Ferrovial SA: How are gifts delivered around the world?

Christmas is an important time in many cultures. These different societies tend to share their different components, such as the widespread practice of gifts from Santa Claus, also called Ded Moroz, Father Christmas and Saint Nicholas, depending on the region. Corn How are so many objects from the “North Pole” sent to homes around the world? Which route do the toys take?

In this historic period of bottlenecks in transport and logistics, we analyze how all that is acquired reaches the cities, as well as from which regions of the world they come and by which routes. If you thought the Three Kings were doing magic, wait until you see the highly digitalized supply chain or city logistics moving goods from point A to point B.

Where do the toys come from?

Although the magical beings obviously place the toys under the Christmas tree, near the fireplace, on the patio, at the front door or in another designated place around the house, objects must be made somewhere. A century ago, those places were Europe and North America, where millions of toys were made every year.

Well-known brands like Lego, Fisher-Price, Playmobil, Nenuco, Famosa, and Hasbro, to name a few, all had their factories in countries like the United States, Spain, and Germany. Soon, however, others like Bandai (Japanese) and Vtech (China) made the leap to the West, and the West began to make the leap to Asia with their outsourcing. Currently, most of the toys are made in China, India, Cambodia and Bangladesh.

These factories all over the world started their activity using “Western” designs (mainly from Central Europe and America) as a benchmark, but in recent decades, they innovated in their own way, as shown by fairs like “Shenzhen International Toy and Education Fair” (中国 玩 真 展). Their toy industry is very developed.

Maritime transit and the new Silk Road


Bukit Merah Port, Singapore

Transport of objects by sea in large container ships is arguably the most affordable option if there is no rail infrastructure in place. This is according to a report by the European Chemical Transport Association on CO2 in the transport of raw materials (which focuses on the chemical industry but applies to any material). An airplane, meanwhile, releases between 600 and 800 kg of CO2/ T km, whereas this figure for a container ship is generally less than 20 kg CO2 / T km. This significant difference is reflected in the costs.

Electrified railways have a considerably lower impact and greater efficiency. Thus, the French ADEME holds the record with 1.8 kg CO2 / T · km due to its mainly nuclear electrification. Without this source, railway electrification is generally less than 15 kg CO2 / T · km. It’s no wonder that China is building a new Silk Road.

Its railway projects from Yiwu and Shanghai to Madrid, On the other side of the world. This map shows the routes most of the world’s toys take, a journey of around 16 days that crosses much of Eurasia. China sends container ships to reach the Americas. However, he is already working on a railway line through the Bering Strait, which would have a lower environmental impact than the sea route.


The New Silk Road in its rail and maritime deployment.

There was a particular relocation trend European and North American factories of recent years and sectors like textile manufacturing, print-on-demand and some toy companies are making a comeback. Yet they are only doing so at a steady pace. For now, Santa Claus and his assistants will travel by boat or train from China, and they will continue to do so for decades to come. The reindeer of the mages will continue to move in water skates.

How do gifts get to our cities?

Since most toys and other gifts reach the coasts of their respective countries by boat (countries that have a coast, of course), there are two ways to transport them inland. The more sustainable countries do this by means of railways and large convoys, and those less sustainable do it by highways or roads on trucks of different sizes. This is the case up to distribution centers, a typical starting point for mainly medium-sized trucks.

The route from distribution centers to small urban or peri-urban warehouses is one of the critical points in the supply chain. Indeed, if the analogous step at the start of the chain involves concentration in the same place, it is now necessary to pay attention to which product goes into which warehouse. At this point, logistics are essential to avoid errors and save costs.


Parisian delivery bikes, a city where the last mile is green

With more and more home delivery, the last mile is by far the most complex point in the entire supply chain. It requires having a fleet of “small” vehicles (originally vans, but increasingly cargo bikes, as is the case in Paris) with high urban permeability, and it is a question of coordinating deliveries with the inhabitants.

Fun fact: it has been shown that the shipping method Ordering online with delivery to a pick-up point has the lowest environmental impact, compared to buying online and delivering to your door or buying from a nearby store. This optimizes factors such as distance traveled by the product and availability.

The gift, a Christmas bottleneck for urban logistics

Last mile delivery companies realize a good part of their turnover on these dates. Now that purchasing via e-commerce has established itself as the default mode of purchase, the majority of Christmas gifts must follow the most complex route possible: from the manufacturer to our house. Considering the total volume, services tend to collapse on dates like Christmas.

Since the number of products processed at Christmas is a record high, it doesn’t make much sense to design the entire logistics network for this peak. Instead, it’s designed for a significantly lower charge level. But as, hum, Santa’s customers, we hope to receive our gifts on time. So begins a race against the logistics clock not only to deliver the packages but also so that the various points in the chain do not get stuck in a traffic jam.

Not being able to distribute gifts in a neighborhood due to a snowstorm means that the warehouses are filled to the point of collapsing and gifts that already arrive at the back of the marine “sleds” will not have any impact. place to unload. Weaving this complex web of a framework is a real challenge.

This year will be marked by the “container crisis”, an event caused by multiple roots which manifests itself in a global saturation of transport networks. It’s time to get creative. It should be remembered that some Chinese manufacturers, the toy store of the world, had the good idea to favor small soft toys to ensure a certain level of sales. Santa Claus reinvents himself to give all the gifts for one more year.

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