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USPS to Rise Like a Phoenix: True or False?

July 14, 2014 By Heather Fletcher
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Direct mail matters to marketers. Yet the USPS is on its knees due to the rise of email, mobile and the Internet. So could another innovation, 3D printing, save the U.S. Postal Service?

The USPS Office of Inspector General thinks so. "3D printing could boost the Postal Service's package revenue by $323 million to $1.1 billion per year," the OIG opines in its July 7 white paper with the relatively dull title of "If It Prints, It Ships: 3D Printing and the Postal Service." The revenue estimate comes in a headline on Page 25 of the 33-page paper, which screams "3D PRINTING COULD BE A POSTAL BOON." But could it?

This revenue increase would, of course, be welcome to the USPS, which is not having luck cutting Saturday delivery or gaining union buy-in for its Staples postal services options. (The postal union is vigorously protesting the privatization of postal services at Staples stores and has support from other unions, including the AFL-CIO.)

As for how the USPS could implement 3D printing, the white paper states:

Emerging 3D printing businesses could use the ubiquitous first- and last-mile postal network to connect with their customers. (UPS and FedEx partner with USPS in this network.)

The Postal Service could partner with 3D printing businesses; perhaps using excess space in postal facilities to help streamline the fast delivery of 3D-printed goods.

Even if postal customers start printing goods at home, they'll need printing materials delivered to them, the white paper points out.

The OIG points out USPS is already behind on this—Amazon and UPS have pilot programs.

So, could 3D printing save the postal service?

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