Santa’s Route Optimization Excellence

One of Santa's Control Towers

One of Santa’s Control Towers

Last Christmas Eve I was at a family party watching television with my niece and nephew. The local channel was broadcasting NORAD’s tracking of Santa across the globe. This is when my nine year-old nephew looked up at me and said, “Uncle Clint, how does Santa get to every house in the world in one night?” I immediately focused on maintaining my composure. Luckily for me, we had been discussing world geography in the days prior. I calmly turned to him and said, “Time zones. Santa takes advantage of the time zones for his deliveries.” My nephew looked at me with crinkle in his forehead as he pondered my response, and said, “Oh….ok.” Phew, I just barely ducked that one. But after that night, I decided to embark on some investigative journalism to learn more about Santa’s routing optimization excellence.

Thankfully, in the off-season I found a North Pole insider that was willing to speak with me on the condition of anonymity. He was not authorized to disclose the details, so I cannot provide his identity. Let’s just say he looks “elf-like.” Clearly Santa’s reindeers are his competitive advantage in transportation. But that’s obvious. What many don’t know is the set of parameters that Santa’s elves use to optimize his Christmas Eve routing. Surprisingly, travel speed isn’t a critical constraint as Santa has much flexibility in this area. However, when relaxing constraints, the elves determined that packaging and putting of items were critical to productivity. Subsequently, they initiated a study, ran some scenarios, and determined that packaging in standardized boxes and proper palletizing would relax this constraint. There were many other constraints that I will not address in this piece. Let’s just say that the carrots people leave on their mantles for the reindeer are critical to productivity. However, to my amusement, the routing engine did in fact simulate numerous paths and it was determined that leveraging time zones was in fact one of the most important parameters in the calculation. Santa recently modified his routing from a country based route to a longitudinal route. The extra flexibility afforded to him from the staggered time zones has allowed him to meet the increased demand requirements from a growing global population. So time zones are in fact part of the secret sauce to Santa’s routing optimization excellence!

Happy Holidays from Logistics Viewpoints!