Santa Claus in the Field Test

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As another year draws to a close, the Christmas festivities are approaching. We want to take this opportunity and take a closer look at the work of perhaps the most famous and best logistics specialist of all time: Santa Claus.

As it turns out, this elderly, bearded gentleman is unsurpassed when it comes to productivity and efficiency and any logistics company would be lucky to have him as an employee. We did some research and got to know this legendary North Pole resident. The red and white dressed parcel delivery specialist is known under a variety of aliases throughout the world, such as Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Père Noel, Babbo Natale or Joulupukki, to name a few. It is said that he has help from a small regional team of employees such as the yule goat, the Christkind, elves, etc. however it could also be that Santa Claus has shape-shifting abilities and slips into the role himself as he is one and the same person. Regardless with or without support his work is impressive, though also raises some questions.

361 days procurement logistics – only 4 days for delivery

First, let’s take a look at his work hours. We were surprised to find that the amount of working days is seemingly manageable. Each year he works around December/January time,  24 and 25 December to be precise and in some countries 6 and 7 January. “He’s got it good!” one or the other may say, however as with teachers, it’s a matter of “visible” work hours. The preparations, in this case especially the procurement logistics, happen in secret and is also carried out by the robust red and white clad gentleman. The rest of the year is by no means made out of free time, on the contrary, it includes administrative tasks and research etc.

But let’s dedicate ourselves to his recognized activities. We’re going to use a bit of math to help us take a closer look at this impressive workload. Father Christmas is the heart and soul forwarder of the Christians on this earth, but he increasingly gains recognition about his impeccable work in countries without a Christian background, for example Japan, Korea etc. to win customers there, too.

In order to get a rough overview of the amount of deliveries that take place, we need to do a bit of math. Let’s assume there are 2 billion children under the age of 18 worldwide. Since Santa primarily supplies children in Christian households, the number is reduced to 15%, thus around 300 million children. We continue to assume that each family has 3 children. Therefore, the loving Father Christmas must supply 100 million households if every household accounts for at least one good child, which we hope.

Bright children's eyes - every year anew the deserved reward for Santa's efforts.

The numeracy game carries on. If the bearded accomplice hands out presents from east to west, after 8pm once the children are asleep, he has 34 hours due to the different time zones to deliver all gifts until the children wake up at 6am. With 100 million households, good old Father Christmas has a thousandth of a second per household to park his sleigh, get out, climb down the chimney, fill the socks and distribute the other gifts, enjoy the food provided for him, climb up the chimney again, get back in the sleigh and fly to the next house. That’s awfully fast for a man of his age.

Around the world at the speed of 1,250 km per second

For simplicity’s sake, we assume that households are evenly spread across the globe, with an estimated land mass of about 30 percent, so households are about 1.5 km apart. In one night, Santa Claus covers about 153 million kilometers. Of course, a sensible motorization of the sleigh is necessary for this. Many companies in the air and space industries would be interested in the details of the technology used. According to our assumptions, Santa’s relatively unspectacular looking reindeer sleigh can travel around 1250 km per second, which is about 3650 times the speed of sound! SpaceX, NASA and what they’re all called can only dream of this. How the passionate beard bearer of the North Pole manages to increase the performance of his reindeer in this way has not yet been clarified and is probably part of the magic of Christmas.

Record breaking: Santa Claus in his sleigh.

But not only the pure speed of the red and white parcel service is impressive. Let’s dedicate ourselves to the loading of the sleigh. According to our information, every child receives presents with a total weight of about one kilogram. So the sleigh has a loading capacity of 300,000 tons, not including Santa himself, who is known to be well-fed. The average reindeer weighs up to 300 kilograms and is able to pull a weight of 175 kg. In the case of a flying reindeer, it is assumed that they can haul ten times as much, i.e. 1750 kg. To pull the sleigh, 171,430 flying reindeer would have to be used. Of course, this also increases the total weight of the flying team to 325,715 tons (at 150 kg per reindeer). For comparison: the once largest cruise ship in the world, the “Oasis of the Seas” weighed “only” 222,900 tons.

Finally, physics comes into play. At a speed of 1250 km per second, the 325,715 tons generates a considerable amount of air resistance. Thanks to the Earth’s atmosphere, the sleigh, including reindeer and Santa, is heated up like a space shuttle entering the atmosphere from space. It looks like Mr. Claus must have an extremely effective heat shield, otherwise him and his loyal band of reindeer would be pulverized.

Already at the acceleration to the final speed, which in view of the minimum time window per delivery of one thousandth of a second would be reached more or less immediately, it would force the cheerful Santa Claus with a thousand times the gravity into his sleigh. Despite his robust physique, this would most likely account for unpleasant injuries and temporary unconsciousness. The same applies in the opposite direction when braking.

So we see, as nice as the job sounds in theory, it can be quite stressful too. Santa Claus should be a shining example for other freight forwarders out there, and we should try to emulate him in return, when it comes to responsibility. For a mortal, however, it is simply impossible to achieve his level of productivity.

Father Christmas seemingly displays other-worldly skills, which makes out the magic of the festive season. We should all take up this magic and Christmas spirit over the festive season and perhaps give the old man in his red and white costume an extra portion of sweet treats on the mantelpiece this year, so that his work in the coming years also gets carried out with the same care and precision like always. With this in mind, we wish you all a merry Christmas and a healthy start to the New Year!

Henrik Schütte

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