World’s Oldest Toy Distributor Finds New Efficiencies with Microsoft Project Service Automation
On the seventh day of D365mas Santa gave to me…
North Pole – Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) today announced that North Pole, Ltd (NYSE: NPL), the world’s second largest manufacturer and distributor of toys, has implemented Microsoft Dynamics 365 Project Service Automation for the 2019 holiday season. With the solutions rolled out to 85,851 Elves, NPL has successfully streamlined operations and created a path for digital transformation for their 1,000+ year old company.
NPL had been working with very manual systems. “Spreadsheets; Ha! Not really,” said NPL CFO Steve Kringle. “I’ve been using a 38-foot scroll, with that quill and ink, since the 1700’s. And we only had one abacus that we had to share, and frankly Larry was a big abacus hog, so yeah, lots of manual systems.”
When it came time to modernize its operations, NPL chose Microsoft Dynamics 365 Project Service Automation. “Moving to the Microsoft Cloud was a no-brainer for us,” said NPL CIO Hoteiosho-san. “We have a unique business model. We have 364 days to make over 2 billion toys and then figure out how to distribute them. And that number keeps going up! So we needed a solution that could scale and we really didn’t have much time ramp everyone up.”
One of NPL’s off-season initiatives was the restoration of the Workshop. “Let’s face it, this ice shelf we’re sitting on isn’t getting any bigger,” said COO Snegurochka. “So we had to reinforce and build up!” Using the new Project Service, the Elves were able to easily create a WBS, Gantt chart and schedule and distribute tasks all within Microsoft Project, a tool they have become very familiar with. “After Buddy returned from his internship in New York, he showed us how to use MS Project. We’re so glad it’s now connected to Dynamics.” (note: NPL is using a pre-production version of PSA and project. Roadmap notes are here).
Resource scheduling was also used to make sure they had the right Elf for the right job. “Let’s face it, 90% of the Elves have no other skill set except making toys,” said Snegurochka. “Using skills management, we were able to see which Elves, for example, could pour concrete or understood carpentry. Thankfully many of the older Elves know carpentry. We also discovered we had mad skills in sweaters and socks, but that was not helpful for this project.”
Because of the connection to NPL’s financials, management was able to get a clearer view of the financial performance of the projects. “We used PSA to track time and expenses,” said Kringle. “We quickly discovered that while most of the Elves worked hard, they spent waaaay too much time on snuggling and snow angels. We let Mr. Claus address this directly with them and we got the project back on track. We also discovered that our entire business model is probably not a good one. We build billions of toys a year, but we have exactly zero income.”
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