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The Chicago Area Consolidation Hub (CACH) is a package sorting hub for United Parcel Service. Located approximately 15 miles (24 km) southwest of downtown Chicago, the facility is in two municipalities. Five-sixths of the UPS properties lie within the Village of Hodgkins, Illinois, with one-sixth being situated in the neighboring Village of Willow Springs. All of its fire, police and infrastructure are attached to Hodgkins. A public shipping and receiving facility is in Willow Springs while the huge transfer and loading facilities are in Hodgkins. This facility serves as a central sorting facility for packages traversing the country and internationally. Construction of the CACH facility began in November 1991 at the site previously occupied by the GM Truck and Bus manufacturing plant. The facility has an area of 48.9 acres (198,000 m2), and has a perimeter of 3.1 miles (5.0 km). It employs over 8,000 people across four shifts. Packages are only handled during loading and unloading - all sorting takes place through a complex system of conveyor belts and push paddles, utilizing high-speed cameras to read the destination from a smart label to sort a package to its outgoing trailer. While the facility does not service package cars, the facility sorts approximately 1.6 million packages per day. During the months of November and December, volume can exceed 3 million packages per day. UPS's web tracking system used to list the CACH as "CACH, IL." Since there is no city named CACH, this confused customers. UPS now lists the hub as "HODGKINS, IL" or "Hodgkins, IL." UPS also has a location called "Hodgkins, IN" that is sometimes confused with the one in Hodgkins, IL. It is a place where trailers switch in between singles, doubles, and triples, because the Illinois turnpike doesn't allow some or all multiple trailers and the Indiana turnpike does. The facility is located in Hammond, IN at I-90 (Indiana Toll Road) (Indiana Hwy 5) & Calumet Ave (U. S. Hwy 41) off of the eastbound freeway entrance ramp (41.643958,-87.509272). It is informally called West Point by UPS. There's another UPS truck parking lot south of the nearby Public Storage. 
Incoming trailers dock at the primary section of CACH, located in the center of the facility. There are 174 bays in this section, separated into sections of three, called p-modules. Here, packages and bags of small packages are taken out of trailers and put on movable electronic conveyor belts. Individual small packages are put in tote boxes and sent to the small sort section of the building. The packages are then read in a tunnel by 16 scanners and a camera, which signals a series of paddles to divert the packages onto other belts. When a tote box is scanned, the tote is diverted to the small sort on the mezzanine, or second level of the building. Items that are not diverted go onto recirculation belts or the DA (Data Acquisition), which relabels packages. Bulk and irregular packages are unloaded from the primary section and put on one of two separate belts to be sorted.
The smalls sort is a "hub within a hub" at CACH, and operates by unloading incoming bags and distributing them into other bags. Smalls bags are debagged at the east/west boundary and a series of loop belts on the mezzanine. All smalls are sent to a series of "bullfrogs" (sorting machines). The smallsort contains 14 bullfrogs, including primary and secondary levels of bullfrogs. Smalls packages are organized and sent to inductors to place smalls packages on a conveyor of "lilypads." The smalls are read in a tunnel and diverted into their appropriate bags. Once bags are filled, they are placed on a belt to be sent to the outbound area to be loaded and the full bag is replaced by an empty bag.
After sorting is complete, packages proceed to the loading docks, which are located in the outbound area. There are 10 outbound "fingers" at CACH, located on opposite ends of the facility. Each outbound contains four docks with 21 bays each (except for outbounds 1 and 2, which contain 6 docks each), for a total of 1058 loading bays. Outbounds 2 and 9 are used for backup or as extra bays during peak season. Packages coming out of the primary are sorted into secondaries, which divide packages to be sent to the front or back of the outbounds and then to the two docks on either side. From there, packages are read, scanned, and diverted down a chute and into trailers to be sent out. Some trailers sent out are then dispatched to the BNSF rail yard to be loaded onto a intermodal train.
Notes and references
- David Medberry, actual tracked packages on 2012-02-24.