A vast new parcel delivery hub that can process up to 22,500 parcels per hour is fully open.
Planning permission for the fully automated 1.2 million square foot UPS UK air hub at East Midlands Airport was only granted three years ago.
After a colossal construction effort, the site is now operational, sorting millions of parcels for delivery in the UK and overseas.
The site is now the second largest European flight operation for UPS after Cologne.
During the day, the £138million warehouse – a maze of conveyor belts and ramps, sorting and moving parcels between the airstrip and 22 HGV docking bays – is quiet.
It comes alive at night when six Boeing B767-300Fs land and pick up the day’s shipments.
Flights arrive from Cologne, Edinburgh, Belfast and Philadelphia, bringing parcels destined for the parcel company’s roughly 70 UK centres. From there, they are delivered to homes and collected throughout the country.
The site mainly handles small parcels up to around 80kg with customers ranging from people buying goods online or posting items overseas, to large fashion companies and online retailers sending items to customers UK.
During the first lockdown, staff said there was a surge in the number of toys and even rolls of toilet paper being shipped. Since then, the UPS workforce has helped move millions of PPE pieces of equipment and sent some 600 million vaccines – which will grow to 1 billion by the end of the year – to Europe, North America and a number of developing countries.
Across North Leicestershire, the Castle Donington hub employs 640 people, mostly split between dusk and sunset shifts – operating at night means packages can be processed and dispatched for next day delivery.
The new hub replaced a much smaller site just up the road, and Jim O’Gara, UPS UK president for UK, Ireland and the Nordics, said that despite be more automated, no jobs were lost.
The 58-year-old – who started as a driver with the company 26 years ago – told BusinessLive he was particularly keen for the new UK air hub to support small businesses seeking new cross-border customers.
Speaking at the hub’s official launch, he said: “This is the second biggest gateway we have to Europe, after Cologne, and it underlines again the confidence we have in the UK economy.
“We spent a lot of money and there are 650 jobs here. We moved from a neighboring building that was not automated to a fully automated building and rather than losing people, we are training workers.
“The control room here is NASA-like and the security protocols are state-of-the-art so we can screen every package that boards our planes, to protect not only our employees but also the general public.”
Mr O’Gara said the pandemic had accelerated the rise of online shopping, encouraging a new, older generation of shoppers to use the internet to shop, and said UPS was facilitating this by launching more outlets. drop off and collection from UK convenience stores.
He said the company has also streamlined export processes to make it easier for individuals and businesses sending products to and from Europe to deal with new post-Brexit paperwork.
He said: ‘We are almost nine months into the year and seeing business moving at a pace that was more like pre-Brexit.
Mr O’Gara said the shortage of HGV drivers in the UK affecting some businesses had not affected UPS due to its policy of promoting internally and encouraging the workforce to train and move up the ladder.
UPS had global revenue of $84.6 billion last year and operates in more than 220 countries, with more than 540,000 employees worldwide.
It was launched in Seattle 114 years ago and today has its global headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, with UPS AIrlines based in Louisville, Ky.