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Lego Christmas Production Shortage 168

shadowspar writes, "Recent restructuring and production cuts have left Lego unable to fill orders for the upcoming holiday season. Affected products include Duplo bricks, Lego City sets, and (horror of horrors!) Star Wars and Lego Technik sets." According to the article Lego stands to lose $127 million in holiday sales.
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Lego Christmas Production Shortage

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  • Queue the legos/lego/lego(tm) bricks holy wars.
    • Re:oh boy (Score:5, Funny)

      by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @07:49PM (#16666507)
      This is just terrible. You simply can't imagine the disappointment this will cause me- uh, I mean, will cause little Junior this Christmas. He really wants a Lego Millenium Falcon. It's just so cute when he says "ma-ma" but he just can't quite get "-llenium Falcon" part of the ship's name out. Of course, he'd just eat the mini-figures, so the set will have to stay in my room.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by beavt8r ( 919284 )
        Same thing with my little nephew. He keeps saying "Da-da" but can't get out "gobah" I just don't have the heart to tell him there is no such set.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It's sad to see a beloved company from my childhood not doing so well these days. I wish for lower prices and less movie tie-ins.
      • Um, perhaps the shortages are a sign that demand for Lego is on the up? I read the headline as good-but-could-be-better news.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Pharmboy ( 216950 )
          Cue up the conspiracies that this is just "a way for Lego to artificially drive up the price". There is always at least one paranoid on /. who will say it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Moofie ( 22272 )
        For whatever it's worth, the Star Wars kits were superb LEGO sets, not just hacky movie tie in schlock. Can't speak for their other lines, but I was consistently impressed with the Star Wars line. Nice new pieces, and not too much big molded crap.
        • The sets are cool, but it dilutes the Lego brand.
      • I agree, except for the Star Wars Lego, because the Star Wars Lego, unlike pretty much everything else they sell except the really generic stuff is well-designed to utilize very generic pieces as much as possible. My kids have several Lego Star Wars sets, and usually the Star Wars models, which are very cool, BTW, are built once and then the pieces are put into the general population to become part of home-grown spaceship designs, etc, that are just as cool because the design of the Star Wars sets maximize
  • Wouldn't that be unstructuring? Isn't restructuring supposed to help you make sales instead of loose them ??!
    • Organizations can't be torn apart and restructured with the same ease that Legos can.
    • by Fred_A ( 10934 )
      sn't restructuring supposed to help you make sales instead of loose them ??!
      Uh, no.
      Restructuring is supposed to make you look good for the next quarterly meeting. It has nothing whatsoever to do with sales or the future of the company.

      Normally by the time the shit hits the fan, you're supposed to be busily safely restructuring *another* company.

      Didn't you take business at school ??
    • The optimist looks at the glass and decides it is half full.
      The pessimist knows it is half empty instead.
      The business consultant takes the glass and hits it against the table, thus breaking it in two, with the remark:
      You've got twice the amount of glass than what you really need.

  • I'm sorry for not being an enthusiast for the 'theme' junk that in my opinion detracts from the lego concept entirely, but I didn't see 'plain lego bricks' on the list. The other stuff is just a marketing department running out of control. As long as big tubs of regular lego bricks will be available, this will just make it easier to not be annoyed by the other crap.

    Just my opinion. I grew up building stuff with legos, and didn't need anything but regular bricks to do so with.
    • As long as big tubs of regular lego bricks will be available, this will just make it easier to not be annoyed by the other crap.
      Yep. A big box of 2x4s, some of the other generic sizes, and kids will be fine. But you have to think about the fathers, too!
      • by mincognito ( 839071 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @08:04PM (#16666709)
        Yep. A big box of 2x4s, some of the other generic sizes, and kids will be fine. But you have to think about the fathers, too!
        Don't you mean think of the grandfathers. Be honest. Your ID number must make you at least sixty.
        • by Stephan Schulz ( 948 ) <> on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @08:41PM (#16667137) Homepage
          Be honest. Your ID number must make you at least sixty.
          Well, in my defense, after having just learned about this new-fangled Internet thing, and having declared the WWW dead ("Nobody will ever use this! It's sucky slow! Who wants to see pictures of a volcano on Hawaii?"), I found Slashdot much inferior to Usenet, and did not bother with getting registered for quite a while when it was introduced. I probably would have gotten one of the double digit ones, otherwise...

