IKEA has deployed 100 self-operating drones in its warehouses across 16 European countries, streamlining inventory management and providing a more accurate picture of stock levels.
This innovative approach to inventory control began in Switzerland two years ago and has since expanded across Europe, with drones now operating in neighboring countries like Croatia and Slovenia.
Enhancing Workplace Ergonomics and Efficiency
The Ingka Group, responsible for the majority of IKEA’s sales, benefits from drone technology by providing a more ergonomic working environment for its employees. By utilizing drones for stock counting, workers no longer need to manually examine each pallet, resulting in improved well-being and increased data accuracy.
Tolga Öncu, the group’s commercial manager, emphasizes the advantages: “By using drones and other advanced tools like robots to lift goods, everyone really wins: we improve the well-being of our staff, reduce our operating costs, and become more accessible and convenient for our customers.”
The Verity Connection
IKEA’s autonomous drone technology is powered by Verity, a company founded by one of the creators of Kiva Systems, now known as Amazon Robotics. Verity’s drones launch from a loading dock, fly to each pallet, and capture images, videos, and detailed 3D footage. Once completed, they return to the loading dock and transmit the collected data to the company’s computer systems.
Beyond Drones: Automation and Efficiency in Warehousing
IKEA’s commitment to innovation doesn’t stop with drones. The company is also exploring automated shelving systems, as evidenced by a store in California that has replaced some of its forklifts. In Zagreb, IKEA is testing nearly fully automated warehouse handling for small home furnishings. Thousands of products are stored in crates that are delivered to sellers in just fifteen seconds by compact, energy-efficient, radio-controlled robots. These robots are so efficient that the energy consumption of ten of them is equivalent to that of a vacuum cleaner.
Transforming Global Operations
According to Ingka Group, this revolutionary approach to inventory management and warehouse operations is set to expand across their 370 stores in 31 countries, catering to almost 700 million customers. As IKEA continues to invest in technology and automation, they enhance the well-being of their workforce, optimize operating costs, and improve overall customer experience. However, it is crucial to consider potential downsides, such as job displacement and the need for workers to adapt to new technology.