Back in 1996, United Parcel Service took a look at the future. The company knew that it was going to get bigger. The question was, could it also get smarter? The answer came in the form of a totally revamped and expanded high-tech distribution center in Louisville, Kentucky — a facility so large and so sophisticated that it had to be opened in three phases (the final phase came in August). The hub expansion cost more than $1 billion, making it the most expensive project in the company's 95-year history. Inside the 4,000,000 square-foot building, the 63-mile maze of conveyor belts moves 304,000 packages through the building every hour. Says Jack Blaisdell, the project's manager: "The visual of it all is pretty impressive. But I also marvel at the unseen: Many pieces of technology making so many decisions to make it all happen."
A version of this article appeared in the October 2002 issue of Fast Company magazine.