          But seriously now. I bought the id of some old geezer on Ebay. Went for quite a bit, but well worth it. I don't think any of the first 1000 is still alive. Most of them died of Malaria when digging the trenches for the first Internet pipes. That Gore guy really made them sweat....

          • by Wavicle ( 181176 )
            Most of them died of Malaria when digging the trenches for the first Internet pipes.

            Uh... I hate to burst your bubble, but... The internet is a series of tubes.
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Anonymous Coward
              Nah, see, this was before they put in the tubes. A brief history of internets follows.

              In the very first generation of the Internet, you had to print out your internets and deliver them by hand to their destination. All were in agreement: this was stupid.

              The second generation was brought about when Vint Cerf set up a system of dump trucks to carry large numbers of internets at once. This system had the advantage of very large capacity, for as Claude Shannon famously proved, "You can pile a metric fuc

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by oGMo ( 379 )
            I don't think any of the first 1000 is still alive.


    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fallingcow ( 213461 )
      I liked the themed but unbranded sets, like Space, Castle, Arctic, Pirates, Undersea, etc. Hell, even the "Town" bricks were good.

      I just can't stand that they've been all but supplanted by "Star Wars" and fucking "Harry Potter" legos. If you want to play with branded shit, buy the goddamn action figures. Leave Legos alone, and give me back sets unburdened by storylines.

      I grew up with them, and now that I have the money to buy my own Legos (and believe me, I would, I love the damn things) they've switched
      • The Star Wars sets have one good feature: They helped facilitate the Star Wars storyline in Irregular Webcomic.
      • by Xeth ( 614132 )
        Is having the Logo really that big of a deal? I mean, I guess it's rather unfortunate that Lego has to pay licensing fees, but from what I've read, they put such spectacular effort into developing their homegrown storylines that it might not actually be much of a net loss. Seriously though, the attachment is only in your mind. A dementor makes a pretty solid ghost, and Gamorreans turn into serviceable orcs. The Harry Potter sets are responsible for the multicolored skeletons, hippogriffs, baby dragons, etc.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by plover ( 150551 ) *
        If it'll make you happy, I've heard (from an officially well-placed source) that LEGO has very much reduced the number of marketing tie-in sets. Most of them had very short shelf lives -- they sold well only at the time of the movie release, but almost nothing after. That meant retailers had to "clearance them out" to make room for the next models, which doesn't make anybody in the supply chain rich. And if big retailers can't sell something, they won't buy more of them to rot on their shelves again.


      • I liked the themed but unbranded sets, like Space, Castle, Arctic, Pirates, Undersea, etc. Hell, even the "Town" bricks were good.

        For a second there I thought you were saying there was an Hell-themed set.

        Now that would've been awesome.
    • Oh I agree, but am I the only one around here that thinks they're horribly overpriced?
      • I think they are "overpriced" to those that don't know what quality is. They don't use crap plastic like their competitors, and they aren't thin-walled either. Lego parts are incredibly durable, I think they can last through generations of use and still snap together tightly.
        • While I don't disagree with you (we still have a ton from when I was a kid and they work great) it's still just injection molded ABS plastic. Plastics are dirt cheap and it isn't like the R&D wasn't paid off on all this stuff 40 years ago.
          • Old R&D doesn't cover the cost of replacing a mold before it wears out, or of tossing bricks back ino the recycle bin which don't meet their incredibly close tolerances.

