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Exclusive: Santa’s Logistics Secrets Revealed

The first in our series of interviews with best-in-class field service, FM and logistics brands.

It’s the biggest logistics job in the world, getting presents to all the boys and girls of the world in just one night. But year after year, Santa Claus gets the job done, on time and in full. And now, in an exclusive interview with Cognito iQ, Santa reveals just how he does it.

Meeting Santa for the first time is daunting. He’s even more impressive in person than his LinkedIn profile gives you to understand. Stroking his trademark white beard, he welcomes us into his spacious, open plan grotto, offers us mince pies, and starts to run through some of the challenges he faces.

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“There are around 1.9 billion children in the world. Even when you exclude the ones who, despite all our work on loyalty and retention, have lost their belief in our brand ….” He stops briefly at this point, and brushes away what appears to be a tear. “…there’s still a lot to get through in one night. We have to check their customer records to see if they are naughty or nice, match up presents with children, and plan a route which avoids flight paths and conflict zones whilst minimising the use of reindeer food – that stuff is expensive! ”

Santa’s operation is co-ordinated from head office at the North Pole, and it relies on an integrated ERP solution (Elves, Requests and Parcels), which comprises: a JIT-4X (Just-in-time-for-Xmas) manufacturing system that allocates elves to toy production according to skill set, document management for handling children’s letters and requests for presents, and a warehousing system that ensures the parcels are wrapped, bar-coded and stacked in the outgoing delivery area, ready to go onto the sleigh. The ERP system also integrates with the CRM system (Christmas Reindeer Management).  

“The back-office systems are really important in the run-up to Christmas Eve, but on the day, it’s having the mobile workflow and electronic delivery manifest on my ‘Cranberry sPhone 6s’ that makes it all possible”. Santa explains that whilst he is out on the sleigh, real-time communications with the North Pole are essential. “However well you plan, there are always last minute changes and problems when out on the delivery run; if, for example a chimney has been bricked up or a child is still awake, I’m not able to make the drop but have to reschedule on the fly. And of course I have to make sure that I always comply with ‘elf and safety.”

And it’s not just getting the deliveries right that matters. Santa knows that, as the delivery guy, he is the face of the brand so he is always ready with a cheerful ho-ho-ho, and always willing to eat just one more mince pie. “After all…” he chuckles “…I need to make sure I still fill out the red suit”.

Just at that point, a senior elf enters and whispers to Santa, and I fancy I see an expression of tiredness cross his face. Our interview is over as he thanks us and rushes off to attend to a jingle-bell malfunction. As we leave, I turn to wave goodbye, but he’s already gone and I am left with the feeling that, even when you have a magic sleigh, flying reindeer and an enormous team of elves, logistics is a pretty tough job.

Don’t miss our next best-in-class interview with one of the seven dwarves who reveals how Cognito iQ’s Operational Performance Management (OPM) has increased employee engagement. “I used to be Grumpy, but now I’m Happy” he says.

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