FedEx at Forty: Night Moves

Boots on the ground at the FedEx World Hub.

The FedEx World Hub is one of those staggeringly impressive technical achievements of the post-Industrial Revolution-era, in a league with Henry Ford’s Model T assembly line. To put it one way, the Hub covers 862.8 acres at Memphis International Airport, has a sorting capacity of 160,000 packages and 265,000 documents an hour, and contains 42 miles of conveyor belts. Put another way: Each evening, 7,000 Memphians descend upon the Hub and flex the muscle of FedEx’s corporate might. Maybe most remarkably of all: It’s a “smart” operation, and FedEx always knows where each package is at every point in time it’s in Memphis.


For safety and theft-deterrence, all employees and visitors go through security screening as they enter and depart the FedEx World Hub.


 FedEx planes land at a rate of one every 90 seconds during the night sort.


Tugs guide containers of packages from the plane to the “Matrix,” where they will be sorted by destination.


The newest addition to FedEx’s fleet, the giant Boeing 777, can fly nonstop to anywhere in the world from Memphis.




Paul Tronsor is managing director of the Global Operations Center. The facility is the brains behind the company’s brawn. From it, FedEx can monitor in real-time the location of every one of its airplanes on the planet.





Marcus Martinez leads the Memphis World Hub Command Center, keeping tabs on FedEx flights in U.S. airspace and weather patterns and, terrestrially, the flow and processing of packages within the Memphis Hub.




Tiers of workers direct smaller packages to their proper destination within the Hub.


Every single package, large and small, is computer scanned as it makes its rapid journey along miles of conveyor belts.


Packages are transported inside sturdy aluminum containers. In a complex ballet that seems incomprehensible to visitors, tugger trucks  navigate through the maze of the Hub to ferry their loads to and from the waiting planes.


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