The Making of an IKEA Billy Bookcase

The Making of an IKEA Billy Bookcase

Maxwell Ryan
Jul 3, 2015

This was made entirely on my iPhone using iMovie

Last year at this time 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.
(Image credit: Maxwell Ryan)

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
(Image credit: Maxwell Ryan)

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
(Image credit: Maxwell Ryan)
A veritable sea of Billy Shelves... These are all stacked and moving slowly to the next station where they will be boxed.
(Image credit: Maxwell Ryan)
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.
(Image credit: IKEA)
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