THe magic of Christmas Supply Chain Management

When we were asked to write a post on any logistics topic which intrigued us, a question which I had since a child popped into my mind. If we were to be Santa, how could we coordinate the Christmas deliveries? All kids are going to bed and await anxious the next morning to open their present laying under the Christmas tree. No mistakes can be made, all presents have to be delivered and we just have one night to do it. If we were to be Santa Claus, would it be possible? This is a question we all could have asked ourselves on a Christmas Eve as a child, as an adult or as a logistics manager.

So lets face the premises of our logistics problem.

  • 25,8% of the world population are children, so we have a total of 2.024.784.000 children, from those 31.2% are Christians , which mean we have a total of 631.732.608 clients to serve
  • We have one night to deliver. Due to time zones difference (like if we were Phileas Fogg) , we have a total of 22 hours to deliver each house
  • An archetypical Christmas present weights more or less 1 kg and is 50cm long, 30cm wide and 20cm deep, and we assume one kids receives 2 presents on average, so we need to deliver 1.227.465.216 packages.

Premises set, how could we, as very joyful Christmas manager elves, set a Supply Chain which could face this ultimate problem?

So first, lets talk about storing. With just one factory in the North Pole we would need to supply all the present. Well, certainly, the North Pole is not the best location from a logistics perspective, but we can’t change it. So if a present is 30.000 cm³ and weights 1kg; and let’s assume we can store 10 present piled up and, as we are magical elves, don’t need any hallways, how big is our warehouse. Well our floor has to be 12.274.652 sqm and at least 3m high. Is this realistic? Sure thing! Amazon has 150 fulfilment centres (this is how they call their logistics hubs), with an average surface of 147.000 sqm. Therefore, a total storage surface of 22.125.000 sqm; more than Santa.

And now the next step in our supply chain, how do we distribute all packages from the North Pole to each home. Critics will say one single reindeer-powered sleight would not suffice, so lets try to answer them by their terms: truck, plane or ship? An average truck has a cargo capacity of 35 m³. By our calculations, in one truck Santa could fit more or less 1200 presents. That would mean, Santa’s fleet would need a total of 1.022.887. trucks for delivery. If we compare it to the roads of the EU, this number looks small. Only inside the EU borders there are 4.315.718 truck operating. And what about planes? Well, the biggest cargo plane is the Antonov An-225 Mriya, with a cargo space of 1.300 m³ and cargo capacity for 250.000 kg. This would mean we can load 44.000 packages, which would have a weight of 44.000kg. Summing up, Santa´s plane fleet would need 27.897 Antonov An-225 Mriya planes; a pity there is only one of those in the whole globe. Last but not least, ships. The biggest cargo ship available is the HMM Algeciras, with a cargo capacity of 24.000 TEU and a length of 399.9m and depth of 33.2m. In each TEU – container (6.1 m length, 2.44 m width and 2.59 m height) we can fit 33.2 m³ of load. This would mean 1106 presents per container. So in a HMM Algeciras ship the total number of presents would be 26.544.000. packages. This leads to the result that the naval fleet of Santa consists of 47 HMM Algeciras ships to serve the 1.227.465.216. packages.

So we can store and move the presents. But how can we distribute them? Well, we need some reinforcements. Let’s assume Santa asks for some help from his friend Jeff. Based on Amazon’s statistics a rider delivers between 30 and 50 packages a day. So an average of 40 a day in an 8-hour shift. Therefore, we would need 30.686.630. drivers to deliver to each endpoint all the packages. This is more or less the population of countries such as Mozambique or Nepal.

To sum up, lets grab our initial question. Is it possible to deliver the needed amount of presents in one single night if we exclude magical interferences from the operation’s problem? Well, my personal guess is YES. If you coordinate deliveries very tight and have the needed assets it could be possibly done. But how does Santa manage this each year? Well, that’s the magic of Christmas Supply Chain Management!


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