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It's a Team's Life

FedEx Memphis World Hub Tour

By Linda Caffee
Posted Aug 30th 2011 3:37PM

We knew we were going to be in Memphis on a certain date and we asked if we could take the tour.   We did not really know what we were asking for as the back ground checks as well as who all had to sign off on us was extensive.   It took a couple weeks before we finally had approval to attend the hub tour.

The tour starts at 11:00 at night lasts from an hour and half to two hours.   We had been told by others what to expect and to be prepared to be amazed.   They were right from the time we left the meeting area I was in awe.

There were four of us in our group with two tour guides, which was great.   We had plenty of time to view each area and hear what the guide was saying.   Before going on our tour we had to go through a screening just like we would at an airport.   We were not allowed to take purses, back packs, phones had to be turned off, no drinking within six hours of tours, and wear comfortable shoes and pants as we would be walking on a lot of cat walks.

We started out by seeing the new 777 planes, which are the largest commercial plane flying at this time.   We were able to see how the lifts work to load and unload the planes, which takes about 30 minutes. One of our stops was the observation deck where we saw planes landing every thirty seconds on two runways.   As we looked off into the distance it looked as if there were clusters of stars, which turned out to be airplanes on their way in.   The commercial side of the Memphis Airport is closed during the hours FedEx is landing and taking off.

We then went into what is called the primary matrix, which is the main sorting facility, which can handle packages up to 75lbs.   The packages come down a shoot and a handler turns the package label side up and places it on a conveyor belt. There is 42 miles of conveyor belt in use.   A scanner reads each package, the destination, the weight, as well as the size.   When the package arrives at the proper chute an arm pushed the package off of the belt and into the chute.   The scanner has told the arm the size of the package and the weight, the arm then knows how hard to push and where the center of the package is located.   Amazing to watch all of the packages whizzing by and an arm all of the sudden shooting out and pushing a package off of the belt.

Here is a link to a picture someone was able to take of this:

Next we stopped at the mailroom, which is air-conditioned due to the computers, not the people.   Here is where my mouth dropped open once again.   There is no way to accurately describe what we were seeing.   The FedEx Envelopes were placed 4” apart on a conveyor belt, re-weighed and sent under a reader.   The envelope then continues on it journey till it reaches the proper shoot where the envelope drops into a bag.   Once the bag weighs 35lbs the handler has ten seconds to remove the bag and replace with an empty bag and the process starts all once again.  

Pictures of the letters zipping along the belt:

When we were looking down on the roadways we saw tugs pulling totes helter skelter and to what appeared to be no reason.   They would rush here and there and then stop and sit.   It appeared as if all the tug drivers had on a headset where a puppet master was controlling their movements.   What was happening was if a plane had to many tugs waiting to unload or load the plane those tugs could be used elsewhere.   They would leave those totes and grab another group and head off to a plane that was not active.   It looked very dangerous and from what our guide said you really need to know the rules of the road when walking around during the sort.  

Before we knew it our time was up and we were heading back to our starting point.   We both hope someday to go on the hub tour again so we can see the sites and not be so overwhelmed.   I am not usually a night person, but going through and seeing all of this sleep was the last thing on my mind.

Bob & Linda Caffee

Leased to: FedEx Custom Critical Ӭ


Saint Louis MO

Expediters 6 years been out here on the road 11 years


Expediting isn't just trucking, it's a lifestyle; Ӭ

Expediting isn't just a lifestyle, it's an adventure;Ӭ

Expediting isn't just an adventure, it's a job;Ӭ

Expediting isn't just a job, it's a business.


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