How the World’s Largest Toy Company Prepares for Christmas
LEGO has the holiday season dialed in. Find out how.
As Santa is making his list and checking it twice, the folks over at LEGO are hard at work to ensure that their coveted build sets are ready to ship for holiday gifting. Although Claus and his elves have long been considered seasonal workers, LEGO employees don't have time to rest on their laurels. It's all systems go year-round for the colorful brick manufacturer. Here's how they make it all happen.
LEGO has a long, beloved history with American children, but their headquarters are in Billund, Denmark, which is where all of the company's toys and sets are designed. "The timelines vary based on the product, but we normally begin designing new models 18 months before they hit shelves," a LEGO spokesperson tells Reader's Digest. "That said, we have many folks who work on our order management, forecasting, and sales team to ensure the shelves are stocked and ready to go for the holiday season!" Naturally, a LEGO set made our list of top Christmas toys.
Production time varies for the different toys, but sets are put into place far enough in advance so that LEGO can make sure they pass all safety inspections before shipping out to customers and retailers. Because of this, the toys go into production at least several months prior to hitting shelves. Need a laugh? Take a look at these funny LEGO Minifigure sets that belong in a museum.
If you've ever wondered how the many, many bricks LEGO produces are actually made, the company offers a really fun behind-the-scenes look on their website. Essentially bricks begin with one very important material—minuscule plastic granules that are trucked into LEGO factories around the globe. Giant hoses suck up the granules (which come in a slew of different colors). The hoses, in turn, dump the granules into metal silos. From the silos, the granules are piped towards molding machines. Anyone else picturing a LEGO farm at the thought of trucks and silos? Glad it isn't just us!
The molding machines reach a temperature of 450 degrees to melt the colorful granules, with the liquid fed into metal molds shaped like LEGO bricks. They're cooled and shot out of the machine. This whole process, which sounds pretty intense, only takes ten seconds. We don't want to make a big deal out of this, but we have a feeling Santa's elves can't possibly work as efficiently as a LEGO molding machine. The next step in the manufacturing process is to decorate the pieces that need adorning (think faces on the LEGO minis and such). If you've ever wondered what your childhood toys are worth today, these are the playthings worth thousands.
Keep it moving
Due to the tremendous popularity of LEGO, the company doesn't see a slow season. "The entire year is busy for us and we really start planning for the holidays as soon as the previous year is over," says LEGO's spokesperson. "Summer is a busy time in general, to ensure everything is in place for the holiday season."
Tried and true
LEGO isn't at liberty to comment on the specific bestsellers in their very broad portfolio of toys and build sets, but they do pride themselves on being able to offer such an extraordinary array of product that appeals to so many different interests and passions. "Some of our most popular themes year over year tend to be those including LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Harry Potter, LEGO CITY, and LEGO Friends," they say. These are the most popular toys from the year you were born.
Considering The LEGO Group has been around since 1932, thanks to founder Ole Kirk Kristiansen, they've had many decades to perfect their production process. This way they can keep new items and fan favorites in stock regardless of the time of year. "We are always working to maintain our stock levels online and in stores so we can provide the best customer experience for all of our shoppers, whether it be during the holiday season or throughout the year," says the company spokesperson.
Meeting of the minds
In its history, LEGO has been named "Toy of the Century" not once but twice—an impressive feat. But how does a toy company stay relevant decade after decade? "Many people can't believe there are actually hundreds of people whose job it is to design LEGO sets," says the company spokesperson. "They are super creative, and they come to Denmark from all over the world to work for the LEGO Group."
As any good company knows, it's important to keep evolving with the times. For LEGO this isn't purely about making toys that appeal to children all over the world, but also social and environmental responsibility. For this reason, they are phasing out plastic retail bags in all stores in 2020. And they have a goal of using 100 percent sustainable materials for LEGO packaging by 2025. These are 22 more big companies that are getting rid of plastic for good.
Pack it up
As any LEGO fan (or parent of one) knows, those sets can be made up of hundreds of tiny pieces. How do they get packed up and ready for shipping? According to the company, boxes (which are called cassettes), move along a conveyor belt underneath bins that hold each type of piece that particular set needs. The bins open, releasing just the right number of pieces into each box. Then, the human hands of packing operators include instructions and any other accouterments, folding the boxes and performing quality control. These are 11 items you probably didn't know you could recycle or upcycle.
Each year LEGO isn't only in the business of reaping the rewards of holiday gifting, but also giving back. They recently launched their 2019 #BuildtoGive Campaign with the goal of donating a whopping 1 million LEGO sets to underserved kids. To get their fans in on the action, LEGO asks builders of all ages to create ornaments using LEGO bricks, then post them on social media with #BuildtoGive (they can also show off their ornament building skills in LEGO stores). For each one built and shared, the company will donate a LEGO set to a child who could use some holiday cheer. If you like the sound of that, you'll love these 30 beautiful gifts that give back.