ANN ARBOR, Michigan (May 2006) -- Domino's Pizza (DPZ) announced that it is teaming up with Federal Express (FDX) to provide nationwide pizza delivery. In a move expected to revolutionize the food distribution business, the pies will be assembled on-site in FedEx's Memphis distribution facility, and loaded directly on airplanes for next day delivery.
"The synergies of our business models are obvious," says Domino's Executive Vice President of Order Fulfillment, Ron La France. "We're emerging a new infrastructure that is changing the way we orchestrate capability."
The technical challenge of delivering fresh pizza thousands of miles is daunting. The process begins when the customer phones the service center in Bangalore India. Once an order is taken, it is forwarded to the FedEx facility in Memphis, where fresh ingredients are assembled.
Next, the pizzas move along a high-speed conveyor at nearly 550 feet per minute. The uncooked pies are routed through a 1000-degree natural gas-fired oven, where they are flash cooked in a little over twenty seconds. From the oven, the system collates and packages the pies and transports them to a waiting fleet of jet airplanes. On a good day, the whole process takes about three minutes.
After arrival in the destination city, the boxes are quickly loaded onto the familiar white FedEx delivery vans, and arrive at the customer's doorstep just before lunchtime.
Food engineers had to develop a whole new packaging system. Traditional insulated packaging can only maintain piping hot pizzas for five to six hours - but the shipping process can take up to eight. To keep the pizzas warm, each box contains a cesium/argon insert, which warms the content's by safe low-level radioactive decay. The inserts also have the desirable side effect of preventing food spoilage.
So far, the system has been successfully tested in Houston, Texas and Las Angeles, California. A few early problems were worked out of the system, and the company is planning to roll it out nationwide in early August.
These early problem included an unexpected demand for exotic ingredients such as tamarind, saffron, and millet. "It took us a while to figure out why people were ordering these unusual ingredients," says Ron La France. "It turns out that they originated in the Bangalore call facility. Customers would call up and ask the phone reps what would go good on that?' Being South Indian, they would recommend local foods they were more familiar with."