Without a doubt, the Lego brick storage buildings were the most impressive part of my visit to Lego. When I first saw their 65.6-foot high ceilings, with multiple giant robots going up and down retrieving boxes full of bricks, I felt like I entered the Matrix. Below the thunderous noise of the flying machines, I heard myself shouting: “It’s a cathedral.” And as you will see in the video, with a total 65.6 square-miles of shelf space-900 million pieces at any given time-they are indeed The Lego Cathedrals. I was in total awe, and the amazement didn’t stop there.
When they started to explain the capacity of these storage areas, designed to accomodate the 19-Billion-piece-per-year production, I realized the unbelievable scale of all this. I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing.
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.
Then, without any warning, the robot started to move up there in Lego heaven, accelerating almost immediately as it descended from the top of the building to the bottom, at the end of one of the aisles. The speed was staggering for such a giant metal thing, and we all watched in silence as the gigantic crane moved the bot gracefully, like a male dancer would hold a ballerina in The Nutcracker.
We kept walking and one of them came towards us, stopping smoothly at the end of aisle. My first thought was about jumping into it and waiting for the next request from the production computers to feel the thrill of going up through that massive space, holding my breath and watching the multi-colored boxes blur in front of my eyes, like a Lego Silver Surfer on top of that yellow bot. Probably thinking the same, Jan turned to me: “you know, if you cross that line, the entire production process will stop. It’s a security measure.” Yeah, on second thought it was probably for the better. Later I learnt there were four robots per cathedral, one per aisle, moving at 2.5 meters per second in the new buildings, and 1.5 meters per second in the old ones. It doesn’t seem a lot, but watching they zooming in every direction it didn’t look very safe for humans.
But as we walked out of the storage, continuing with our visit to the factory, I just couldn’t stop imagining myself flying on top of that bot in one of those long trenches, looking for the exhaust port on the Lego Death Star, probably with Jan and some Lego security minions chasing me like Darth Vader and his two TIE fighter wingmen. Lego Star Wars I thought—at the end everything comes full circle. And then I said to myself: “Jesus, you are such a dork.” I was. A very happy, smiling one.