You hit the nail on the head, Keith. Despite UPS spending over $1.5B a year on IT alone, they have been rather inefficient with that use of capital. They have over 10,000 IT engineers, but very few of them are actually involved in developing true break-through solutions. They have just hired a number of executives from Walmart and other places to stir up the culture and take them from an old complacent provider, to a more nimble innovative player – it’ll take them time though. They have also been investing in some interesting business models through their UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund, but alas most of these were minority stakes and none intended to be brought in-house in the short-term. The only firm they funded that is in this space is is SkyTree (http://www.skytree.net.).
To continue on the discussion that Alex and Mike have started, what I actually see here is an interesting opportunity for China; having been historically a net importer of technology and innovation, perhaps this push will turn the tables? And given larger population size, China may find cure for rare diseases that we can’t treat in the West simply because we only have 2,000 patients a year that suffer from them (CM/IL discussion from marketing…), be it with bio-3D printing or not…If China is able to figure out how, they may change not only perceptions about it, but change the game for its and global economy entirely.
Very interesting article, Sam! Since the success of the program would largely depend on how often they have to print the parts and and in which quantities, the decision to in-source or to partner is rather pertinent to these factors. Ultimately, I would envision that they could partner with a partner for high-volume parts (and that partner will need to be able to provide last-mile logistics, as I presume their train depots are scattered across Germany), but for low-volume, highly unusual parts, it’d probably make sense to keep it in house. Agree that manufacturers should be providing blue-prints as part of the value-proposition, unless, of course, these manufacturers themselves could become these printers/logistics- & MRO providers, possibly?
Thank you for sharing this – it’s the first time I heard of StoryCorps, but I am now compelled to dig further into it. What I think is particularly interesting here is that while StoryCorps mission is to collect as many stories as possible, it also faces a conflicting lever – which by default is that the more you collect, the lower will be the average quality of the story. In fact, what often makes the story compelling is ability of the interviewer to ask the right questions, not necessarily the availability of storytellers. The more people are recruited to interview others, the lower quality the stories will likely be. While StoryCorps focus has been on developing tools that will allow to scale the collection effort, perhaps the secret sauce really is in finding the right interviewers, which AI may or may not be able to help with. While theoretically AI may also be able to help with deciding which stories are truly going become the hits, sometimes, nothing beats a genuine human word-of-mouth advertisement of the stories they heard. The cost of this, of course, is that some stories will never be told, but much like with everything we do in this world, we have to decide – what’s more costly to us, making type I (letting a dull story out) or type II error (not letting a good story shine).
What’s interesting about this is that their algorithm picks a group of patients that would be suitable for the molecule, not the molecule that will treat a group of patients (at least that’s how I understood it – possibly wrong). Not sure whether that’s turning the model of pharma upside down or is actually a novel approach (aka personalized healthcare?). Given this company has only been working with two molecules and for ML to be effective, it needs vast amount of data (which in this case this company doesn’t have), its strategy would probably be better served if they focused on drug development. If the tool they developed helps them get there faster, it’s only better both for the patients and for them, but it’s unlikely they’d be able to replicate it if they offered this tool to another pharma player.
Fascinating – given that for machine learning to work, it needs a lot of data, I am gravitating towards the opinion that it may be a challenge to develop green fields. Much like in science, Nobel prizes are given to people who do the primary research, but billions are earned by people who find the application to this research, I think the developing nations need to rely on government sponsorship to collect primary data about their land formations, etc. It is possible that using GoldSpot’s technology, they will then be able to bring in drilling/exploration experts to actually extract the metals/minerals more effectively than if they started from scratch.
Well-written piece. As I think about what UPS is doing, it very much reminds me of Amazon. While Amazon has started its business in the retail space, it really is a platform building machine. Marketplace – was an extension of the retail platform. AWS has become a computing platform for others once Amazon realized how good they actually were at it. Fulfill-by-Amazon is a 3PL platform. Once they build out their delivery network, nothing will stop them from offering last-mile to outside world. In this case, UPS is actually building a platform that will give small-scale manufacturers ability to compete with big guys – not on cost, of course (naturally, 3D printing will likely never be as efficient as running large batches through automated plants), but on design – UPS will simply help these small-scale manufacturers to complete the final steps. The piece doesn’t mention, but UPS has built out a number of 3D printing facilities globally (one in Louisville – UPS’s core hub, one in Singapore – to serve Asia and more is coming in EU). UPS doesn’t aspire to compete with large manufacturers, but having a very strong penetration with small and mid-size businesses, it’s a natural extension of their business relationship.