei Lan, traveled in custom-built transport containers provided by FedEx Express.
In 2013, it was not only the teams who fought hard to make it to the NCAA Basketball Final Four in Atlanta. For UPS, there was a similar challenge: Transfer the championship court itself–all 38,000 pounds of hardwood flooring–from Michigan-based manufacturer Connor Sport Court, piece by piece. That's a whole lot of 4-foot by 7-foot sections stacked into a train of semitrailers.
As part of Les Paul's Big Sound Experience exhibit, the Discovery World Science & Technology Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, brought in a number of electric guitars from the estate of Les Paul, the innovative guitarist who died in 2009 at the age of 94. Shipping such priceless vintage musical instruments, which are highly susceptible to temperature change, is no one-note song. But it was done safely and securely, with hefty insurance coverage just in case.
There are thousands of reasons things get shipped; these are merely some of the more fun ones. Regardless of the reason, though, there is an art and science to doing it right.
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