‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the facility
The elves were keeping up to the best of their ability,
Pallets were tagged by the gate with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
Retailers were nestled all snug in their beds,
With dreams of ROI dancing in their heads;
And I at the North Pole talking to Santa for you,
In my fourth full-length feature, an RFID News Interview.
When out by the dock there arose such a clattle,
As four new shipments came in from Seattle
And away off the truck goods flew like a flash,
New middleware gave the WMS a touch of panache
But who made the North Pole so lively and quick?
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
He was dressed in fleece from his head to his toe,
This is not the same Santa we all used to know.
He was chubby and plump, a jolly old elf,
And I laughed when asked him, in spite of myself:
“Could you explain how you do it to me?”
And with a mischievous wink he whispered, “RFID”
Dateline: The North Pole – Recently, this RFID News reporter braved the arctic chill and traveled to Santa’s North Pole Distribution Center. While traditional Christmas carols tell of elves hand-crafting toy trucks and planes, naughty and nice children around the world fill their wish lists with untold numbers of latest gaming systems, CD players, and iPods.
Santa’s charming workshop is now a mammoth distribution facility. Through protests from hard-hit arctic manufacturers, Santa outsourced most toy production, seeking to find quality suppliers to meet the children’s desires. Today, when one enters Santa’s Workshop, busy elves can be seen driving forklifts, breaking-down pallets and managing the automated fulfillment systems that Santa must employ to make certain that these critical deliveries can be made by him on Christmas Eve.
And like other world-class distributors, Santa has not been hesitant to make significant investments in RFID. He was kind enough to grant the News a brief interview during this busy holiday season.
SC: Ho, Ho, Ho young fella! You know, I’m usually the one to make house calls,” laughed Santa. “Have one of Mrs. Claus’ Christmas cookies – I’d join you, but I’m watching the carbs these days to make sure I fit through chimneys.
DW: Don’t mind if I do. So tell me, how did you get started with automatic identification?
SC: Well, a couple of elves had been to a conference a while back where they met some nice folks from Arkansas. I’ll tell ya, those Wal-Mart folks really know their stuff! At any rate, when the elves explained the whole idea to me, I knew RFID was just what the doctor ordered.
DW: So how extensive is your RFID system here at the North Pole?
SC: Well, we’ve got a proposition that no one could sanely build a business case for. I mean, having to satisfy the wish lists of every boy and girl with toys, gadgets and gizmos of all kinds and making our deliveries all in one night – lets see one of those European outfits like Metro or Tesco take that on!
The real kicker is that I’ve got to be right 100% of the time – I mean when a kid wakes up and finds the wrong Ninja Turtle under the tree, his Christmas can seem ruined, no matter how many other things are there. And how can you tell your Michelangelo from your Leonardo really? Barbies – don’t even get me started on those!
DW: I know you’re a busy man these days – can you tell me about your RFID implementation?
SC: I’m sorry for digressing, I just love talking about the product, For one thing, we’re not really much into the ROI thing in my operation. I mean, cost is really not a worry, and since I’m in business just for the boys and girls, thank goodness I don’t have to mess with all that Sarbanes-Oxley stuff, but there I go again…
DW: You’ve got a job that we’d all envy…
SC: Yeah, but it’s a logistical nightmare. Look how hard it was for Tim Allen, and don’t even get me started on Billy Bob Thornton – now there’s a lump of coal guy if I ever saw one…I know, I know, I’m going off on a tangent again,
DW: I know you and I are both on a deadline.
SC: Right, right – I’m just so glad to have someone to talk to that’s taller than three feet.
Well, I don’t mean to boast, but we’re probably the biggest RFID implementation on that planet – if you don’t count those U.S. military folks!
Ho, Ho, Ho!
We’ve got elves stationed at the loading docks and there’s a number of them that do nothing all day but “slap-on” Santa’s Smart Labels – which have a passive RFID tag built into them – on pallets and cases coming into the DC from my suppliers. On the toys that the elves build on-site in my Workshop, we embed RFID tags in them. Funny thing – the little girls and boys will never know just how smart their stuffed bear really is!
DW: So how does all this tagged stuff help you on Christmas Eve?
SC: Well, I’ve got fixed readers stationed throughout the workshop, and many of the elves themselves also carry handheld readers,” Santa proclaimed. “The RFID-enabled sorting system organizes the toys by geographic region, which are then broken down into “smart bags” for each zip code in the United States and postal code for area abroad – it’s a really cool system!
But then all systems are cool here at the North Pole!
Ho, Ho, Ho!
DW: What else are you doing with RFID?
SC: Well, I’m using smart tags to track all my equipment. I’ve also implanted tags in all the reindeer, and these help not only identify them – ever trying really telling who’s Dancer and who’s Prancer? – but, by using read-write tags, I can update all their health records. That’s important, as it seems the reindeer always catch colds this time of year. Ask anyone with kids – Rudolph, Annabelle, Olive – they all got their shot at “The Big Dance” – that’s what we call Christmas Eve – when one of the reindeer starts sneezing and wheezing!
DW: Hadn’t thought about that. So what’s your biggest challenge with RFID?
SC: Well, what I really want for Christmas is two things, these are to achieve 100% read rates and to see some real agreement on RFID standards. If that Gen2 thing doesn’t get settled soon, well, let’s just say a lot of people may be crossing over from the good list to the naughty list.
DW: What do you want to see happen next, Santa?
SC: Well, what I’m envisioning is expanding beyond my four walls here at the workshop. In fact, I’m going to be pilot testing a system around Dallas this year – why does everyone pilot their stuff in Texas these days? Anyway, this will be a system where fixed readers have been attached to chimneys. That way, the elves can track my exact position – and Mrs. Claus likes that part too! Also, parents can know exactly when I’ve been at their house and they’ll know that “the coast is clear” for they and their kids. I tell ya, it’s a real value-add.
DW: So Santa, can other companies achieve the visibility that you’ve gotten with your RFID implementation?
SC: If only they believe – gotta go, Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!