    • by mrbooze ( 49713 )
      I agree about the branded sets, but Duplo bricks are what gets a lot of toddlers started in the lego world.
    • I'm sorry for not being an enthusiast for the 'theme' junk that in my opinion detracts from the lego concept entirely, but I didn't see 'plain lego bricks' on the list.

      If you would watch kids play with the stuff, you would not not call it 'theme' junk. It is surprising how fast the themes get disassembled and reconstructured to match the kids own fantasy. My daughter got a lot of Belville stuff, and the girly pinkish content does make her like all those kits instantaneously. So, she builds it once accordi

    • When legos have to compete with the XBox 360 you'd better throw some theme action in there to keep those kids interested. As much as we old nerds like to think we keep lego in business it's probably not the case. Not to mention they can chagre more for a theme which will keep the cost of standard bricks from rising. It's all very complicated financial stuff I wouldn't expect you to understand.
      • by Incadenza ( 560402 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @08:18PM (#16666877)
        It's all very complicated financial stuff I wouldn't expect you to understand.
        I wouldn't expect you to be able to explain.
      • by Amouth ( 879122 )
        that gave me a cool idea.. what if you had a program where you could build something virtualy with lego's and then once doen have it break down all the peices you used and what sets you need to complete it or hell be able to place a custom order for just the peices you need for it.. that would be cool..
        • That already exists. You design on the computer, it makes a custom set for you. You can even upload graphics for the custom box they make. Have a look at the web-site...
        • by Rary ( 566291 )

          I read your post and thought, that's an awesome idea! So I wrote one. In 5 minutes. Here it is: []

          Oh yeah, and I bought the domain name to make it look "official". Really, I wrote it. Just for you! :)

          • by Amouth ( 879122 )
            ahh well i thank you very much for the link.. and if let me know if you ever wnat to get rid of that domain name :)

            i figured someone might have done it and it makes sense for them.. just never thought of it before till i saw parents post..

            going to have some fun with this :>
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 )
      Technics are on the list. I think they are great, are you telling me you didn't have fun putting together complex mechanical contraptions?
    • I completely agree man. I've felt more and more "disenfranchised" by the new entire-castle-in-a-single-piece Lego of late. It's like, why are you taking all of the fucking imagination out of it? I might as well get action figures and RC cars for my kids instead because Lego is building the entire fucking item themselves anyways.

      My friends and I built entire crazy-ass cities and had buckets full of lego pieces. We could just sit there for hours and hours and create the most totally awesome little cities and
    • by Xeth ( 614132 )

      Themes only recently started to depart from the overall Lego philosophy. For awhile, yes, they released a bunch of silly one-off pieces (The hideous one-piece molded Sebulba comes to mind), but they've actively cut back on that. Sometimes a tub of bricks just doesn't cut it. Sure, if all you want to do is toss together a blocky house, it's no problem. But really good (small scale) sculptures require the more interesting and esoteric pieces. Yes, you could make a pair of wings out of square plates, but it's

    • I was a huge fan of the space theme when I was young, hey the pieces were different so I was able to build new ships and robots and that's exactly what I wanted to build, the other fixed bricks would be great for building houses and pixelated looking robots of very prime colors but I liked my black+red + transparent yellow robots with mobile parts ...
  • Shame it's no good for Lego. :)
  • [quote]Lego stands to lose $127 million in holiday sales.[/quote] Star Wars/SpongeBob/et all are too passe'. Where are the trains and cityscapes that graced the magazines and catalogs I used to subscribe to? Just when it got good, they had to stop making that sweet Technic car with four wheel steering and a working gearbox. Its a shame that one day my Technic pieces might be worth their weight in gold.
    • apparently you haven't gotten a recent catalog. The front cover is a train and the back is a chess set. while it has star wars/batman/and other sets, trains, and cityscapes are featured just as strongly. what get's the smallest amount of space though is mindstorms, and technic. oh well.
    • Jesus, they stopped making that car?! I've been wanting that since I saw it at a friend's house 10ish years ago. Nowadays I can't even find Lego at the large toystores, and the smaller ones only have some crappy themed ones. I want my Technics back :(
    • Just when it got good, they had to stop making that sweet Technic car with four wheel steering and a working gearbox.

