From the outside, Yellow Corp. (YELL
) hasn't changed much since 1926. That's when A.J. Harrell added freight shipping to his Yellow Cab business in Oklahoma City. But these days, Yellow runs on a thick stream of digital data that's almost as vital as diesel fuel.
Every day, the trucking giant receives some 60,000 orders over the Internet or at its call centers. While other trucking companies do that, too, Yellow goes further. It feeds all that data into a proprietary computer program to plot, down to the person, how many drivers it will need during the four shifts at every one of its terminals the next day. Those who aren't needed are told via the company's intranet to take the day off -- unpaid. That's quite a juggling act, involving 19,300 Teamsters and 8,250 trucks at 335 facilities across the U.S.
The setup didn't come cheap. The $2.6 billion company spends $80 million a year on information technology. But Yellow already has recouped its investment -- and then some. Orders often vary 15% to 20% from Monday to Friday. By adjusting its payroll to match this swing, Yellow Chairman and Chief Executive William D. Zollars figures Yellow saves $100 million a year. That's a big help in keeping Yellow in the black. By Michael Arndt