Low cost, functional and brilliantly efficient, an Ikea Billy bookcase rolls off the production line every three seconds. There are thought to be over 60 million of them already in service. Few could find the Billy bookcase beautiful. They are successful because they work and they are cheap. And – as Tim Harford explains in this fascinating story – brilliantly boring efficiency is essential to the modern economy. The humble Billy bookcase epitomises the relentless pursuit of lower costs and acceptable functionality.

Producer: Ben Crighton
Editors: Richard Knight and Richard Vadon

Release date:

Available now

9 minutes

Last on

Tue 17 Jan 2017 23:50 GMT
BBC World Service Americas and the Caribbean

Sources and related links

Rolf G Larsson - Ikea’s Almost Fabless Global Supply Chain – A Rightsourcing Strategy for Profit, Planet, and People, Lund University, Chapter 3 in Lean Management of Global Supply Chain, edited by Yasuhiro Monden and Yoshiteru Minagawa, World Scientific, 2015 

Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA

How IKEA Billionaire Legally Avoided Taxes From 1973 Until 2015 (Forbes article by Robert W. Wood)