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VOL. 129 | NO. 102 | Monday, May 26, 2014

FedEx Wants to Explore ‘Final Frontier’

By Andy Meek

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FedEx announced one of its newest – and more unusual sounding ventures – with a cheeky tweet.

FedEx is using its logistics and package delivery expertise to launch what it’s calling a turn-key shipping solution for the space industry that’s a one-stop shop for customers.

(Steve Cook)

“Meet the FedEx Space Solutions team,” the company declared on Twitter in recent days, formally unveiling a new venture focused on the commercial space industry. Perhaps recognizing the implications, the company concluded the tweet by promising, “Yep, you read it right!”

FedEx is describing the new venture as a turnkey shipping solution for the space industry and a one-stop shop for space industry customers. In setting it up, the company said it envisions customers looking for information about everything from shipping satellites and related subsystems to biomedical materials bound for testing or use in space.

Purposeful or not, there was an allusion to the famous title sequence of “Star Trek” episodes, with FedEx declaring itself headed “where no logistics company has gone before” thanks to the new unit. Similarly, a FedEx company blog post title said FedEx Space Solutions would help the company explore “the final frontier.”

The cornerstone of the venture is something the company is calling its Space Desk, which is “designed to provide logistics support for companies and organizations shipping space-bound satellites, technology and other space assets.”

FedEx SupplyChain President and CEO Craig Simon said the company already was in a strong position to serve the space industry.

“We’re a company known for more than 40 years of innovation in logistics, and our robust global network and 300,000 team members around the world will deliver space industry packages to launch sites safely and efficiently,” he said in a prepared statement.

FedEx has a history of transporting highly unusual freight along with more standard packages. The company has transported, for example, two giant pandas from China to the Memphis Zoo, among other extraordinary hauls.

The futuristic notion of adding a focus on the space market calls to mind an announcement from Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos at the end of 2013 that his company is hard at work on the development of drones. In a TV interview, Bezos showed how they could be used to ferry packages from the e-commerce giant to a customer’s front door.

During the first FedEx earnings call after Bezos’ announcement, FedEx founder, President and CEO Fred Smith fielded questions about Amazon and the potential of drones. Smith was dismissive and countered that a company such as Amazon will have a tough time building an infrastructure as extensive as FedEx’s to navigate the so-called last mile to the customer’s home.

That infrastructure and the expertise behind it also are why FedEx says adding a focus on the commercial space industry is not a problem for the Memphis-based logistics giant.

In a company blog post adding more detail about FedEx’s new unit, Kelvin Hill of the Space Desk wrote that when a customer calls the Space Desk, he and his colleagues swing into action, answering questions and tapping into industry expertise to craft a customized solution for each shipment.

The Space Desk, he wrote, also has access to an outside entity called Space Tango, which works with a variety of companies, universities and organizations. And FedEx specialists, he added, are trained to understand the specific needs of the space industry.

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