This is a really excellent paper, full of forward-thinking ideas. One that jumped out at me was 'USPS facilities could server as 3d printing hubs.'
However, I can also see other businesses lobbying against such innovation on the grounds that it would crowd out private sector offerings, which seems to be a common objection to allowing the USPS to offer more services at post offices. In Europe and Japan, post offices don't just deal with mail but serve as a one-stop shop for many interactions with government, from welfare payments to savings accounts. The legal status of the USPS is complicated the Constitution's postal mandate, ably discussed here if you like legal technicality: http://law.justia.com/constitution/us/article-1/39-post-offi...
It's actually the postal worker unions that are to blame for the piles of adverts you get each day. There have been a couple bills to end junk mail, but the unions fight them tooth and nail on the grounds that junk mail counts as free speech. Of course, much (some might say most) of the mail you get is crap. Without that crap there's less mail to move, and consequently less workers to do the moving.
i'm mostly impressed that the USPS has the analytical resources to produce this. did they put this much thought into email, before revenues started cratering? what was their intelligent plan to manage runaway employee pensions? do we still need so many people physically shuffling around junk mail? (apologies to newman). seems like they have plenty of issues to grapple with that are closer to the present than the impact of 3d printing.
That -$3B, or whatever it's ballooned to now, comes even though a federal law makes it a felony to compete with the USPS and deliver "non-urgent" mail. That's why FedEx always claims to be delivering "urgent" messages. Here's a Baltimore Sun article from 20 years ago when armed USPS police were actively enforcing this law:
If you give me a government-granted monopoly and a phalanx of federal agents empowered to put my competitors out of business, I'd have to be providing very poor service to be losing billions of dollars. Unfortunately, the USPS has managed to do just that.
I'd love to see you try. Don't forget you'll also have government-mandated prices and a governmental mandate to serve everyone, including places which have to be delivered by mule and populations of <350 which have to be served by plane.
Couldn't the government just directly build and manage post offices in such rural areas, and stay out of the postal business in more populous regions? If the problem is insufficient postal services in some regions, it makes more sense to just fund postal services in those regions than to place a blanket ban on postal competition across the whole nation.
But then the government would be operating the rural postal service at a pure loss, rather than using the profitable parts of the postal service to fund the unprofitable parts. That would mean higher taxation with no extra benefits.
There'd be the huge extra benefit of dramatically cheaper postal services for people in metropolitan areas, due to competition. The 'profitable' parts of the postal service are profitable because of its status as a monopoly, and represent a deadweight loss to consumers. If rural post was funded by taxation, at least the burden would be distributed more fairly, instead of primarily upon people using metropolitan postal services.
USPS can be quite profitable if they can set the price of their products. They can't. Congress sets the price. They are mandated to run at break-even. They lose money when Congress reacts too slowly to market condition to set new price.
They constantly lose money. By the time they convince Congress to up the postal rate, inflation and market conditions have already exceeded the rate increase. All they can do is lessen their losses.
They can't add new products without Congress. They are also looking at money services, like basic check cashing, to help the 10+ million US households without regular access to a bank. It could be a great help to many impoverished Americans and, at the same time, boost USPS profits – but it relies on Congress to act. One or two Senators with heavy contributions from check cashing companies could derail, stall, or kill the effort – a net loss to society.
USPS can be profitable if they can make changes without Congress's approval and without having arbitration rules that prevent them from considering their ability to pay the bills.
So if you can eliminate Congress, throw out their arbitration rules, they might be able to make the structural and functional changes they need to succeed. This does mean closing offices, distribution centers, and having a pension and retirement system they can afford to offer. Which by the way is what is facing most government employee pensions as many are unfunded and have ludicrous payouts
Lots of the USPS's financial woes can be laid at the feet of anti-government republicans and libertarians offended at the idea that a government agency can do its job well, and determined to make it the case that the agency won't be able to.
That would be a very fun conspiracy meeting. "Alright guys, let's kill the Post Office by inventing a time machine, going back a few decades, then getting them to promise all employees defined benefits pensions. It will doom them. For the glory of capitalism! bwahahahah!"
The only way this is a win for the USPS is if the quality difference between commercial and personal 3D printers remains high. I don't think it will for long for most goods, but if it does local printers you drive to will be the winners.
Expect the 3D equivalent of Kinkos and a resurgence of big box brick and mortal retail, albeit in a radically different form.
+1 - 3D printers serve two markets: production of prototype quantities and the immediate gratification of "having this part now". The larger of those two goals pretty much precludes adding shipping time to the process, and the increasing ubiquity of 3D printers is making shipping unnecessary.
The only one I can think of was when people could write letters to soldiers in WWII by having them scanned onto microfilm, flown to a closer post office, then printed and delivered. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V-mail
The postal service should be worried about 3D printing. Once mainstream home usage becomes commonplace, you would think shipping volume could drop substantially as people begin to buy things online that then instantly print without a need for shipping at all.
I had the same thought, but I suspect quality > speed for most people, and they don't print often enough to justify personal investment in a high-end printing hardware. For example, my wife and I like photography and most of the pictures on our walls are ones we've taken, printed on canvas or high quality photo paper. But we don't own a high-end photo printer, nor do we want to do the work of mounting canvas on frames. I've worked with such devices, they're not that expensive, but I just don't see myself buying a wide-format printer any time soon. I'd rather pay someone else to do so a few times a year. By contrast, I have been thinking about getting a new laser printer for everyday use and reading long documents - I don't enjoy reading everything on a screen.
I suspect that many people may end up owning a cheapie 3d printer for small things, but they'll outsource to a local hub when they want more than basic quality. I'm very into the idea of 3d printing, but the simpler, cheaper units are very limited - as evidenced by people at Maker Faires wearing plastic hats that they printed themselves. Home printing doesn't cut it for a lot of things; for example I use quite a few plastic implements in the ktichen but I would be quite hesitant to use home-printed kitchen implements of any kind.
Well... duh. Nothing here suggests any real change by the USPS, of course they would ship 3D printed material, it's the same stuff they already ship, it's not like it's different. The "could" dedicate space to it? That's exactly what they'd do with anything with increased popularity and deals. Like... Amazon shipping.
Even a "company" with a monopoly can't avoid going bankrupt every 5 years and these buzzword ads won't help them. Give my letters (and 3D printed items) to someone who actually loses when they do a crap job, thanks.
"Even a "company" with a monopoly can't avoid going bankrupt every 5 years and these buzzword ads won't help them. Give my letters (and 3D printed items) to someone who actually loses when they do a crap job, thanks."