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Who Is Michael L. Eskew?

Michael L. Eskew was former CEO of United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS) from 2002 to 2007. From 1998 to 2014, he served on the company's Board of Directors.

One of the key initiatives that Eskew implemented was the expansion of UPS's international operations, where he  helped to expand UPS's global reach and strengthen its position as a leading provider of logistics and transportation services. Eskew also focused on improving the efficiency and reliability of UPS's domestic operations. He implemented a number of process improvements and technological innovations, including the use of advanced analytics and data-driven decision making to optimize routing and delivery schedules.

Key Takeaways

  • Michael L. Eskew is best known as the former CEO of United Parcel Service.
  • His biggest contribution to "Big Brown" was to diversify UPS's services and operations around data-driven logistics.
  • Eskew retired from UPS in 2007 and then served as a member of the board of several corporations including Eli Lilly & Co.
Michael L. Eskew

Investopedia / Alex Dos Diaz

Early Life and Education

Michael L. Eskew was born in Vincennes, Indiana, on June 28, 1949. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University in 1972. He also completed the advanced management program at the Wharton School of Business.

He began his UPS career in 1972 in the Indiana District Industrial Engineering Department. During his time at the company, he implemented a number of strategic initiatives that helped to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the company's global logistics operations.

Notable Accomplishments

Eskew joined United Parcel Service (UPS) in 1972 as an industrial engineer manager. In 1994, he was named corporate vice president for industrial engineering and became group vice president for engineering in 1996; he was named executive vice president in 1999. The following year, he was named vice chair and held this position prior to becoming CEO. He succeeded James P. Kelly as CEO and was succeeded by Scott Davis.

Synchronized Commerce

In 1907, 19-year-old James E. ("Jim") Casey, borrowed $100 to start a private messenger service in Seattle, Washington, which later became the United Parcel Service. During its more than a century of existence, UPS has at times been controversial. The company reportedly has fostered a culture of nearly military discipline from the beginning. Its brown delivery suits and trucks reflect the discipline and efficiency the company expects from its employees.

Eskew was named the group vice president of engineering in 1996, and under his direction, UPS invested heavily in technology to improve logistics. As said in Forbes in January 2000, "UPS used to be a trucking company with technology. Now it's a technology company with trucks."

In 1999, Eskew was made executive vice president. That expanded his responsibilities to include corporate strategic planning. Eskew doubled down on investment in technology and logistics including developing information services and internet commerce. Eskew's objective was to create "synchronized commerce" where all of UPS's processes, from package delivery to inventory storage, would be synchronized so that each matched the others in perfect timing. Pickups were intended to be perfectly coordinated with space on trucks and in airplanes so the company would not have to invest time and space in warehousing overflows.

During the internet craze of the late '90s, this was seen as an intelligent move, and it proved to be so in the long term. as evidenced by the great expansion in the delivery logistics and services sector. After the company's spectacular IPO in November 1999, the stock price stagnated for three years but has grown steadily since, keeping track with the S&P 500.

The Logistics Economy

Eskew's long-term bets only appear to have paid off after he left the company. The logistics economy has come under fire, however, in the later years of the 2010s as innovations in logistics and synchronization have added profits to corporations but have eroded the quality of work for employees.

UPS has also had a history of disputes with labor, including a strike by the Teamsters Union in 1997 when Eskew was with the company. Books like The Package King: A Rank and File History of United Parcel Service and The Big Brown Lie: United Parcel Service's War on Its Worker's and Their Making of a Radical Teamster Union Member detail how technocratic management instituted by Eskew led to disaffection in the ranks.

Eskew has also been a board member of 3M Company, Eli Lilly and Company, The Allstate Corporation, and International Business Machines Corporation and a trustee of The UPS Foundation and The Annie E. Casey Foundation. In addition, he served on the Business Roundtable.

Who Is the Current CEO of UPS?

Since 2020, Carol B. Tomé is the Chief Executive Officer of UPS. She is the 12th CEO in the company's history.

How Many Employees Does UPS Have?

As of 2021, UPS employs around 534,000 individuals around the world in over 220 countries. As a leader in the logistics economy, the company also operates over 2,000 daily flights internaitonally.

What Does the Logistics Economy Mean?

The logistics economy refers to the economic system that is responsible for the movement, storage, and distribution of goods and services. It encompasses the entire process of planning, organizing, and managing the flow of goods, information, and resources from the point of origin to the point of consumption.

The logistics industry plays a crucial role in the global economy, as it helps to facilitate trade and commerce by enabling the efficient movement of goods and services from producers to consumers. The logistics industry includes a wide range of activities, including transportation, warehousing, distribution, and supply chain management. The logistics economy has become increasingly complex and globalized in recent years, with the rise of e-commerce and the increasing interconnectivity of international supply chains. It is also impacted by a range of factors, including economic conditions, technological advances, and regulatory and political developments.

The Bottom Line

Michael L. Eskew was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of United Parcel Service (UPS), a multinational package delivery and supply chain management company, from 2002 to 2007. Prior to becoming CEO, Eskew held a number of leadership roles at UPS, including President and Chief Operating Officer (COO). He joined the company in 1975 and worked his way up through the ranks, gaining experience in various areas of the business. Eskew is known for his focus on customer service and technology innovation at UPS, and he played a key role in the company's expansion and growth during his tenure as CEO. After retiring as CEO in 2007, Eskew continued to serve on the board of directors of UPS until 2014.

Article Sources
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  1. The New York Times. "Chief Executive of U.P.S. to Retire."

  2. Purdue University. "2002 Honorary Degree - Michael L. Eskew (Bio)."

  3. UPS. "History & Timeline."

  4. Forbes. "Logistics in Brown."

  5. Reference for Business. "Michael L. Eskew."

  6. TradingView. "United Parcel Service Inc."

  7. TradingView. "S&P 500 Index."

  8. James R. Earls. "The Big Brown Lie: United Parcel Service's War on Its Worker's and Their Making of a Radical Teamster Union Member." RLM Publishing Company, 2014.

  9. Joe Allen. "The Package King: A Rank and File History of United Parcel Service." Haymarket Books, 2020.

  10. UPS. "Corporate Factsheet."

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