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A  man overlooking the machines that produces the BILLY bookcase.back
MEET BILLY AT HIS
COUTRYSIDE BIRTPLACE
WRITER: KAJSA-STINA KALIN
He has been around for nearly four decades. Most of us have either lived with him or gotten to know him at a friend’s place. Come along and meet BILLY at his countryside birthplace where about 4.5 million BILLY bookcases see daylight each year.
It’s often said that it’s hard to be a prophet in your own hometown. This is however not true for BILLY - the iconic IKEA bookcase. In a rural part of Sweden, in a small village with about 400 inhabitants, almost everyone has an unusually close relationship to BILLY. The bookcase has been produced by the Swedish IKEA supplier Gyllensvaans Möbler since 1978. About one in six villagers are employed by the company and many more have at one time or another worked here.
IKEA HIGHLIGHTS 2016
A machine that puts the assembly instructions into the packages.
Tradition meets innovation
His dad, Nils, started the family-owned company and Erik joined the business in 1974 directly after finishing elementary school. At that time Gyllensvaans had 30 employees. Today they have more than 200 employees producing about 4.5 million BILLY bookcases each year. Besides BILLY, Gyllensvaans also makes other products like FINNBY bookcases and GNEDBY shelving units.
In all, about 7 million pieces of IKEA furniture leave the factory each year. This means that each co-worker produces on average 33 000 products per year, more than twice as many as 15 years ago. The rapid production increase has been made possible by heavy investments in robots.
“We have always tried to stay at the forefront of technological development. Automation has been a necessity to us. You can’t produce in a high-cost country and sell to the rest of the world unless you invest in efficient production set-ups,” says Erik Gyllensvaan.
“Our strength is that we have a strongly united team with a great sense of togetherness. Most of our employees live in the surrounding area and we have invested a lot in the village to make people like it here,” says Erik Gyllensvaan, the company’s CEO.
He exemplifies with the swimming pool that they’ve built on their premises, which the local school uses free of charge. Gyllensvaans also run the local grocery store despite the fact that it isn’t profitable.
“We do it to keep the village alive. Otherwise the villagers would have to drive many miles when they run out of milk and other staple products,” says Erik Gyllensvaan.
Eyes on the future
Today, Gyllensvaans is one of the most automated IKEA manufacturers in the world and it’s constantly seeking for new and better technologies to improve employee satisfaction, quality and productivity. For example, the factory is running a pilot test on robots with optical sensors that enable a faster and more adaptable production. Although BILLY is soon turning 40, he continues to inspire some of the freshest design ideas in the world. With dozens of heights, widths and finishes to choose from, there’s a BILLY for every style and purpose. The latest BILLY doors can even be customised with images or fabrics to fit any décor.
A woman putting more shelves into a large machine.A woman with headset walking through the factory.
The BILLY bookcase and the BILLY bookcase factory share remarkably similar paths. Both have stayed true to their heritage, while developing bold and unique ways of keeping the BILLY tradition in tune with times - and maybe even a little ahead of them!
brwnbox
BILLY bookshelf's past and present
When Gillis Lundgren designed BILLY, he wanted to create a timeless design. Nearly four decades later, it’s clear that he has succeeded. Today, BILLY is still loved by millions of people all over the world. Originally designed for books, BILLY is now used to organize and display collectibles, housewares, clothes, and more. With dozens of heights, widths, and finishes to choose from as well as optional solid, clear-glass, or etched-glass doors, there’s a BILLY for every style and purpose.
FACTS
DID YOU KNOW?
lineline
IKEA manufacturer,
Gyllensvaans, produce
30+ BILLY units
every minute?
MEET BILLY AT HIS
COUNTRYSIDE BIRTHPLACE
He has been around for nearly four decades. Most of us have either lived with him or gotten to know him at a friend’s place. Come along and meet BILLY at his countryside birthplace where about 4.5 million BILLY bookcases see daylight each year.
Get the full story about the BILLY production
PROTECTING DESKS
… AND THE PLANET
Why not take recycling one step further and actually make new products out of waste? A few years back, someone at IKEA had this ‘crazy idea’… But now, this is turning into reality, saving money for the customers and finite resources for Mother Earth.
Learn more about the crazy idea
PEEKING INTO THE WORLD’S
LARGEST PRINT PRODUCTION
Translated into 33 languages, in 48 different markets, reaching about 255 million people, this year’s IKEA Catalogue welcomed everyone to be themselves. The statement was clear: IKEA doesn’t design furniture for consumers - they design for people. And the reality? People are human, and humans are not perfect.
Get a peek behind the scenes
FURNITURE MADE OUT OF PAPER. NO, SERIOUSLY!
Sofas and chairs made from the same stuff as egg cartons? And bench tops and table legs made from bamboo? Anything is possible as IKEA design-teams explore a world of materials.
Learn more about new materials
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IKEA HIGHLIGHTS
Many companies, organisations and people, together, shape IKEA. Each and every person, idea and solution contribute to the big picture. IKEA Highlights collects stories from different parts of the IKEA world to describe this year’s accomplishments, quirks and maybe even a few slips. Good thing we’re all human.
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A FORCE FOR GOOD DESIGN
A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, David Wahl was given a mission. A young IKEA designer, David was asked to produce a unique object that could defeat the darkness in homes across the planet, bringing light and hope to the many. The result was the IKEA PS Pendant lamp: a planet-like lighting fixture that ‘explodes’ at the pull of a string, spilling warm, glorious light across surrounding spaces.
Read the full story about the IKEA PS Pendant lamp
MOST THINGS STILL
REMAIN TO BE DONE
Have you ever wondered where IKEA came from? Or how a simple country boy from Småland was inspired to create one of the world’s leading brands and help create a better everyday life for millions of people?
Find the answers in the full story