December 16, 2022
Santa Uses A CMMS
Back in July, my cell phone rang. When I answered, a deep hearty voice said, "Ho, ho, ho! This is Santa. I'd like you to come visit me here at the North Pole."
I thought someone was pranking me, but I jokingly accepted. Thinking nothing was going to happen, I was surprised when later that night I heard bells jingling outside my window. When I peered through the blinds, there was a large sleigh and several reindeer on the front lawn. Holding onto the bell-decorated reins was an elf a little larger than I usually imagined, dressed in a black suit and white shirt.
He was my chauffeur. Still not quite believing the scene, I boarded the sleigh, and off we went, up over Des Moines, Iowa, then Canada, and finally the far, snowy north in what had to be warp speed. Soon, we came in for a landing inside a huge hangar. Minutes later, I was ushered outside, down a long sidewalk, and into a small, well-lit cottage warmed by the blazing fire in the hearth. Seated in a rocking chair was the chubby man himself, complete with a white beard and red pants, but wearing a sweatshirt and slippers. I was invited to sit in the other chair. Mrs. Claus offered hot tea, then disappeared back into the kitchen from which the tempting odor of cookies baking wafted.
"Ho, ho, ho!" Santa said. (By the way, for some reason, that's how he began every sentence, so I'll not put it in every time).
"I'll bet you're wondering why I asked you here."
"It's only July," I said. 'I thought if a visit were on the schedule, it'd be in December."
"Oh, no," he said. "I'm much too busy. No, we have a scheduled facility-wide shutdown from February through July. This is one of the few quiet times I have. Well, quieter than most."
"Shutdown?" I asked. "I thought you made toys and such year-round."
"We make and deliver the last of presents in January for those late celebrations. Then we shut down for five months and start up again in August, about the time stores start putting out their Christmas displays and advertising. Why do they do that so early?"
"I don't know, sir. But why five months for a shutdown?"
"Maintenance, my boy. Planned downtime for preventive maintenance, and replacement repairs."
"Sure, lots of companies do that."
"You don't realize the size of my facility, do you?"
"I couldn't imagine," I said.
"Let me show you." He pulled over a rolling table with a laptop. A few clicks brought up multiple windows from what I deduced was from scores of security cameras. They showed rooms I could only guess were the size of several football fields. Filled with a vast array of machines and conveyor belts. Other windows had the inside of a vast hangar similar to what I had landed in. I lost count of the number of cargo planes parked in rows.
"Cargo planes? I thought you delivered the presents personally," I said.
"We use the planes to bring in parts and supplies," Santa said.
In every window, numerous elves moved about wearing tool belts or pushing large, wheeled tool carts. Elves climbed all over the machines and ascended ladders and scaffolds, all of them conducting various types of maintenance.
"Amazing," I said. "So, you're coming to the end of the shutdown period."
"Yes," Santa said. "However, maintenance never stops. I have hundreds of workers on all three shifts going non-stop throughout the year."
"How do you keep it all organized?"
"That's why I invited you here. I thought you might like to see how we conduct some of the operations." He clicked the mouse and a familiar menu configuration displayed on the screen. "Your company's computerized maintenance management system. We've had your CMMS for decades."
I nodded. "Now, I understand."
"Certainly, and we sure love it. You don't want to know the headaches we had for centuries before your CMMS came around. I'm telling you, there were a few years when Christmas was almost canceled."
"Yes! Too much unplanned downtime. A disorganized stockroom. Purchasing and shipping problems."
"And you solved it all with a CMMS."
Santa smiled, the twinkle in his eyes bright. "Well, we still have challenges, but your CMMS has been a huge benefit."
"How do you use it?"
He clicked the Assets module and brought up a list of all his equipment. Processors, printers, conveyors, pumps, and several items named Toy Maker with an additional set of numbers and letters after the name that had to be codes he and the elves understood.
"These are the special toy producers," he explained. "Yes, many of our products are handmade. These machines mass-produce them, so they all look handmade."
He scrolled down the rest of the list of assets which included a fleet of vehicles used to transport elves through each floor of the facility. Elevators and those cargo planes.
"Each asset is assigned a location and a zone," Santa said. "Because of the size of the place, I've designated each floor as a zone as well as the hangars and airstrip and the stockroom."
"That's fantastic," I said.
"Most of the assets need preventive maintenance." He navigated to that list. "I have all of the PMs cycled and scheduled and work orders emailed daily. As I said, this is a non-stop operation."
I read through the PM list. Lubrication, inspections, cleaning, and routine replacement of parts.
"I have specialized crews and crafts assigned to the PMs and other repairs. My head scheduling elf loves to put all of them on the CMMS calendar, which automatically dispatches them to the workers."
"These are just the PMs," I said. "I can't imagine the details for those and other work orders."