      This is about like being disappointed that no one now makes your favorite sliderule with the fancy new base 2 logarithms built-in. Why would anyone settle for a model of an RC car with a working gearbox? []

      And this is just the tip of the iceberg! Have you seen what you can do with latest Mindstorms? The technology behind Lego is as far beyond the original Technic as Legos are beyond lincoln l
  • Capsella kits are way more cool than legos.
  • Production cuts (Score:3, Interesting)

    by frisket ( 149522 ) < minus pi> on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @07:53PM (#16666563) Homepage
    "Production cuts"?

    Q. Why do you cut production when there are orders to fill?

    A. When someone other than a businessperson is running the company (eg beancounter, marketing droid, moneylender, etc)

    • i don't see how a marketer could be behind any plan that causes them to sell less of something. less quality? certainly! less volume? no way. unless they're going with the Cartmanland exclusivity strategy
      • Shortages beget News Articles, which in turn begets Publicity, which is the life blood of the marketer.

        Next thing you know, demands up, shortages everywhere, more news stories, etc, etc. It's the Cabbage Patch ploy.
    • So if accountants & bankers aren't buisnessmen, who is?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Clod9 ( 665325 )
        That would be the people who create products and find buyers for them.
        Counting stuff, while an important adjunct to business, isn't the same thing. Show me any "financial product" and I can explain how the profit margin is generated through ignorance on the buyer's part.
        Truly great business has a buyer and a seller, both have near-100% information about the transaction, and both go away happy. Accountants and bankers merely aid this process, they don't create it.
        • Hmm. [] I guess I missed the memo that a banker or an accountant isn't considered a white-collar job anymore.

          Show me any "financial product" and I can explain how the profit margin is generated through ignorance on the buyer's part.

          Well, this is technically correct... but it is technically correct for almost any kind of service. With a few exceptions which require extremely expensive specialized equipment(medical services comes to mind), the difference between you & the person you're paying for a service

  • Nothing new (Score:2, Interesting)

    So they are trying to steal the multimedia device and Tickle Me Elmo business strategy? This is nothing new.

    Note I said "multimedia device", not "game console". You know which two I'm referring to.
    • In fairness the multimedia devices/game consoles are guaranteed to be in short supply at launch, regardless of marketing benefits, because ramping up production of new technology cannot be done instantaneously. AFAIK moulding plastic bricks ain't exactly new technology...
  • Massive layoffs at Lego d=16811796&BRD=985&PAG=461&dept_id=161556&rfi=6 []

    They should have thought about that before swinging the axe to make the share-holders happy.
    Of course, how many execs will get canned because of this? Yeah. Zero. Bastards...
    • There are shareholders? I think Lego is privately held.
      • There are shareholders? I think Lego is privately held.

        Private corporations can still sell stock directly to investors. A private company is simply one that does not offer its stock to the general public via one of the big stock exchanges.

    • when the share holders are footing the bill. I believe Lego faced a loss at the beginning of the year, so they cut production. It's what you gotta do nowdays. They'd be better to focus on the "basics" rather than themed stuff, or cut the themed stuff back. I buy a lot of Lego product, but almost never the themed stuff like starwars or spongebob, mostly Bionicle a good mix of toy and technic. Note I din't see Minstorms NXT on the list of "shortages" which is the only "cool" thing they'll run out of.
  • I can't help but feel a little sad about his. Although Lego has its share of company-wrong-doing-and-greed, Lego bricks are some of the nicest toys around. I really hope Lego can put its show together again.
  • ...that the Lego CEO gets a $100 million Christmas bonus anyway?

