Time is money.  Money is time.

Crazy business slogans.  I remember my college job, working at a distribution center for Wal-Mart, stacking freight in the back of hot, hot, trailers, and getting a taste of the harder side of life.  The freight came from a long line of conveyor belts, to those of us on the receiving end, and then we took the freight, each and every box, and placed it in a tetris-like pattern, from floor to ceiling, from the back of the trailer to the front.  I got quite good, and quite fast. 

I also remember that our managers, in an effort to cut costs, told us to make sure our rolls of tape didn’t get caught in the trailer before the door was shut and tagged.  Little things, like saving rolls of tape, eventually saved the company money.  Lots of money.  If each employee who filled and stacked frieght on trailers, at every distribution center in America, would take an extra moment to ensure their roll of tape was still on the deck and not in the trailer, then Wal-Mart could potentially save thousands of dollars. 

The receiving store never sent the rolls back.  They weren’t even put to good use, and, more than likely, those little rolls of tape were just thrown away.

And I remember, then, being asked the impossible.  We were given sheets that told us how many boxes of freight we would be required to stack in an hour, and how big of a percentage of the frieght our trailer would hold in that particular shift.  And, man, that frieght came from the line at lightning speeds.  I remember having to fill up to 13% of the total shift of freight, all for one trailer.  And being asked to save a roll of tape was an offense.  I mean, really, how much did they really expect from us?  120-degree-heat in a smelly, dirty trailer, working at break-neck speeds … and they expected us to be watchful of our little rolls of tape. 

Come on.

But I have thought of that small bit of advice that I received on my midnight shift.  And it was very perceptive, and very wise.  Sometimes, most glaring problems have the simplest solutions.

Earlier this month, it was reported that UPS, the freight-shipping company, has found one of those very simple solutions.  They have discovered what it takes to be the most efficient, with both their fuel-costs, and the expedient delivery of packages.  Managing a fleet of thousands of trucks, as well as planes, and millions of packages is obviously complex, so they needed to discover a simple solution for their most obvious problems.

And their solution? 

They make only right turns.

Early on, local UPS managers would drive around their cities and map routes to various locales that could only be done making right turns.  Now, with greater technology, they combine computer models with experienced drives, and find routes that take them from their local hub, to their various drop points, and then back to their hub, all by making right-hand turns.  This very simple solution has saved them money, and saved them time, all by eliminating left turns.

They have proof, too, that they made the … ahem … right decision, for two very good reasons.  One, right-turn-only routes save fuel and reduce emissions, because they minimize the time trucks spend idiling.  And two, they believe their choice of right-turn-only routes are safer, because their drivers never need to cross traffic.  

And they are offering the wisdom of their decision for free, by believing that if the ordinary, common driver made only right turns in their daily routes, then they, too, would reap the benefits of right turns. 

Even more interesting is that they claim their drivers find it difficult to make left turns when they are off-duty, for they have made so many right turns in their lives, that turning any other direction is now difficult. 

It’s pretty amazing how making that right turn can best get you where you need to go.

And how making that right turn is usually the best decision.

And how making a right turn can really, truly, change your life.


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