Zoom zoom zoom goes the mail
March 11, 2006 11:18 PM   Subscribe

So how DO those discs go back and forth? We all love Netflix and LaLa, but doesn't it seem just a little bit amazing that those little silver discs go back and forth quickly and safely? How about a shout out to our friends at the USPS and their nifty machines that make it all happen? Scroll down toward the bottom of the page for a few short movie clips of the machinery in action.
posted by twsf (29 comments total)
Nerdily enough, I love heavy automated machinery like this; I once got to tour the CDW factory & saw the assembly line of how an order gets put together. The final step in the process was an automated digital camera photo of the completed box, which then printed out a copy for inclusion with the order, and stored a copy on file with the customer's record, so if the box arrived opened (or more likely if the customer called claiming the single most expensive part of their order didn't arrive), the customer service folk had a leg to stand on in terms of what was in the box when it left the warehouse.
posted by jonson at 11:38 PM on March 11, 2006

Did you notice that a couple of the bins are missing? I borrowed know where they are.
posted by Cranberry at 11:44 PM on March 11, 2006

Cranberry are you filling your massive P2P server again right?
posted by thedailygrowl at 12:08 AM on March 12, 2006

What is LaLa?
posted by xmutex at 12:11 AM on March 12, 2006

As a US Postal Worker, I say thanks! Most people don't realize that the USPS never stops working for any reason. We operate 24/7/365(6).

However, in our facility at least, Netflix discs are not processed on the AFSM. Since they're letter-sized, they're processed on the DBCS.
posted by bchase at 2:20 AM on March 12, 2006

nice photos on the site, but i cant help thinking the 2sec videos are a little pointless
posted by lemonfridge at 2:58 AM on March 12, 2006

bchase - got to give props to USPS. In spite of all the abuse you folks take, there really isn't a better deal around. When you consider the logistics of getting a random piece of paper from one random location to another in a place the size of the U.S., $0.39 is a steal.
posted by hwestiii at 4:41 AM on March 12, 2006

Postal machinery is as sexy as a routing equipement to geeks. It's fascinating, fast, useful and everybody likes them for a reason or another.

Shouts to the engineers and technicians who make these fantastic machines possible !
posted by elpapacito at 4:50 AM on March 12, 2006

The very clean floor environment, along with the ultramodern streamlined automation, makes for quite an impressive display of modernity. I've been very impressed at the quick adaptability USPS has shown in its rapidly evolving business environment, especially when compared to the normal behemoth pace of bureaucracy.
posted by roboto at 5:00 AM on March 12, 2006

What the FUCK is Lala?
posted by ghastlyfop at 5:21 AM on March 12, 2006

La la
posted by anathema at 5:33 AM on March 12, 2006

Thank you.
posted by ghastlyfop at 6:10 AM on March 12, 2006

The very clean floor environment...

I too work with the postal service. The machinery is amazing. Some of the newer stuff is even crazier. But, the one thing I'd never call a postal facility floor is "clean". Yeah, there might not be boxes all over, but those places are filthy.
posted by inigo2 at 7:31 AM on March 12, 2006

I consitently applaud the United States Postal Service. Anything is better than UPS, but I think our postal service just knocks the socks off of just about anything. (I worked at a small, rural post office for three months, but that was years ago and we had no machines like those.)
posted by Captaintripps at 8:12 AM on March 12, 2006

Where's the vid of the rusty hand cranked machine run by a half-blind 80 year old that all my Greencine discs take a week or so to pass through?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:20 AM on March 12, 2006

So ...

Now that we know what La La is ...

Anyone feel like swinging an invite my way?
posted by grabbingsand at 8:28 AM on March 12, 2006

From the La La article:

Nguyen said the company has no plans to expand beyond music. Incidentally, another Silicon Valley startup, Menlo Park's Peerflix, uses a similar model to trade DVDs.

I don't think I've heard of anyone having a positive experience with Peerflix.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:41 AM on March 12, 2006

I managed to join LaLa without an invite - I put myself on their waiting list and got an invite in a day or two...
posted by twsf at 8:42 AM on March 12, 2006

Shout out to Seinfeld's Newman: "Because the mail never stops. It just keeps coming and coming and coming. There's never a letup, It's relentless. Every day it piles up more and more, but the more you get out, the more it keeps coming. And then the bar code reader breaks. And then it's Publisher's Clearinghouse day."

It's fascinating. While in school we once visited a milk packaging factory. Watching all those machines and conveyor belts constantly chugging out bottle after milkywhite bottle and pouch after perfect pouch of milk was amazing. Since then I've always been drawn to any such mechanical floorshops.

bchase, inigo2 : Are any of these facilities open to the general public? Ok, I don't mean public as in free-for-all, but let's say if I want to make a pvt visit, just to learn, is there someone I can write to for the same? Do all post offices have this backend or only some central big offices which do the sorting operation? Just a short visit, with maybe some pics (if they allow).
posted by forwebsites at 9:28 AM on March 12, 2006

forwebsites, I think each processing and distribution center makes its own policies about tours. The Spokane plant used to, but doesn't offer tours at this time. It wouldn'thurt to call and ask, though.

I also work for the USPS and we get this question fairly often.
posted by faceonmars at 10:18 AM on March 12, 2006

I, too salute the USPS. Except in Brooklyn, NY, where POs circa 11217 always have long lines, too few people, and no room. But the USPS truly is amazing--why did they stop supporting cycling?!
posted by ParisParamus at 10:30 AM on March 12, 2006

But the USPS truly is amazing--why did they stop supporting cycling?!
Because someone finally asked the question, why did they start supporting cycling? Seriously, while Lance got some glory, it was not possible to document any benefit to the Postal Service because Lance's team wore jerseys with USPS on them. (Did you mail more packages and letters as a result?)
posted by notmtwain at 1:21 PM on March 12, 2006

No, I actually used my road bike to deliver packages myself instead of mailing them...guess you have a point!
posted by ParisParamus at 2:19 PM on March 12, 2006

I used to work for the division of Bell+Howell that built the huge sorting machines used by the USPS. They were pretty impressive up close, and were at least manufactured to some pretty stiff tolerances -- i.e. if clean and maintained, so many millions of letters sorted without mangling. Millions. Unfortunately, once the whole country was automated, there wasn't much need for their services anymore. I think they were sold when a deal to automate Brazil fell through.
posted by dhartung at 3:18 PM on March 12, 2006

why did they start supporting cycling? My guess is they figured it was a way to identify their brand with speed.
posted by drezdn at 4:11 PM on March 12, 2006

Thx faceonmars.
posted by forwebsites at 6:04 PM on March 12, 2006

I ♥ the USPS! For many reasons, including Netflix.
posted by Lynsey at 10:05 PM on March 12, 2006

Are any of these facilities open to the general public?

Hmm...good question. I know schools/other groups of kids sometimes get tours, so there must be some mechanism to do so. I just don't know how. Maybe the best bet is to start at the local post office and ask around? Not positive it'll get you anywhere, but it's worth a shot. I'll see if I can find anything else out at work.
posted by inigo2 at 7:41 AM on March 13, 2006

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