  • Supply and Demand (Score:2, Interesting)

    by suparjerk ( 784861 )

    If there's less in supply than there is demand for something, the price (and value?) of that particular something generally goes up. If they have more people wanting legos than they can provide for, couldn't they just sell to the highest bidders and make up some of the loss? Legos could turn into sort of a luxury item temporarily. Not necessarily all bad for them.

    Course, I'm not a business man or an expert on economics. I guess at the same time, some people might see doing something like that as greed or

  • On to Mexico! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @08:25PM (#16666961)
    Yup, it's gonna' be tough. The plant in Enfield, CT. (which I worked at for awhile) deals with packaging the Legos (created overseas) into their boxed forms to be shipped to distributors. However, the place was pretty badly run. While I was working there, there was a little bit of leeway being made in improving the efficiency of the packaging, because of hours you could be standing on a line waiting for the legos you need to package to complete your order. And it wasn't because of the laziness of the workers, the workers themselves would get angry at the fact that they weren't doing anything, eventually sending workers to other operational lines in a hope to scrap some amount of energy out of the workforce otherwise left doing nothing at their current post.

    The problem was with the management of the distribution of the packages. The legos come in with all of one style of lego (say, a 2x4 red brick) in large bins. They will be poured into individual bins that go into the line and separated into those little pouches either completely or mostly by machine. There had been under way plenty of industrial engineering trying to make the factory "flow" better. As it was, the pieces would come in and be thrown into one corner of the factory. When they were needed, they would have to be found, and then brought to the line. Leftovers get put back in bins and thrown in another corner.

    And there was the problem. Each line was built in the hopes to be able to package any style of box, but because no line really specialized in one style of packaging (save for one or two exceptions, like the Bionic lines specializing in the tubed packages), combined with the fact that the movement of materials to different lines seemed at best ad-hoc (mismanaged), led to a decrease in performance.

    Now, the people working the lines were doing their job, and it's too bad that they were eventually laid off. Although the lines were created to allow an increase for modularity in the packaging, the system to bring the pieces to those lines are what failed. By the time the company got to trying to solve the problem, it was too late. The entire way the factory was run, going from a single, central repository of pieces to more of a separated, distributed repository layout (where the pieces are closer to the lines where they would actually be used) would just be too much, in their eyes.

    I guess they decided that so long as they were going to have to rebuild the entire factory's layout, they might as well do it where the wages are lower as well.

    I'm not a industrial engineer in any right, but that's just what I was able to witness. I probably wouldn't have even written this post if it wasn't for the manager of the shift who would constantly lie blatantly to the employees ("You will not be laid off"). Everyone knows that he was lying, and the good will of the workers was being broken by that mentality.

    Not sure if I spouted one piece of good info in this post, but hey, what's Slashdot if not to post uninformed ramblings.
    • Sad.

      I've always wondered how the assemblage of the kits was done --- very, very good QA if it's done wholly by hand.

      It really seems to me that it begs to have a fully automated system of one really long line and a series of dispensing robots putting one brick at a time into the box --- while it might be hard to amortize, you could jump start it by setting it up for just the smallest sets, doing a timetable of shifts of stocking different parts and running boxes through multiple times to fill the larger sets
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      What you saw seems to be typical of assembly line operations. I have seen a few such packaging operations, and in every case, 5 minutes observation would reveal a few procedural problems and dozens of places where a small investment would improve working conditions AND boost productivity.

      Many problems were indirectly created by a sort of workplace caste system. Things that would obviously improve productivity were avoided if they might accidentally improve conditions for the "lower caste".

      I even saw one

    • I am an Industrial Engineer, and it sounds like someone failed to think through all of their assumptions or the solution was only half implemented. I would bet that whatever recommendations were made for keeping track of incoming stock were ignored or that the people designing the system failed to realize how many different types of bricks there could be. Keeping track of supply materials is typically a huge part of industrial engineering, so it sounds like someone screwed up.
  • And assume NONE of those lego sets would have sold on sale, and all of them would have sold at full price, they can probably argue that they lost a billion dollars in sales.

