Gizmodo was fortunate to get an inside look and helped to produce this Lego Factory Tour – their warehouse, molding processes, slotting, packaging, and binning processes. If you want to see the Toyota Kata Process, we show it using Lego Bricks to make learning even more fun.
Below are videos of the Lego Factory, courtesy of Gizmodo.
The Lego Warehouse and the Lego Plastic Molding Room
In this video, we get a peek into the overall layout of the Lego factory and the transformation of raw materials to Lego’s.
We started in the main warehouse, which is half a kilometer long. Here they house the silos holding the raw plastic granulate. Through them, 60 tons of this material is processed every 24 hours. These towers are connected to the molding machines through a labyrinth of tubes that push the granulate mixtures in a permanent tin-pitched rumble.
It’s the digestive system of the enormous factory, always feeding the molding lines through the tubes and moving big boxes full of pieces—using conveyor belts—into the storage area in an endless and precise dance which never ends: this factory works around the clock to fulfill the worldwide thirst for Lego.
The Lego Factory Molding Machines
In this video, we learn more about the sustainability efforts at Lego and the overall process; also, we get to experience a few of the extremely complicated machines that provide the details on such small parts, such as Lego Minifigures, Lego Star Wars, and Lego Harry Potter (printing eyes, mouth, eyebrows, hair on a Lego Minifigure head is not an easy task):
Everything is recycled in the factory. The plastic granulate itself is a by-product from diesel, and whatever is discarded in the manufacturing process gets recycled. The leftover parts from the mold—the plastic that fills the channels that take the hot plastic into the piece negative—fall down the machine, gets ground up, and put back into the production cycle. Any other waste, like faulty pieces or the transparent plastic used to clean the inner tubes when they need to change the production color of a molding machine, are also ground up and sold to other companies for the production of other things, like pipes and even heating oil.
Storage Cathedrals – Binning, Slotting, Lego Factory
This video shows the Lego Warehouse Management Processes – slotting strategy, binning, and the robots that grabs the required finished Lego product (boxes full of Lego bricks) from the large Lego Storage Cathedrals.
The robots then put the boxes in the conveyors, which move them into the storage cathedrals (click here to see a complete report on them, the following video only has a brief summary). There, the huge cranebots lift them to the heavens, placing them in endless towers of boxes. There are four of these cathedrals in the Lego factory, and no humans are inside. The mainframes know what it is inside at all times, and order the cranebots to retrieve boxes and send them to decoration and packaging, where Lego sets take their final form.
And more, about the robots involved in the retrieval system in the Lego Storage Cathedrals and their Warehouse Management System:
Watch the video and multiple that vision by 32. Try to imagine a 65.6-square-mile area (170 square kilometers) distributed among thousands of shelves. Looking down one of the aisles—there are four per building—I realized I was looking at tens of thousands of boxes full of Lego bricks and pieces. All of them completely full: “There are approximately half a million boxes here,” they told me. Later I found out that it was 162.240 boxes in each of the old cathedrals (which went up to 13 meters high) and 262.128 in the new ones (the 20 meter high ones).
Up in the distance I could see a robot working. I zoomed with my camera and saw how it took some boxes out, then put others in. “They are taking the boxes to packaging and decoration,” Jan—one of the Lego PR guys in Billund—pointed out, “every time there’s a production run, computers order the robots to retrieve whatever boxes are needed,” according to the number of bricks necessary for a set. Everything is done on demand,” he said with a big smile, proud of the efficiency of their system.