USPS should look to capitalize on commercial possibilities of 3D printing, says OIG report
The US Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) has issued a new White Paper in which it calls on the USPS to “associate itself with 3D printing in the minds of the public”. The OIG previously issued a White Paper in July 2014, in which it argued that “widespread adoption of 3D printing could lead to a major increase in commercial package shipments for the USPS”. However, OIG is now going further, saying that “recent research has shown that 3D printing’s impact on the Postal Service goes well beyond just more packages shipped, as it promises to reshape today’s supply chains and transform entire industries”.
The OIG continues: “Simply put, 3D printing will fundamentally change where and when products will be produced, stored, and ultimately delivered. Supply chains will collapse in distance and time as manufacturing is performed as quickly and as close to the point of consumption as possible. More consumers may come to expect same-day delivery, possibly even early morning and late evening delivery. There will be heightened activity in the last mile from localized production, so speed on that final track will be essential. In such an environment, the location and size of delivery base stations will also be critical.”
The OIG report suggests that USPS could follow the lead of other logistics companies such as UPS which – as reported in the Autumn issue of the Mail & Express Review – has recently partnered with the company CloudDDM to open a 3D printing mini-factory at its Worldport facility in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Because 3D printing technology is fundamentally changing the logistics industry,” said the OIG, “now is the time for the Postal Service to associate itself with 3D printing in the minds of the public. The Postal Service should observe, learn, and examine the potential of 3D printing to the extent allowable under its existing authority.
“The examples of La Poste, UPS, and others show that there may be demand for printing services inside post offices.
“The Postal Service also could partner with 3D printing companies, provide 3D printing materials and support services for local small businesses, or serve as a community maker space.
“In addition, it could establish a reverse logistics service to handle recycling and processing of 3D printed goods, so that materials can be reused for future printing.”
Click here to access a PDF copy of the OIG report.