December 15, 2020
It’s no secret that Santa has the greatest supply chain success story of all time. Not only does Santa have a laser focus on his target market — children of all ages — but he has a near-perfect order rating, a global distribution channel that spans the world in 24 hours, and a unique door to chimney delivery model.
But this year, in the midst of a global pandemic, he faces his biggest challenge yet!
How to keep everybody safe and still make Christmas magical?
We had a chance to talk to Santa during his busy schedule and here are a few of the steps he has put in place….
Capturing actual demand through digitization
Santa confirmed he will still take a reduced number of face-to-face meetings this year. But for obvious reasons, there will be no sitting on Santa’s knee, and requests will be taken from 6 feet away and Santa will be behind a plexiglass screen.
He is still receiving “wish lists” via the traditional letter to Santa, and of course the increasingly popular online option. That’s right boys and girls, you can “friend” Santa on Facebook. You can also follow him on Twitter @Santa or reach him via C2S (Child2Santa) at: firstname.lastname@example.org. And now, after 108 years, the US Postal Service’s “Operation Santa” letter campaign has gone digital beginning on December 4 at USPSOperationSanta.com.
Santa has a laser focus on customer centricity and always strives to deliver everything on everyone’s Christmas list. He traditionally segments his customer into 2 groups – Naughty or Nice. After all, “he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake”.
Thanks to Santa’s expansive customer database — which consists of over seven billion records (there are 2.2 billion children, but after all, are all big kids at heart) — these changes are more manageable because the database is “in the cloud.” Do we dare say that Santa is also one of today’s greatest big data success stories?
Employee Safety while Manufacturing at the North Pole
While the North Pole would not be an obvious location for a global manufacturing center, this year it has worked out in Santa Inc’s favor. The elves have been quarantined in their own little “bubble” since last Christmas so no problem there!
Yet, just to be safe, they have ensured the environmental health and safety of Santa’s little helpers with an advanced system of smart elf hats that have built-in sensors that trigger the bell to ring if you are too close to another worker.
There is also a mesh network of sensors taking the temperature of elves that leverages artificial intelligence to predict potential cases before it becomes an outbreak.
Ensuring the safety of the supply chain during distribution
When it comes to the logistics of delivering the gifts, his patented Direct to Chimney model is the poster child for a socially distanced supply chain.
Due to safety regulations, the North Pole warehouse has had to operate with fewer elves than usual. Santa has made significant investments in finding the right elf size PPE and has redesigned the warehouse to accommodate social distancing. He is also leveraging machine learning algorithms to analyze real-time data from a network of video cameras. It knows how many elves are allowed in an aisle within a specific time, and schedules tasks accordingly.
His sleigh has been sanitized and the eight flying reindeer have been separated from the herd and will be “playing reindeer games” in their own little bubble until Christmas Eve. There were some concerns when the new vet reported that Rudolf, “had a very shiny nose,” and that “if you ever saw it, you would even say it glows.” They had a good “Ho, Ho, Ho” about this when Santa explained that Rudolf would “go down in history” for his red nose.
At the start of the pandemic, Santa was very concerned about touching all those surfaces around the world, but since it has been confirmed that the highest risk is through repository droplets he is much more comfortable, as he hasn’t been spotted in the act of delivering gifts under the tree in over 200 years.
How intelligent gifts reduce the number of “Misfit Toys”
Thanks to his introduction of digital capabilities, Santa knows if last year’s toys are playing up. He is now leveraging Industry 4.0 technologies to design and manufacture smarter gifts with built-in sensors to create a digital twin. These digital copies of physical products give Santa visibility into how to best service and provide maintenance to “last year’s broken toys.”
He now also has better visibility into the performance of his sleigh through predictive maintenance processes that leverage IoT sensors to track performance, temperature, and calibration of key parts and components.
Have you been good this year? Have you followed safety guidelines? Have you been wearing your mask? Those “Elves on the Shelves” have been watching!
As Santa said at the end of our conversation “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”
I’ve been working in the supply chain management and manufacturing space for over 25 years, and I’m responsible for driving the market direction and positioning of SAP’s Supply Chain Management and IOT solutions. Prior to joining SAP in 2004, I spent 15 years with Marcam Solutions where I was VP of Marketing for the companies Process ERP solutions. I have also implemented ERP and SCM systems at companies such as Nestle, Gillette, Colgate Palmolive, Rohm & Haas, Wyeth, Royal Worcester Spode and Dairy Crest. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of Mid Glamorgan in the UK. Follow me @howellsrichard