The United States Postal Service is not exactly bouncing back from oblivion these days, but it’s worth noting that there’s been a slight bump in one area.
For the low-margin Shipping and Packages division, there was an 11 percent increase in revenue over last quarter. In general, these items — small packages that come to your mailbox but not snail mail letters — have kept the USPS from sinking like a ship.
For the savvy readers out there, you might already know there is one company that is helping them rebound. Hint: It’s named after an area in South America.
As Tim O’Reilly wisely notes in a recent post, Amazon is really pumping life into the shipping and receiving industry. Bots suggest products when we shop, they improve fulfillment, and they could one day guide drones to your doorstep. These are technically “automations” and not AI, but to a consumer, that doesn’t matter as long as that beef jerky and USB-C cable arrives faster, at a decent price, and in one piece.
O’Reilly also notes that this is saving jobs, not replacing them. I remember talking to an Amazon Now delivery person once a few months ago. In my area, I was able to order a printer cable and have it arrive in about an hour. He told me he was out of work for a few years. He was happy to be working, and he whistled as he walked out the door. Does he care that bots are making his job easier? Sure. Does he think bots will replace his job? Probably not. If anything, he’s happy they exist.
Next time you hear someone says bots are causing problems, tell them about that USPS increase since last quarter. You can blame automation for a lot of things, but at least in this case, it might be the bots that are saving the postal service.