I recently had the privilege to visit a Lapland organisation and talk to their founder and CEO, Father Christmas. The opportunity arose when I was doing some research for the December Newsletter and found that Saint Nicks organisation has been doing Lean since the early 70’s. He explained that with the growth of commercialism in the 60’s and 70’s he needed a system that allowed him to react to customer demand whilst reducing costs. After a visit to Toyota he launched the Elf Production System (EPS) and has seen the organisation transform.
The numbers are impressive, they deliver over 30 billion gifts to over 7 billion people around the globe (Land mass) in a 24 hours window. An amazing set of figures, but Santa played it down saying that it was achieved every year with little or no fuss thanks to a pull system focused on what the customer wants, every years orders come in, they are made and then scheduled for delivery using visual management techniques. He points out that global rotation and time differences can really help.
We discussed some of the challenges for the future, as the world’s largest manufacturer of packaging, circuit boards, plastics and batteries he recognises the need to focus on emissions. The organisation is researching the use of snow as a filter for carbon emissions, amazing.
He also mentioned that over the last few years he has come under pressure through social media to employ taller people, or right sizing as he put it. Not sure how to respond, I quickly moved on.
A number of large ERP/MRP providers keep knocking on his door offering their wares but his management team poo poo the idea of technology, he wonders why they should invest millions of dollars on software when nothing is wrong, and who wants stock left over after Christmas….
With growing customer demand and ever developing product lines he struggles with the inequalities around the world, some children get one gift, others get 50. His management team are currently discussing a “no more than five gift” policy, but they recognise this rubs against customer value, or does it.
A common challenge every year is the delivery system, eight reindeers and a sleigh present problems every year, the biggest being tears in the wrapping paper, he comments that regardless of how much magic he sprinkles on the sleigh he still gets the odd one. Positively, however he talks about continuous improvement and the relentless pursuit of perfection.
So after a few hours on site I was pleased to leave knowing Christmas was in good hands, however, bizarrely all the photos I took had vanished from my phone by the time I got home, sorry.