I watched “Fred Claus” last weekend. “Fred Claus” is a movie about St. Nick’s older brother, who lived his disconsolate life self-estranged from his family until his dream of opening an off-track betting business required him to access the respectable coffers of North Pole Inc. Nicolas, although generous enough to supply the world’s children with gifts once a year, felt the need to put Fred to work at the Pole to earn the cold, hard cash, ironically enough, evaluating childrens' files and stamping “naughty” or “nice” on the assessments.
Some scenes in “Fred Claus” are in Santa’s Workshop, where elves manually fabricate various toys in an old-school style assembly line, not unlike the manufacture of Model T Fords. Although I’m sure thousands of elves are happy working all year for only room and board, including meals from the four major elven food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup (at least according to Will Ferrell’s movie, “Elf”), I imagine it can be both expensive and inefficient to operate with so many tiny hands in the pot.
There is magic at the North Pole. There must be.
I did not see one injection molding machine. I can’t help but wonder how many more parts could be made with one elf operator pushing buttons and another cutting off flash and sprue, rather than the hand-made plastics being created by hundreds of little persons under the current system. I know an IMM can’t run off candy, but I bet the long-term cost benefit analysis would still prove favourable.
I did not see one CNC tube bender. Bicycles were made, in the workshop, by the score. Elves aren’t known for their physical strength, so it must be difficult to create complex shapes from chromoly using only a pedestal tube bender. What they need is a nice servo-controlled CNC tube bending machine. Elf engineers can upload their programming to the PLC, and the machine will require just one elf to load and unload parts. Bob is definitely your uncle.
I did not see one electronic circuit board printer. Although metal parts in kids’ toys are rare, with bicycles being one of the exceptions, it seems like even skateboards and baseball bats light up and play music now (I think Duracell is in cahoots with the toy companies). Even the simplest of these toys uses an electronic circuit board, which requires – of all things – a circuit board printing machine. I concede, perhaps small, finicky circuit boards can be easily created by tiny and nimble hands. Although if you’ve seen a video of resistors, diodes and capacitors being installed into a circuit board by an automated machine, you’d be floored by the idea this task could be copied at the same rate by anyone’s hands.
If the crew at the North Pole wasn’t already capable of producing a year’s worth of toys in one workshop, then I’d have a more solid position in the argument for automation. I suppose magic wouldn’t be magical if we all understood it.