Disclaimer: Locations and names have been changed to ensure the protection of both those involved and myself. It’s to the understanding of Mr. Claus that his facility and staff will remain a mystery, with only pre-approved details making their way into the final piece. Also, I’m not saying that any of this is true—I’m not saying it isn’t either.
I can feel my legs vibrate as they touch ground for the first time in the 3251-mile journey to the northernmost point on earth. I look behind me as the wind from the helicopter blades nearly knocks me off my feet. My mind races as I try to recall how I found myself in this situation. My boots sink into the snow and I can hear the sound of the snow as it forms to my boot; every step I take is met with a loud crunch as the snow packs under my boot, as if the snow atop the icy surface has gone untouched for years; my legs jostle as they fully support myself for the first time in what seems like days. The past 24 hours have been nothing short of a blur to me: a private chartered flights, a nine-hour road trip down the Canadian highway, a ferry across the Atlantic; every move I make is carefully designed and conducted under extreme supervision—and for good reason.
Back in July of 2016, our sales team received an order for over 200 unique visual management systems. Their final destination: unknown. The purchasing agent was very selective when it came to details. All we were given was the address for a warehouse off the coast of St. Anthony. After a few weeks time the products were manufactured and shipped off from our factory in New York and freighted directly to Newfoundland. A month later, the purchasing agent contacted us again, this time looking for an additional 800 production systems. The order itself was alarmingly large—even for a billion dollar manufacturing facility.
For context: The world’s largest manufacturing facilities, employing hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers, only call for a third of what this order was requesting. Our dry erase boards solve a big problem many factories face by working as a form of visual communication between management and the workforce. While serving a vital need for the manufacturing industry, virtually no single factory can require this quantity of purchases For a factory to be ordering our products in such a massive number—to a location that has no immediate ties to the manufacturing industry—you’re left to assume one of two things: either that there’s a branch of a multi-billion dollar company located off the coast of St. Anthony, or that the organization in question is simply a cover and for something that’s worth all the trouble of concealing.
A quick Google search for “St. Anthony manufacturing” turns up nothing but a few articles on a local metal fabrication facility and a cold storage warehouse—surely nothing too out of the ordinary. I spent hours researching some of the globes largest manufacturing facilities: Do they do business in Canada? Perhaps they ship remotely from an off-site location? How many international manufacturers are based out of The Great White North? It became clear that no matter how deep I continued to dive into the origins of the purchase, nothing would come of it.
At this point in my day, I was so heavily invested in uncovering the origins of this purchase, that it would be foolish to toss in the towel so soon. Besides, any company that’s buying over 1,000 Magnatag products must adore our brand; I would be doing my superiors a disservice by not following through with the customer—at least, that’s what I told myself. The truth is the mystery was just too much fun to cover. I felt like a young Sherlock Holmes: ambitious, determined, brilliant (or so I thought), and lacking British sensibilities—the complete package, really.
With the help of our sales team I was able to get a hold of an email address for the purchasing agent in charge of the order. The client provided only his initials: ‘M.E.’, for the purchase. I reached out using the generic outreach email I usually use: talking a bit about our company; speaking of my position and responsibilities as a member of our marketing team; and most importantly, asking if they would be interested in a helping with some product research by conducting a quick over-the-phone interview with myself. Hook, line, and sinker. Continue reading Operation North Pole: An Inside Look At The World’s Largest Manufacturing Facility