Saturday, December 11, 2010

Shipping companies put to the test

Updated: Wednesday, 08 Dec 2010, 5:47 AM CST
Published : Wednesday, 08 Dec 2010, 5:38 AM CST

AUSTIN (KXAN) - The holidays always mean it's a busy time for the postal service and other companies that ship packages.

That’s why National Instruments teamed up with the magazine Popular Mechanics to find out which shipping company does the best job handling your packages.

"We really wanted to get inside the package and figure out what type of environment it goes through," said Rick Kuhlman, Project Manager LabVIEW.

National Instruments used their LabVIEW technology to do the testing. They came up with a device that was able to record the packages movements.

"We were measuring exhilaration, shock, vibration, we were taking 1000 samples per second and logging that to a disc similar to one that's in your digital camera that stores images," said Kuhlman.

It was packed up with lots of padding into a small box and shipped off with UPS, FedEx, and the U.S. Postal Service. It went across the country from Austin to New York onto California and back to Austin again.

They found FedEx dropped the package an average of three times, UPS twice, and the postal service less than once.

Over at NI they were able to determine what constituted a kick or a drop by measuring the data during testing. They even walked with the package to see how much jostling that created.

All of that test data was used to determine how rough the shipping companies were with the package. And it turns out that packages labeled with “Fragile” or “This Side Up” didn’t get treated any differently.

"A lot of times we found the markings literally don't matter or maybe make it worse," said Kuhlman.

While they can't determine if the jostling was due to the machines that process the packages or human error - in the end the test is not to be considered scientific.

"It really was just for fun," said Kuhlman.

During the testing all of the packages arrived on time or early when they were shipped overnight or with a three day delivery.

KXAN Austin News wants to hear your horror shipping stories. Log onto our FACEBOOK page to share your experiences.


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