Dec 15, 2022

Control room manager of the year 2022: the jury has decided

5 min read

For the first time ever, Barco has organized the ‘Control room manager of the year’ election. We held an in-house poll to select, from all newly installed control rooms, the manager that most stood out. That could be because of leadership skills, technical knowledge, professional drive, or just colorful personality. The first winner combines all these skills into one persona.

Barco has installed control rooms in the most remote places. We have equipment running in deserts, on oil rigs in the middle of the ocean, and even one on the arctic circle. It is the latter that we visited to personally hand over the trophy to the control room manager (and CEO). His name? Santa Claus!

Santa Claus as a room manager

Many people know or have already visited the house of Santa Claus in Lapland. Busy as it is sometimes, the tourist attraction is actually not the main part of the site’s activities. Underground, hidden from the public eye, is a large complex that houses the bulk of Santa’s business: his presents dispatching center. At the heart of these operations is a state-of-the-art control room. From this command center, a large team of elf-operators meticulously track the whereabouts of all packages, wherever they are. Barco technology plays a central role in this control room. And although he only rarely gives interviews (especially in his busiest time of the year) he was more than happy to make an exception for us.

“This control room is really unique”, says Santa who personally shows us around. “It combines the activities of many applications. We monitor air traffic for our airborne sleds, ground traffic for last-mile deliveries, and process control for our package-production factory. We are also looking into acquiring the concession for the Christmas decoration and lighting of some major cities, so we are almost ready to deploy an electricity distribution module as well.”

Combining tradition with state-of-the-art technology
The new Barco equipment is really helping us to improve our operations and strengthen our brand.
Santa Claus, Control Room Manager of the year 2022

Over the years, the services of Santa Claus have become a Christmas tradition. This does not mean his business infrastructure can be described as ‘traditional’. “We are very proud to say that over the past 50 years, we have attained a double-digit annual growth. This is only possible when you continue to invest. If not, we would still be running a 4-people business from a shed – which is how we started.”

“We have steadily grown and this year we opened the new command center. As a beta-test customer I am not allowed to go into detail, but the new Barco equipment that was installed is really helping us to improve our operations and strengthen our brand.”

View better, share faster, deliver quicker

The center piece of the control room is a 30 m/98 ft wide and 7 m/23 ft high curved Barco TruePix LED video wall. It shows a multitude of applications, including weather reports, air traffic data (making sure no plane can spot the flying reindeers), on-time delivery statistics, etc. “The amount of available data has really exploded in recent years”, Santa continues. “The evaluation of how ‘good’ children were the past year, for example, is now based on data and carried out by an AI module. In the past, this was in fact completely subjective, and we realize that mistakes have been made.”

“Combined with the deployment of our control room, we have also invested in an extremely performing Barco networking infrastructure. Data from all over the world is captured and securely sent to the control room which acts as the information hub for our organization. We have several smaller local control centers, spread out over the world, who have the same information at hand. We can share information with them using predefined templates, to improve efficiency. And when I’m out delivering presents, I can even receive information in real-time directly from the control rooms.”

The 130 operator desks, equipped with OpSpace, are manned (well, ‘elved’) with a staff that looks focused but not stressed. “The introduction of OpSpace was a true revolution. Leveraging the one keyboard/one mouse concept was a huge improvement in workflow. Suddenly, the operators could consult and interact with all the needed data in a single workspace, which saved them a lot of stress. The work-life balanced has really improved. Although I must admit that I have no idea what elves do in their spare time.”

Expanding operations for a higher ROI

“In the past, operations were limited to 2, maximum 3 months a year – starting about halfway October up to the sudden stop on December 26. Steeply contrasting to these hectic months were the very quiet remaining months. And although the elves and I tended to welcome the rest, we also wanted to grow our business and expand our activities. The steep growth of the population and my rising popularity is one contributing factor of course, but we also wanted to spread our activities more evenly over the year. That is why we contacted the other mythical creatures, offering our services. I am proud to say that we have consolidated the activities of the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Saint Nicholas, Belsnickel, you name it, all in this facility. With the Barco equipment, which has scalability at its heart, we can easily expand in operator desks or video walls. We can proudly say that all gifts brought to children in a magical way, were monitored and managed in this control room.”

“People call me many things: Father Christmas, festival icon, mythical creature, toymaker, you name it. But personally, I prefer the job description ‘Control room manager’. Because that best describes what I do throughout the day”, Santa concludes, as he approves the take-off for Rudolph-142 with destination Melbourne.