Text by Toby Skinner, as appeared in N by Norwegian magazine December 2015.
How do you make 2.8 billion people smile?
Since 1976, every Playmobil character has been made in a Maltese factory – where it’s not just the figures who are happy. Not far from Malta airport, 192 new figures are born every minute – and whether they’re pirates, policemen or princesses, they’re always smiling. The German Playmobil company produces all its figures on the Mediterranean island, and has done since 1976 – 2.8 billion have been made in the Malta factory since then. “It was an obvious choice to come here back in the ’70s,” says Matthias Fauser, COO of Playmobil Malta. “There was full employment in Germany, but Malta was newly independent, close to our market and offered a really good package. The factory’s been growing ever since, and investing in making everything automated.” Today, 1,000 people work in Malta’s second-largest factory, which sees 270 injection moulding machines create up to five million pieces of plastic a day. Last year Playmobil celebrated its 40th anniversary with another record year: €600 million (NOK5.6bn) in turnover, and 110 million more smiling figures. “We’re smiling, too,” notes Fauser.