4 Lessons from Santa Claus: How Supply Chains can be Ready for Christmas

Reflections from Santa's Supply Chain

By: Stephanie KrishnanAssociate Vice President

4 Lessons from Santa Claus: How Supply Chains can be Ready for Christmas

It's that time of the year again, and many of us are starting to wind down. However, there are still many people in supply chains globally working hard to deliver on Christmas promises or make end-of-year deadlines. Asia/Pacific organizations continue to deal with supply chain disruptions, rising inflation impacting material and labor costs, workforce shortages and skills gaps, and sustainability pressures. As we head into the festive season, we can reflect on learnings from Santa's supply chain and think about how we can sweeten some of our issues to bring joy and delight to our customers.


1. Be customer-centric 

Santa's laser focus is on meeting customer needs and guaranteeing on-time delivery. He constantly communicates with his target market, ensuring he understands the wishes of all the boys and girls to deliver gifts they will cherish. He has adapted his feedback system so that he can be contacted in person (with an optional photo), by snail mail, and children can even contact him by email or through websites. 


How does your organization understand customers, and is feedback and product failure data from service and reverse logistics processes used to improve future product and service designs? Consider integrating feedback from social media and service processes into product lifecycle management (PLM) and quality systems to improve the customer experience. 


2. Know the demand

So order taking is part of Santa's customer outreach, but he has a quality check in place - remember his 'naughty' and 'nice' lists? As orders can sometimes come in quite late, Santa has to do some degree of forecasting to ensure he meets the demand of all his recipients, especially with material supply and labor constraints that are still evident as the pandemic fades. Demand variability may be high, but Santa's order visibility and forecasting have him delivering what children want year after year.  


So does your organization have visibility into actual demand or accurate forecasting models? Organizations need to consider how they will meet demand and be prepared to respond in an agile fashion. Consider systems that support real-time demand visibility and AI/ML models for demand forecasting. 


3. Create visibility

Have you ever wondered how Santa knows whether you've been naughty or nice? That Elf on the Shelf always seemed a little creepy, but it consistently reported any actions that separated the good little boys and girls from the bad to Santa. That sort of visibility helps Santa plan inventory for his big day, as the pinch that little Cedric gives to his sister on Christmas Eve could mean he gets a lump of coal instead of that 2022 Apple iPad Air. 


What visibility do you have in your supply chain to ensure adequate inventory to meet customer demand? Can last-minute changes to orders be accommodated (especially relevant if you're considering a direct-to-consumer or D2C model)? Organizations in today's supply chains have the same issues as Santa - material supply and labor constraints, as well as dealing with inflation. Do you have insight into the location of inventory to reduce lead times and software that can provide stock visibility to determine which sites can fulfill demand? 


4. Celebrate the wins!

When Santa gets it right, he is rewarded with milk, cookies, and maybe the occasional brandy or eggnog, courtesy of all the mums and dads of the world. Remember to celebrate the wins with your teams to increase engagement and bring joy to what we do! Design rewards to positively influence your team's behavior, attitudes, and commitment and to increase motivation and retention. Plus, we all deserve to celebrate when we do a good job.


We can do many things to improve our supply chains, but I hope at the end of this year, you all take some time to be with loved ones, enjoy the giving spirit of Christmas, experience peace, and get some rest. 

Supply Chain Technology Insights and Advisory

Theresa Rago

VP of Marketing, IDC Asia Pacific