Day two of the Inside Tour started early, at 8:50. It needed to, because there were four factories/offices and the employee shop to visit.
The first stop was just down the road from the hotel, 'Factory Astvej'. We could have got the bus there but it was such a hot day that we walked. We were greeted by visitor manager Aksel and Jan Bayer and split into two groups. The activities in this factory deal with 'finishing' parts rather than moulding them, and also packaging. Photography was not allowed in the factories, so the pictures I've used are stock ones from LEGO.com.
By far the most interesting sight was the minifig assembling and printing machines. Armless torsos are printed in a machine that can print up to six colours on both sides of the torso. It prints on the front first, one colour at a time, then turns it over before printing on the back. The neck also receives the black mark on it, which we learned is applied so that the assembly machine knows which is the front. Sometime later, the printed armless torsos are fed into a machine which inserts the arms, and then the hands. Another machine was assembling minifig legs. We also witnessed black levers being inserted into white lever bases by a fairly old looking machine built specifically for that purpose.
A large part of the building is used for packaging, where we were able to witness the entire process: parts being counted and bagged, boxes being glued, bags being put into them, then pressed down gently so that they would not get trapped in the seams when the box was sealed, boxes being packaged into outer cases (which contain multiple sets) and finally, the outers being lifted onto a pallet and shrink wrapped for transportation.
Next stop was the Kornmarken factory, which is on the outskirts of Billund. This is where parts are moulded. Aksel and Jan were our guides again around this massive facility that houses hundreds of moulding machines and tonnes of raw ABS granulate. It's also home to the huge high-bay warehouses where parts are stored. Unfortunately the conveyer and robotic systems were not operational while we were there so all we could do was be in awe of the size of the place and wish we had a storage facility as large as that at home (and filled with as many bricks...)
The third stop was at Havremarken, just across the road, for lunch and then, the most important activity of the tour, a visit to the employee shop. I suspect LEGO would prefer me not to go into detail about what's in it and how much cheaper it is, so let's just say that if you get a chance to visit it, clear your credit card first.
The final stop was at the new Innovation House in the centre of Billund which is where designers who work on non-minifig themes are based. It's an absolute eyesore from the outside but very pleasant in. Not that we were allowed to see much of it, though, we were whisked into a meeting room for a presentation about AFOLs by Jan's colleague Yun Mi Antorini. It was a very interesting talk for AFOLs, but probably not so for the parents, and certainly not for the kids who occupied themselves playing with the LEGO on the table.
After a couple of hours to recover in the afternoon, we had dinner in LEGOLAND then returned to the hotel for another evening with the designers. They had spent the afternoon judging our MOCs and preparing for an 'awards ceremony' which went on for the rest of the evening. Winners were rewarded with LEGO prizes. Suffice to say, I didn't win first prize. Or even third. It was, however, good fun and a great opportunity to chat to the designers.
Tomorrow I will tell you what went on on day three and also what I thought about the tour as a whole and whether or not it's good value for money.
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