Yesterday marked the most anticipated day for me since landing in Scandinavia – LEGO DAY! For those who didn’t know, LEGO actually means “Play Well” in Danish or “I put together” in Latin. Both translations bring even more perspective to the childhood toys I spent so much time playing with back when I was a little dude.
Our group’s points of contact at LEGO were fantastic! They were very engaging and generous with their time, experience, information, and of course free LEGO stuff! Yes, I came away from the visit with 3 different LEGO sets which I will anxiously be putting together at some point after returning home.
We started our adventure at LEGO in their Billund factory. While large portions of their production and all of their packaging is produced elsewhere, the factory we toured served as intake for the raw plastic material along with coloring, heating, and eventually the molding into a wide variety of brick pieces. Thinking about the number of pieces, or elements, as LEGO calls them in a single box, one would think this operation would be huge in terms of people, machines, space, etc.! While the factory was large, the surprising part to me was that thanks to automation and the use of robots, the entire operation can be run under the supervision of 2-3 people. To add some additional perspective, LEGO’s production operations at the Billund location can produce 4-4.5 million elements per hour!
Once produced, the pieces are transported to a massive storage facility until they are ready to be shipped to one of the packaging facilities where additional automation is used to ensure all the right pieces, and quantity of those pieces are bagged and placed in the right boxes before shipping them to the customers (Target, Walmart, Toys R Us, etc.).
Check out the “LEGO Group storage” video to see some of the robots at work as well as the storage facility:
After wrapping up with the tour, we headed to the LEGO corporate office for a lecture. What blew me away was their focus on play even during an MBA student lecture. For starters, there were large fish bowls at various spots on the table filled with LEGO pieces for people to play with – I’ve actually heard that using something like LEGOs or other small ‘toys’ can promote creative thought in a meeting or during a given task. Once the lecture started we received a brief history of LEGO dating back to when their first toy was actually a wooden duck.
Following the intro, we were all given a LEGO package with 6 pieces and were told to make our version of a duck within 45 seconds or so. Out of 28 of us in the class, no 2 ducks were the same. What is still mind blowing is that after the exercise, we were told that using just 6 small LEGO elements you can create over 900 million variations! It really goes to highlight how much imagination and self-expression can come out with such products. Leading up to lunch we were all also given another LEGO set to build out – one of the same sets that LEGO gives as homework to their new employees. What’s funny is that for a group that was always ready for lunch (especially me), it was fun to see so many people still putting their LEGO set together despite the trays of sandwiches and other snacks laid out in front of us.
During the two speakers we had during our afternoon at LEGO, it was inspiring to hear them talk about the company, its vision, its focus on quality over profit, and their overall passion. They really believe in what they do, and what LEGO does globally – the role they play in shaping children’s play, and overall impact in the marketplace and world. It was a phenomenal experience and something I never thought I would have been able to experience!
Our final stop on LEGO day was of course, LEGO LAND!
We were let loose among all the kids and parents to check out all the sites and rides which we took full advantage of – maybe too much so. A group of 4 of us might have jumped into a ride where through the use of pumps and hoses, you drive a fire truck to a fake burning building, put out the fire and race back. Well… apart from the hand full of parents helping their small children on the ride, we easily had 20-25 years on any of our fellow competitors. Needless to say there was complete and total domination and we came away with the victory beach ball. I think we might have exited the ride before any of the other kids put out the fire in the building – slightly shamed, but laughing all the same. We also went on a series of roller coasters and other attractions – it was a great way to end a LEGO filled day.
Once we wrapped up our fun at the park we hopped on the bus for our ride into our final city – Copenhagen.