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The Santa Challenge 4: Fly with Fewer Reindeer!

Santa Claus is facing a challenge in this pandemic year. Kids worldwide can’t sit on Santa’s lap. Elves are in lockdown and he needs to find new toy sources. Plus with Dancer and Prancer self-isolating, he needs a new way to make his worldwide rounds. This calls for advanced AI and decision management technology – enter FICO! The race is on to keep Santa on schedule.


Despite all the challenges this year, Santa has been able to get missing data on millions of children and analyze that data to find out individual preferences and behaviors and determine and produce the best matching gifts for all the children.

Now he needs to get the gifts to every child’s home. Luckily, Santa has turned to FICO technology in the past to manage his deliveries under bad circumstances, like how to cope with stolen sleighs.

A key functionality of the FICO Platform is the ability to create and evaluate alternative scenarios. This is referred to as simulation and helps determine sensitivities in your current strategy: For example, how critical is the availability of all reindeer to achieving maximum speed throughout the journey and delivering all gifts in time?

The FICO Platform not only makes this functionality available to geeks but to the actual domain experts. Santa was able to analyze delivery scenarios addressing numerous potential challenges, like:

  • Bad weather conditions, leading to speed reductions.
  • Changes to his staffing levels, i.e., reduced reindeer availability.
  • Availability of new route options due to negotiations between his team and global flight administration offices.
  • Closing of reindeer feeding stations on delivery routes, often requiring detours to other stations for keeping reindeer healthy.

Using the rich visualization and analysis capabilities of the FICO Platform, Santa got ready for computing this year’s delivery route.
On short notice, Dancer and Prancer needed to self-isolate, leading to a slowdown of his sleigh. Santa knew that travelling the current route with reduced speed would not be feasible in the available time.

Santa sighed and updated the reindeer staffing levels in his routing scenario and kicked off an optimization run.

Something surprising happened. The software determined a new shorter route which would allow him to deliver all the gifts in time.  Although Santa had great experience with optimization, he needed to verify and analyze the new route. It turned out that with his full harnessed reindeer team, certain feeding stations were too small to satisfy his reindeer’s hunger. With the smaller team, new route options opened up. Also, due to lockdown, fewer planes will be in the air, leading to faster travel times on certain legs.

Santa got excited. He now wanted to give more rest to his smaller team and ensure the route would be feasible even in bad weather conditions. Hence, he introduced 5% additional rest at the feeding stations and requested a robust schedule assuming that the predicted travel times are up to 10% off. Santa pressed go. After only a short wait, Santa received the perfect solution, fulfilling all his, his reindeer’s and most importantly the children’s needs.

Santa Challenge 4 – solved!

Next up: How can Santa do even better next year?

Follow our progress helping Santa week by week at

Find out how you can solve YOUR challenges using the FICO Platform

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