"The initiating of work orders is easy to do. Prioritizing, clear instruction fields, and checklists when necessary. Attachments are added which are very helpful what with the number of machines. My maintenance supervisors stay very busy but with the CMMS, they fly through the work requests and work orders for easy processing."
"Forgive me, Santa," I said. "I would have thought you'd oversee all of this."
"I am the head admin, but I'm busy monitoring the behavior of the world's children throughout the year. If you think my asset and PM lists are lengthy, you should see the one with all the kids. I'm always changing my route for Christmas Eve what with all the newborns." He clicked on another module in the CMMS. "Getting back to the system, check out my inventory."
This was absolutely mind-blowing. However, everything was grouped by keyword. Most were toy and gift-making materials. Wood, steel, aluminum, tin, plastic, rubber, glass, crystals, numerous minerals, cloth, leather, and so many more.
In addition, all of the parts for each piece of equipment were listed. Supplies included not only the PM requirements but food, beverages, and snacks for the elves.
"Your stockroom must be enormous," I said.
"But the CMMS helped me organize it. Each item's description shows its exact location. I know the package size and cost. I have parts reserved for critical spares and substitute parts marked."
I sipped my tea. Mrs. Claus brought out a plate of chocolate chip cookies, smiled when I thanked her, then bustled back to the kitchen. I held up my cookie. "I would think you'd get enough of these during your one night to last you the next year."
He shook with laughter and leaned close to whisper, "Don't tell anyone, but I pocket a bunch for the elves."
I returned to the computer screen. "It's great how organized you are, but surely with the amount of inventory, don't parts and supplies go missing or end up in the wrong place in the stockroom?"
Santa shook his head. "We use the CMMS for an issue/return policy. I have several stockroom managers who oversee everything. I can't have hundreds of elves wandering the stockroom aisles taking and returning parts and tools. It'd be chaos." He sighed. "Where the CMMS really shines is helping us out with the physical count. Generating and printing count sheets and reconciling the totals. Of course, that's part of the shutdown procedures since it takes so long."
"Do you use the CMMS for purchasing?" I asked.
Again, he laughed, belly shaking like…well, you know the poem. "I have separate departments for purchasing, receiving, and invoicing all using the system. They have all the vendor information, payment terms, and which companies offer the best deals for bulk orders." He laughed again. "Of course, most of our orders are bulk. However, we created a list of blanket purchase orders. When a purchase order is initiated, we transfer items from the BPO. So easy and what a time-saver!"
"How about accounting?" I asked.
"Your people integrated the CMMS into our accounting department's system and also customized some great features for us. You understand, we are a unique operation, so we need special features and reports."
"And, with as huge as we are, the greatest benefit is having the CMMS on a mobile device. Crew chiefs can record equipment readings, check quantities of inventory, submit work requests, after-the-fact work orders, and so much more right from a phone or tablet."
"I am impressed," I said. "I mean, I know how a CMMS is a major aide in organizing maintenance and purchasing for companies of all sizes, but here at the North Pole, I see where it really is the best 'tool' to use."
"Absolutely," Santa said. "I've reviewed reports generated by the system, and they show elf productivity up by several percentages year after year. The number of incidents of unplanned downtime has reduced to almost nothing. And costs have drastically been cut."
"With the size of your facility, costs have to be important," I said.
"They are, but the CMMS shows us exact totals for any facet of the operation, from overall costs to specific inventory items." He leaned back in the rocker. 'You know what I really liked about your CMMS company? The support team and trainers. Support is so knowledgeable, and they'll remote in if necessary. Of course, we do all of our training online."
"I can see where in-house and on-site might not be feasible," I said.
"Right, but it's first-class all the way. We frequently have new user elves, and we enjoy some refresher courses a few times per year."
We discussed other areas of his North Pole facility. Mrs. Claus joined us, and we spent several hours chatting about Christmas, the training of new reindeer, where the elves lived, and other topics of interest.
In time, I said my thanks and goodbyes, and the chauffeur elf transported me back to my apartment…where I discovered only an hour had passed since I left. The best explanation was that if the jolly guy could circumnavigate the world in one night, he either fed the reindeer extra protein supplements or he had a magical manipulation of time.
I wrote up my conversation with Santa to save for this Christmas season post. Every day since that time, I've marveled at how Santa uses and benefits from a CMMS, and how he stays so organized in all facets of this maintenance and purchasing departments.
Of course, while Santa didn't outright mention the CMMS company he uses, I can. From my coworkers, I learned he and his elves were one of Mapcon Technologies' first clients back when the company introduced the powerful CMMS.
If Santa and his team have enjoyed the wonders of MAPCON…well, why don't you call 800-922-4336 and get some details on how it can help your company? Be nice to your maintenance department. Remember, Santa is making that list and checking it twice. It doesn't contain only children's names, you know.
Merry Christmas from the folks at Mapcon. Have a great holiday season.
…and leave a few extra cookies for the elves, okay?