Santa’s elves – the masters of logistics: an exclusive interview with Chief Elf Barry

It’s that time of year again. The world’s biggest air freight operation swings into action as Santa and his elves deliver presents to just over 525,000,000 children around the world in a mere 22 hours. How do they do it? How do they get it right? How do they make Christmas the most wonderful time of the year, year after year? To find out, Brendan Richards, spoke to the person who makes it all happen. No, not Santa. Barry – Santa’s Head of Logistics.

Thanks for taking the time to chat Barry – we know how busy you are at this time of year.

Tell me about it. I don’t think anyone in the world takes a deadline more seriously than we do and we operate right up until the last minute. Amazon cut off their Christmas deliveries on December 22. Ha! Amateurs! We don’t even leave the building until the 24th. I might also point out that our delivery service is free – as has been our tradition since 280AD.

It certainly is remarkable. Give us a sense of the kind of numbers you’re dealing with.

Well, there are just under 3 billion children in the world but tradition dictates we only deal with the Christians but that’s now changing and we typically only work with the kids up to age 14. As a general rule of thumb we find kids older than that tend to find themselves permanently on the naughty list. That leaves us with a pool of 1.85 billion kids to get around and roughly 600,000,000 of those are on the Saint Nicholas side of the ledger. 75,000,000 or so do something stupid that sees them join the older kids on the naughty list so we are delivering to around 525,000,000 each year with a growing number of non-denominational believers on top of that.

Wow! How on earth do you do it?

Elf power my friend. Nothing stronger or better in the known universe. We have a dedicated team of roughly 3,500 elves here at the Pole. They are fantastic. Work about 20 times faster than the average human and don’t need anywhere near as many breaks. It’s fair to say it has gotten a little tougher since they all got on to ‘improving workplace conditions’ with a suggestion box. I swear if Murray, the leader of the ‘complaints team’, comes into my office one more time complaining about the coffee… it won’t just be Rudolph with a red nose.

So elves drink coffee do they?

Absolutely. Nothing funnier than an elf buzzed out on a morning brew.

In terms of air freight, you don’t exactly run a standard operation. How exactly is Santa able to get around the world in a mere 24 hours?

Technically, it’s 22 in real time if you start at 10pm in the Far East and go to 7am in the west, but time zones help us out a lot. In the Northern Hemisphere we have more night to play with since it gets darker quicker and longer. Then again, in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the opposite. Those muppets in Queensland who refuse to embrace daylight saving are particularly annoying. At the end of the day – that’s a little elf inside joke – it all comes down to the work our brilliant Ministry of Antlaerodynamics, Geodynamic Interdimensional travel and Coffee do. That’s MAGIC for short.

What do they do?

Make reindeer fly.

Gotcha. How?

Let’s just say that what you think of as antlers are more like fractal vortex-shedding devices that warp space and time. Reindeer don’t really fly. They kind of just sit in a different dimension which makes them look like they are flying. Only problem is they use the same device for butting each other in the head and ‘impressing the ladies’. Anyone too close when the antlers short out is going to find themselves twisted like a pretzel. That’s how I got the job of Head of Logistics. Donner and Blitzen kind of accidentally blitzed my predecessor.

The speeds they achieve must be incredible.

They certainly are. We only have 79,200 seconds to get the job done and we’re travelling at 15,000,000 miles an hour. It burns a lot of energy. That’s why the big fella needs his cookies and milk. He munches through about 203 billion calories on the night.

One last question. Could you see your operation expanding out from the Pole and possibly having distribution centres globally?

I don’t think so. We’re happy here in the Pole and, given we’re on our own turf and can make our own rules, I can’t see us moving anywhere else. It would be pretty hard to get visas for the elves these days and Reindeer don’t like warm weather either. I think… hang on a sec. What do you want Murray? What are you talking about? There’s nothing wrong with the coffee. I don’t care what George Clooney told you, we are NOT switching to Nespresso. Seriously Murray, get out of my office. GET OUT!!!

Look Barry, thanks for your time. We appreciate you giving some insight into what you are doing up there at the Pole. Have another great Christmas mate.

No worries. You know you’re still on the naughty list, right?

Interview conducted by Brendan Richards, KPMG, Head of Transport and Logistics @logistcsmindset

 Animation by Steve Keast @_keastie_  

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