New Automated Warehouse Helps Santa Keep Christmas Promises

'The North Pole'

viastore, a leading material handling automation systems and software company, announced that it has completed the installation of an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS), at a super-secret location inside Santa Claus’ Village at the North Pole. Santa Claus is the world’s largest international distributor of Christmas gifts to children of all ages, delivering an estimated 1,829,256,297 presents annually during a 24-hour period on the night of December 24.

viastore provided complete material handling and warehouse automation for the new facility, which includes a 40-foot-tall mini-load automated tote storage and retrieval system (AS/RS), as well as conveyors, goods-to-person pick/pack stations, warehouse management system (WMS) integrated with SAP enterprise resource planning running a HANA database, equipment controls and systems integration for the project.

“The truth is, a skilled elf is hard to find these days,” explained the portly gentleman in the red suit, during an interview conducted over a plate of chocolate chip cookies and a mug of warm milk. “And—when you combine the demand for personalized products with the ultra-tight delivery deadlines our operation faces—it became obvious that an integrated, automated warehouse solution was the only way the elves could keep up with our demands from children around the world.”

The 387-aisle mini-load AS/RS is the focal point of the facility and allows Santa’s workshop to integrate automatic storage of components for postponed value-added assembly and picking processes. With drones atop the wish lists of many of Santa’s customers, a large part of the system was dedicated to storing those parts alone. When that item loses favor next year (or next month), the system can re-slot so that the popular items are closer to picking.

Elves pick items to complete orders from forward pick locations fed by the AS/RS, with the AS/RS automatically replenishing the fastest-moving items (the iPhone 6 for example, according to Santa). Slower moving products (such as the older iPhone 4) also work through the AS/RS, using dynamic pick shelves.

In the initial design phase, viastore recommended that Santa also install a pallet AS/RS to store unit loads of completed product prior to picking and replenishment of the mini-load. To ensure both a high level of elf productivity and accuracy in picking orders to match Santa’s multi-stop international delivery schedule, the advanced algorithms of the WMS queue items precisely by outbound scheduling parameters.

For viastore, the opportunity to be a small part of making billions of Christmas dreams come true was one that simply couldn’t be passed up. “As an international provider of material handling automation solutions and intelligent software, we were delighted to share our expertise in warehouse automation with Santa Claus,” winked Tom Tobin, president and CEO of viastore SYSTEMS Inc., with a twinkle in his eye. “We anticipate continuing to work with Santa and his elves year-round as they expand and refine their system to meet future needs.”

Need some warehouse automation magic at your facility? Then, call us at 616.977.3950 to learn how we can engineer the right automated warehouse solution for your manufacturing and/or distribution operation.

About John Clark

John is responsible for Marketing and Business Development at the North American headquarters of viastore systems in Grand Rapids, MI.

He has over 20 years of broad hands-on experience in all aspects of marketing and communication, including writing, content marketing, advertising, design, trade show and event planning, public/media relations, website, lead generation and management.

Prior to viastore, he has held marketing management positions at TGW Systems and Dematic, both global material handling automation companies.

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