Future Mobility Santa

Giles Perkins, Head of Future Mobility for WSP in the UK reflects over a cup of hot chocolate (with marshmallows) on how Santa may have to adapt to changes in the transportation sector to maintain his market leading position.

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What can the sector learn from Father Christmas delivering presents on the 25th December?

Make no mistake, Santa’s logistical set-up is incredible, a finely tuned, last-minute operation with hugely impressive metrics. Since his early days, branded then as St Nicholas, he’s delivered all presents on time, with zero lost or incorrectly delivered, truly remarkable! Whilst he’s clearly scaled things at the North Pole over the centuries, what sits behind his success is data. Santa and senior Elf decision makers understanding demand through this year’s present trends, managing and logging incoming customer requests through a slick back-office and managing supply and inventory through the checks and balances of the ‘naughty or nice list’. Santa illustrates that placing the customer at the heart of things is critical, managing expectations vital and having a well understood brand and image brings things to life.

But things aren’t all great in Santa’s Village...

   

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What can Father Christmas improve?

Santa has a carbon problem, assuming (as some have suggested) he’s covering over 40 million miles with his nine reindeer (eight plus Rudolf, and his nose so bright) with 5.8g/km per walking / resting animal.  Then, by my very shoddy maths that notches up to an astonishing 3 million tonnes of carbon each Christmas Eve. Perhaps he needs to change with the times, would a hub and spoke model help reduce emissions? Express teams of trunk haul reindeer, fed on a much less gaseous diet delivering bulk present loads into local hubs with an Elf powered e-cargo bike last mile solution, still silent but much less environmental impact? OK, he might have to give more responsibility to the Elves, with them being the customer facing part of the new operation and manging children’s image expectations accordingly, but Santa is over 1,700 years old and the world population has increased from 205 million to 7.8 billion over the same period, surely he needs a rest, and less milk and cookies?

    

What kind of skills are critical now for Father Christmas to succeed?

Santa has always had the customer at the heart of his operation and has the back-office absolutely nailed. Whilst he might not have gone digital, his systems are immune from cyber-attack and he’s fully GDPR compliant. My worry is that Santa has failed to move with the times, year on year he’s growing his operation but has never spent the time to understand how new technology, business models and solutions could help him be just as effective but with less effort. Remember, Mrs Claus doesn’t really get to see him from about July onwards and she’s apparently getting a bit hacked off. Santa needs to plan for how his operation continues to serve the world’s needs, he needs to be thinking about how emerging / future modes could help streamline operations and he needs to focus on reducing his carbon footprint. The upskilling of the Elves is also essential, and I’d suggest some early (virtual of course) workshops in the New Year to discuss their freight/logistics, energy and last mile needs.

  

What should Father Christmas need to be thinking about or doing today that perhaps wasn’t part of the equation for leaders five or ten years ago?

As discussed, Santa needs to address carbon emissions, that 3 million tonnes is a huge number and decarbonising his whole operation must be the focus, it’s notable that Santa has made no statements in this regard. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and of course Rudolf are a highly effective and well-loved team, but the time has surely come for some new motive power. Logistics operations have changed significantly, his last mile delivery operation is a bit outmoded and a business model based on sliding down chimneys seems a little dated, it needs to be streamlined to be zero emission within our neighbourhoods. I would also suggest that Santa’s village is far too centralised and perhaps a distributed network of workshops could help with Elf recruitment from a much wider labour pool. St Nick needs to take the best of his operations, he needs to share his learnings widely, but he must adapt and take the best of what’s happening in our sector to set a new world standard for deliveries at scale.

   

What would be on your wish list for the highways and transport sector this Christmas?

Assuming I’m on the nice list this year, top of my list is a rolling programme of rail electrification with supporting policies to encourage freight moving to rail along with a simplification of passenger fares across the UK. I’d add to that integrated networks of publicly accessible transport (fixed routes and on-demand using a variety of vehicle types across all use cases) focused on customer needs, using mobility hubs (including at rail stations) providing access to a wide range of transport and non-transport services and connectivity from rural to urban and everywhere in between. I’ve then added to my list improved incentives for sustainable modes including e-bikes and e-cargo solutions as well as incentives for people to reduce their private car mileage, including for EVs. Then, an acceleration of battery and green-hydrogen across all modes and use cases to rapidly decarbonise our networks. Finally, can I have a Scalextric set, a big one, they are electric after all!

  

More on WSPs Future Mobility thinking here – https://www.wsp.com/en-GB/campaigns/future-mobility 

   

Giles Perkins
Head of Future Mobility, WSP

Twitter @GilesBGPerkins

Giles leads WSPs Future Mobility team in the UK and has over 30 years’ experience in the futures, transportation planning and intelligent transport sectors. He has worked in the public and private sectors as a senior client and director level consultant and, has led major projects across all modes. He has a detailed understanding of the strategic needs and opportunities surrounding the transport challenges that face our networks, regions, towns and cities. He is a recognised expert in the field of future mobility / transport having undertaken numerous cutting-edge commissions where his insight is helping build ‘future ready’ thinking into strategies, policies and asset specifications. He is a strategic thinker with an in-depth appreciation of the challenges facing all modes of transport resulting from disruptors, both within the transportation realm and wider socio-economic changes which influence it. Giles has presented papers at numerous events and conferences in the UK, Europe, Japan and Australia focusing on the potential challenges and opportunities in the new / future mobility space with a focus on how we can navigate uncertainty.

   

Your Voice @ CIHT: Take part and have your say

Do you agree or disagree with Giles? We would like to hear from you.

You can share your answers to the questions, anonymously if you wish, by completing the form >>> CIHT Christmas Debate Questions

Alternatively join the debate at CIHT Connect or contact us directly by emailing communications@ciht.org.uk (Subject Line: CIHT Christmas Debate)

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