Disney Brings Hi-tech Magic to the Magic Kingdom

April 29, 2015

disney door 

It was February 2011, and Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, gathered his board of directors. Iger set his sites on his boldest gamble yet: to reinvent Disney’s iconic parks. He planned to pump $1 billion into MyMagic+, a sweeping plan to overhaul the digital infrastructure of Disney’s theme parks, which would upend how they operated and connected with consumers. At the core was the MagicBand, an electronic wristband that could digitally carry everything a guest might need—park tickets, photos, coupons, even money. It would give guests entry to Disney World, pay for goods at retail shops, and unlock their hotel room doors. “It would be a virtual key to the Magic Kingdom,” writes Fast Company (May, 2015).

Iger’s effort would prove to be monumental. Disney World isn’t an amusement park: It’s a metropolis. Sprawled across 25,000 acres of Orlando, it contains 4 theme parks, nearly 140 attractions, 300 dining locations, and 36 resort hotels. Its 15 mile monorail system has a daily ridership of 150,000. The parks have their own power plant and security force, plus some of the world’s largest laundry facilities.

More than 28,000 hotel doors needed their locks replaced in order to connect wirelessly with the MagicBand, even as the rooms were occupied. Two dozen workers spent 8 months upgrading 120 doors per day. The company rolled out 6,000 mobile devices to support MyMagic+ in the parks. More than 70,000 cast members got MyMagic+ awareness training. Disney World’s physical infrastructure, which was first built in the late 1960s, also needed major capital improvements. Park-entry touch points (283 of them) needed to be upgraded. As much of Disney World lacked a Wi-Fi connection, the company had to install more than 30 million square feet of coverage. It was a huge effort to wire a communications infrastructure the size of San Francisco.

Not surprisingly, the project did not go smoothly. The rollout did not hit until mid-2014.  But now that it is place, MagicBand has cut turnstile transaction time by 30%. Park capacity has also increased, and over 5,000 more people fit into the park each day. And guests say MagicBand is a lifesaver; they couldn’t imagine going back to the old system, with all the paper tickets and FastPasses

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.com. Professors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

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