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How many LEGO bricks have been molded? Current tally?

davee123davee123 USAMember Posts: 815
edited October 2015 in Everything else LEGO
I'm trying to figure out roughly what the trend is for LEGO producing elements-- does anyone have some good data?  Here's what I've seen so far:

* As of 2008, LEGO reported that they had made 400+ billion elements, and were making 19B per year.

* In 2010, NPR reported that they were making 36B per year.

* In 2013, Business Week reported that they made 45.7B in 2012.

So, their annual output of elements went up by about 240% in 5 years-- how much are they making now?  And how many LEGO bricks have been made as of now?  My best guess is that it's between 650-800 billion, probably around 730-ish-billion, but that's just me wildly guessing based on the previous numbers.  Given their explosion in 2014 with The LEGO Movie, and other things, perhaps its even higher?  Or maybe they've already reached peak production?

Also, anyone have any data before 2008?  Or explicitly for other years?

DaveE

Comments

  • davee123davee123 USAMember Posts: 815
    Wow, talk about mixed results.  So far, I've found references for:

    January 2008 - over 400 billion made total
    2008 - 19 billion made per year
    2010 - 36 billion made per year
    2011 - 36 billion made per year
    2011 - 485 billion made total
    2012 - 45.7 billion made per year (2 sources)
    2013 - 560 billion made total
    2014 - 45 billion made per year
    2014 - 60 billion made per year (2 sources)
    July 2015 - 600 billion made total (several sources)
    August 2015 - 440 billion made total

    So... MOST of those numbers can be made to line up (the ones in bold above), which would give us about 677 billion at the end of 2014, and in the ballpark of 700 billion as of July 2015 (not 600 billion).  The "600 billion as of July 2015" seems... wrong.  Or a drastic underestimation (like, maybe saying that 680 billion is "over 600 billion", rather than saying "nearly 700 billion").

    I'm also going to assume the 45 billion in 2014 number is wrong, since it looks like it's just a repeat of the 2012 number, and I found 2 sources specifying 60 billion in 2014 instead.

    DaveE
  • TigerMothTigerMoth Member Posts: 2,343
    Currently, you're looking at around 800 billion. TLG themselves quoted 760 billion in their latest (?) company profile:

    http://cache.lego.com/r/www/r/aboutus/-/media/about us/media assets library/company profiles/the_lego_group_company_profile_2015_eng.pdf

    As the other figures cover what they did in 2014, I assume the 760 billion relates to the position at the beginning of this year.

    There are quite of few of these profiles dotted around, often with similar sorts "fun facts" if someone wants to collates them.
  • davee123davee123 USAMember Posts: 815
    edited October 2015
    Ooo, thanks, I hadn't even noticed that they published that (at least in 2014 and 2015)!


    So, reading more and doing some extrapolation (more-or-less verified in bold, guesses marked with question marks):

    2015 - 760 billion
    2014 - 700 billion (made 60 billion)
    2013 - 645 billion (made 55 billion)
    2012 - 599 billion (made 45.7 billion)
    2011 - 556? billion (made 43.5? billion)
    2010 - 520? billion (made 36 billion)
    2009 - 485 billion (made 34.5? billion) (485 was reported by a 3rd party for 2011, probably out of date, but fits ok in 2009)
    2008 - 466 billion (made 19 billion)

    Other miscellaneous sources that are tricky to verify:

    Jul. 2005 - 340 billion (International Herald Tribune)
    Jan. 2004 - 20 billion pieces per year (2004 LEGO Company Profile, supposedly)
    Jan. 2004 - Approx 312 billion pieces (extrapolated from pieces per human on planet)
    Jan. 2001 - 320 billion (LEGO profile, citing how many were "sold")
    1991? - 110 billion (cited from RTL in 1995 from an unspecified official source)



    I'm still curious to know how the production of elements was affected historically, too.  Did their meandering designs in the late 1990s increase production dramatically?  Did the troubles in 2003-2005 bring down their annual production numbers?  But at least this starts to give a little bit of a picture of what's been going on in recent years!

    DaveE
    TheLoneTensorSirBen
  • TheLoneTensorTheLoneTensor MericaMember Posts: 3,950
    Fascinating numbers, nice job putting this together.  I too am curious as to what the complete graph would look like from 1990-2005 ish.
    SumoLego
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 19,769
    The data has to be wrong, unless the made a conscious effort to recall and destroy bricks that had already been produced in the 2001-2004 period.

    I'd make a Galidor joke, but they didn't have that many pieces in them.
  • SumoLegoSumoLego New YorkMember Posts: 14,219
    ^ There's always time for a Galidor joke.  It's the Jell-O of the Lego World...
  • davee123davee123 USAMember Posts: 815
    edited October 2015
    Yeah, I don't trust the 1991-2005 data, because it's clearly got at least one error in it, probably more.  I added it because it's the best I've got at the moment.  But clearly, there's an issue:

    Jul. 2005 - 340 billion (International Herald Tribune)

    Given what we've seen elsewhere, I expect 340 billion is the number of bricks total as of 2005 or before.  Often, the reporter (or the LEGO employee they talk to) will have an outdated number and will publish that.  But I'll bet it's somewhere between 2001-2005.

    Jan. 2004 - 20 billion pieces per year (2004 LEGO Company Profile, supposedly)

    This seems pretty reliable, given that it was published in the company profile (the same document that it comes from today), and it was published by LEGO directly.  But it doesn't tell us much other than the rate.

    Jan. 2004 - Approx 312 billion pieces (extrapolated from pieces per human on planet)

    This is similarly unclear.  The math was done by someone on LUGNET based on the number of "LEGO bricks per person on Earth" that LEGO gave in the 2004 Company Profile.  We don't know what number LEGO started with, or how many people for global population they used, or even what the LUGNET member used-- only the number they came out with.  It might be a good ballpark guess, but I'm not sure.

    Jan. 2001 - 320 billion (LEGO profile, citing how many were "sold")

    This seems reliable, since it was reported by LEGO, although it doesn't explicitly say "produced", but says "sold", which has me curious.  Did they actually mean "sold"?  Is that what they've been using all along, or is it a different number?  Not sure.

    1991? - 110 billion (cited from RTL in 1995 from an unspecified official source)

    This seems like the most solid of any of the above, actually, although what it doesn't specify is the year.  It said something like "between 1949 and 1990", which I took to mean "the entirety of 1990", thus making 110 billion the number at the start of 1991 (which is in line with the other numbers I'm quoting).  But it could be the start of 1990, depending on how careful they were in their wording.

    DaveE
  • TigerMothTigerMoth Member Posts: 2,343
    There are other complications, too.

    The date to which the data relates is often lost. So the figure in the 2015 profile is actually that at the end of 2014 with the date in the small print. In six months time, somebody will quote that figure, not having read the small print, but seeing "2015" on the cover and thinking that it's recent. The press aren't too fussy about details.

    The problem with "produced" and "sold" are obvious, but I wouldn't mind betting that some of the figures relate to different things within "physically produced", "the pieces warehoused", "boxed in a set (and warehoused)", "shipped to a retailer" and "sold to the end customer".

    It may also be that there's an element of double-counting when parts are printed or assembled. I wonder how many parts Kladno used to "produce" - bearing in mind it didn't have any moulding machines. I'm don't think it does even after last year's expansion - but it has, and had before that, a "production hall". But it produced lots of printed parts that had been moulded elsewhere.
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