The Heart of the Supply Chain: Excursion to the UPS Air Hub

All Categories, Faculty, Inside CBS   -  13. March 2019

Night shift for CBS students at an unusual location: at Cologne-Bonn Airport, in a 100,000 square metre auditorium – the UPS Air Hub Cologne. Cologne-Bonn Airport is one of the most important airfreight airports in Europe. UPS operates the Air Hub in Cologne, the largest logistics centre outside the USA. This spectacular hub was visited by Bachelor students of the CBS Supply Chain Course in General Management. These regular excursions are organized by Dr Nils Finger, who holds a professorship in Supply Chain Management at CBS.

In the Air Hub, around 3,000 employees process around 200,000 international express shipments every hour, which are flown in with around 40 aircraft arriving from e.g. Philadelphia or Hong Kong – and are forwarded with almost as many aircraft. Most of the sorting takes place at night between 22:30 and 2:30: Shipments from America to Asia, for example, arrive in Cologne, where they are offloaded, sorted and loaded into the aircraft that departs for the final destination. In addition, shipments from Germany also reach Cologne Airport, which are then sent by express to almost every country in the world.

Exciting insights

“Our students will work with express logistics in their careers: either on the demand side or on the supply side. Here, at one of the largest freight hubs in the world, we can experience the global interconnection of supply chains, together with the enormous amount of manpower, material and know-how needed,” says Dr Nils Finger.

The students were able to see for themselves the impressive speed of the fully automatic sorting system: A shipment takes an average of 15 minutes from the unloading point to the loading point – on a gigantic conveyor system measuring 40 kilometres in length. Loading and unloading the freight into the air containers is still manual work, as is handling on the airfield. The students were also able to watch this work at a bus ride to the cargo planes. Well after midnight, the tour ended with the knowledge that after a short night, the parcels that had just been sorted in Cologne could already have reached their delivery destinations.

The CBS regularly offers excursions for the students to partner companies in the greater Cologne area and invites business experts as speakers and for guest lectures.

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