The Making of an IKEA Billy Bookcase

Factory Tour

This was made entirely on my iPhone using iMovie

Two weeks ago I was given an incredible tour of the Billy bookcase factory in Falkoping, Sweden. After a three hour drive directly out into the heart of the country, we came to a long low building in which every Billy bookcase is made. Owned and operated by a family that has worked with IKEA since 1952, the operation was the cleanest and most efficient I've ever seen. Running 24/7, the factory makes 25,000 bookcases a day and was warehousing nearly a million to have in stock for the summer holidays.

Finished Billy's are packed in bricks of 18 like this and then wrapped and given "palette feet" for shipping. From start to finish, they are not touched by a human hand.
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The entire operation is done by machines and robots, and the 200 or so employees help to feed materials into and take packed bookcases out of the machines (all are of German and Japanese design). Of course, there is also constant fine tuning, jam fixing and programming to keep everything humming.

The very first order from IKEA back in 1952
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When I visited they were in the process of making a new version of the Billy which has a number of design tweaks that make it more durable and longer lasting. One tweak of note is that the shelves are slightly thicker to prevent sagging over time. The NEW Billy will be rolling out in August.

This is the very beginning where the large pieces of particle board are getting ready to roll into the machines
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A veritable sea of Billy Shelves... These are all stacked and moving slowly to the next station where they will be boxed.
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This is the what Billy looks like once released into the wild. I was told that due to manufacturing improvements, It has maintained the same price for nearly 20 years.
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(Image credits: Maxwell Ryan; IKEA)

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Main, Furniture Design

Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver.