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Troubleshooting in Toyland

(December 2006) posted on Thu Jan 04, 2007

Roberts recalls his visit to a screen-printing shop far north of the Arctic Circle, where the staff scurries about in a mad rush to get jobs printed in time for delivery to its young and eager customers.

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By Gordon Roberts

The next morning, I head to the platform at the main train station in the heart of downtown Helsinki and climb aboard the bullet train that will whisk me at more than 150 mph deep into the cold, dark, arctic winter. The train is full of chattering children from all over Europe who make this journey every year to deliver their Christmas wishes directly to the man himself. The elves have set up a resort called Santa Land, where kids can get a glimpse of the famous workshop and get a brief face-to-face with Mr. Claus.

For years, Santa was a hands-on CEO; his presence was felt in every department of the workshop. However, since more and more parts of the world began celebrating Christmas, he was forced to delegate much of the effort to his subordinates and spend more of his time on public relations and marketing issues. In the last five years or so, the workshop output has seen double-digit growth, with the final straw being the introduction of the Christmas holiday in Japan a few years back. For the first time ever, it looks like Christmas may have to be postponed for a week or two unless production can be streamlined and the growing scrap rate brought under control.

The department most affected, as always, is screenmaking. That's why I'm here. Santa's workshop overall is suffering from a case of too much growth in too short a time. The workers are toiling all hours of the day, yet they are still falling further and further into the hole. No amount of piped-in Christmas music seems to be able to raise either the low company morale or the sagging production figures.


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