Being involved in the ERP business for quite a few years has made me curious about who runs ERP, who doesn’t, who thinks ERP is really necessary and who thinks it is a waste of time. Most of my friends have been grilled by me about what ERP solution is in use at the company where they work.
Recently I was out for drinks with a friend of mine and I figured it was his turn to give me the low-down on how ERP works in his line of business. My pal’s name is Sparkle and he happens to be an elf. I’ve suspected, and Sparkle recently confirmed, that he actually works up at the North Pole Santa Claus Workshop. Sparkle doesn’t do a lot during most of the year, but come November, he’s gone—outta town, outta site and outta touch until late December.
After a Scotch or two, I asked Sparkle if they used ERP up north. He laughed and asked me if I remembered the Christmas of 1983. As Sparkle put it, this was the Cabbage Patch Christmas. You could tell Sparkle was lost in his memories as he spoke to me and related the story.
Dolls in Demand
Santa had called a Demand Planning meeting for the first of November in 1983. As usual, Santa, his helpers and the Elves were going to put together the big plan for the Christmas season. Santa had a warehouse full of Barbie dolls, and his aim that year was to unload as many of those as possible.
The inventory costs were eating him alive, and he certainly didn’t want to be paying a second year’s interest on that inventory. Plus, Elves were not all that honest, and they wouldn’t think twice about helping themselves to a Barbie Doll for their greedy little elfin kids.
His helpers, who had already been taking some preliminary trips into major department stores, reported that there was a very healthy demand that year for dolls. They were confident that their supply of Barbies would fulfill about 70% of the anticipated doll demand for that Christmas.
Santa, being a decisive leader and trusting his helpers, decided to order a reduced number of Barbies from the workshop with the idea that they only had to cover the 30% gap between demand and supply.
Sparkle told me he could tell that there was some concern among the Helpers that Barbie dolls were not exactly what the kids had been talking about during the market-research trips. But, Santa ignored this and plowed ahead. The conversation turned to boys.
Boys were always tough, but this year was special for them because they all wanted Walkman personal music systems. Santa authorized the purchase of a manufacturing license for the Walkman from Sony and ordered the workshop to go to three shifts in order to get the devices made on time.
Sparkle kind of laughed and remarked about how relieved Santa was to have the Barbies in inventory because his production capacity was now maxed out due to making the little stereo devices for boys.
Ho Ho – Oh Oh
As Sparkle related, everything was just fine until the week following Thanksgiving. Santa himself was in New York for the Macy’s parade and had agreed to hang around for some schmoozing time with the kids visiting the Macy’s toy department.
A little girl popped onto Santa’s lap and began going on about the doll she wanted. This was when he first heard the words “Cabbage Patch Doll.” The more the little princess went on about the doll, the less jolly Santa was feeling. He finally asked the kid if she wouldn’t want a Barbie.
Her response stunned Santa, “Barbies are for losers. I’ve got three Barbies already. Cabbage Patch is where it’s at Santa.”
And so it went all afternoon. Cabbage Patch this and Cabbage Patch that. Santa finally heard enough. He cut his New York trip short, returned to La Guardia and filed a flight plan back to the Pole.
The next morning he called his planning group back together and gave them the news. Now they would have to hire non-elves to do the extra work required to get the Cabbage Patch dolls completed. The supplies alone would cost a fortune since they had to be delivered on an expedited basis. All of the Barbies in the warehouse would just have to stay there for another year. It meant more taxes, more interest and more loss due to those pilfering elves.
A whole new production line had to be tooled up, staffed up and brought online. Everyone just freaked out. Sparkle was shaking his head as he laughed at the memory.
The next morning, Santa was touring the new workshop and was surprised to find that the Elves had started a strike action against the North Pole operation because in their view, the non-elves were infringing on their work. Santa’s HR system did not have any capability to track union affiliations.
To settle things quickly Santa agreed to double his Elves pay for the holiday season to make up for the lost work. Santa had to go to the Easter Bunny and borrow some of his workers, retrain them and pay them holiday wages to temporarily join his workforce.
Finally the big day arrived, Christmas Eve. Santa had his dock workers busily loading up his sleigh with Cabbage Patch Kids and Sony Walkman stereos. However, once again, problems arose. The sleigh simply did not have the room for the larger Cabbage Patch Kids boxes. They could only get about a third of the dolls loaded onto the sleigh. The Walkman recorders were loaded without incident.
Sparkle took a long drink from his scotch and related that Santa had talked about a distribution and logistics system a few of years prior during the nearly disastrous Hula Hoop Christmas. Now he was in trouble again. He had no way to get his product into the hands of the kids for Christmas.
To make matters worse, the Reindeer were grumbling about the added weight. They were pawing around the snow, and Donner looked at Blitzen and remarked just loud enough for Santa to hear:
“The old fatso ought to try dragging us around the world in 12 hours and see how he likes it.”
Santa mumbled something about venison for Christmas dinner, and before you could say Merry Christmas, the whole gang was brawling. Reindeers were tossing Elves around with their racks, Santa’s helpers were punching out reindeer and Santa himself was yelling at all of them. The bunnies meanwhile were yelling and egging everyone on in the fight.
Once calm was restored, Santa surveyed the pile of dolls that would not fit in the sleigh. Heaving a sigh, he called FedEx and requested a pick up.
Christmas morning, kids across the world were jumping for joy because under the tree, they found Cabbage Patch kids and Sony Walkman stereos.
In Cincinnati, Ohio, one grown-up was also jumping for joy. It was the North Pole Cincom Account Executive. Under that Christmas tree, Santa left an RFP for an ERP system.