    Or perhaps the 137 million already reflects Riaa math and they would have actually lost 33 million.
  • To hell with the hyperadvertised, branded megafad-of-the-moment shite that the LEGO salesdroids are pushing. The way I'm going about it, there isn't any shortage to worry about...

    I've been getting my 5 y.o. son interested by doing LEGO kitbash construction projects with him. All sorts of crazy imaginative stuff...kinda like M.C. Escher meets Jane's Fighting Ships (-grin-). When we fall seriously short of some of the more esoteric/uncommon pieces, I go online to check out Bricklink http://www.bricklink.c []

    • How about CSI:LEGO?

      Actually, back in the long ago, I used to build airplanes out of LEGO with tiny little passengers. I would crash the plane, and see what happened to the passengers.
  • "Recent restructuring..." foundation for the company to meet the holiday demands...
  • I didn't realize that the demand for legos was still so high that they wouldn't be able to produce enough to cover their orders.

    Are people still buying massive amounts of legos?

    Either way, I think this lego shortage is going to get massively overshadowed by the PS3 shortage that is bound to happen.
  • I remember when I lost my intrest in Legos, it was right about the time when they started making the special pieces, the "Cherry On Top" pieces I like to call them.

    It took all the fun out of it, it's like they were mocking my own imagination & force feeding me theirs.

    I always knew thoose special pieces were bad news, thoose pieces require molds that are just too complicated.
    I think Lego needs to get back to producing the toys that sparked imagination, not advertised someone elses.
    • YES, I agree 100%. I just wrote a post about this further up in the comments. It defeats the purpose of even building the shit when Lego has already built your entire castle for you in a single piece (yes, exagerration for effect)...

      For probably that reason alone, I just stopped even caring about Lego. I remember how all the crazy awesome castles and etc. I wanted were being replaced by retarded molded-piece sets that eliminated the possibility of creative usage of the pieces.
    • I agree, but you can still buy the basic pieces. In fact, I found a web page (sorry, don't have it handy) where you can buy the little bastards in bulk for those big projects.
  • This may tip the scales to make me buy some of these [].
  • No nano? (Score:2, Funny)

    by xkr ( 786629 )
    The most upsetting part is that we can't get nano-legos. I have a complete design for a self-replicating Lego nano-factory. If only I had started sooner, then I would have been able to solve their production limitations forever.
  • If Lego become any more expensive than they already are due to this, they could just as well start making these bricks in solid gold. :-p
  • This is the usual tactic. Scare up publicity and increase demand using an artificial supply shortage. Supply down, demand up, outrageous prices normal, CEO gets bonus.
  • Those responsible should be sacked.
  • Score one for the hack-and-slash theory of corporate management.
  • I was just reminded of the 1993 Christmas season where Commodore couldn't build enough CD32 systems to meet Christmas demand. Commodore had already gone through a bunch of cuts and did not survive them. I'm hoping that Lego has somewhat better management and perhaps some cash on hand to weather the bad times ahead.
  • by anshil ( 302405 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @03:59AM (#16670145) Homepage
    There is no real shortage thats a planned trick to get more money into the toy sector.

    Robert B. Cialdini writes this in his book "The Psychology of Persuasion". One Toy-Product is heavily marketed, so you eventually promise your kids who will be longing for it, they will get it as present for christmas. Then *tata* production shortage bla-bla, and you can't get it, so you have to buy another equally valued toy for your kids. But(!): Promised is still promised! In February the production shortage suddendly vanishes, and you will have to buy your kids the promised toy also. -> Result: You spent twice as much in the toy sector.
  • This is what happens when management tweaks production to make the numbers for 'this quarter' look good. Next quarter goes all to hell.

The IBM 2250 is impressive ... if you compare it with a system selling for a tenth its price. -- D. Cohen