It’s incredible to consider that, in just about 100 years of modern transportation, we’ve managed to establish global shipping networks capable of getting a package across the world in just one night—all thanks to a complicated and highly sophisticated process involving planes, vans and people.
In the latest video from Wendover Productions on YouTube, the overnight shipping process gets broken down to explain how the “rare” Star Wars Beanie Baby you couldn’t go another night without can get from Japan one afternoon and show up at your doorstep the next morning.
The emergence of overnight shipping and its growing demand make it essentially impossible for smaller shipping companies to exist, making way for the huge networks of FedEx, DHL and UPS to dominate the market, though Amazon is now taking a crack at it.
The video uses FedEx as its main example because of its absolutely massive network—which utilizes the largest cargo airline in the world carrying six million packages every day.
The FedEx air network has hubs around the world, with the base of its worldwide operations in Memphis, Tennessee. This global hub is strategically located near the mean population center of the U.S., making it easy to access the majority of U.S. consumers. UPS also has a major hub nearby.
Since shipping companies like FedEx and UPS need such an insane amount of planes that aren’t always in constant demand, they often buy older models for cheap, with the expensive and more efficient newer planes only flying the longest and most in demand routes.
According to the video, around 150 package-carrying planes fly into the FedEx Memphis hub every night, and in just 15 minutes, the packages are sorted and ready to load into distribution planes, which can arrive to their target destination by 9 a.m. the following day.
The network of hub airports in bigger cities can then distribute packages to smaller towns using smaller planes, if necessary, and then onto the delivery trucks. The smaller hub airports also prevent the need for every FedEx package to go through Memphis if it’s out of the way.
The scale of operations for shipping companies is almost unbelievable, but all that really matters to me is that I can reliably get my overnight parts from Japan with the click of a button.