Ikea has enlisted more drones to keep tabs on its inventory. In a blog post shared last week, Ikea’s parent company, Ingka, says the retailer now has a total of 100 autonomous drones counting stock in its warehouses during nonoperational hours.
Ikea first partnered with the drone-making company Verity in 2020 to deploy the drones in Switzerland, but now, the company says they’re zipping around 16 locations across Belgium, Croatia, Slovenia, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. The Swedish furniture giant says the drones help improve the accuracy of product availability and also support “a more ergonomic workplace,” as it saves employees from counting stock manually.
Verity, which specializes in creating self-flying drones for warehouses and even concerts, was founded by Raffaello D’Andrea, one of the creators of Kiva Systems, or what’s now called Amazon Robotics. As noted by D’Andrea in 2020, the drones work by taking off from a charging station and then going to each pallet in the warehouse to capture images, videos, and 3D depth scans of the items. Once the job is done, the drones return to their charging stations to download the collected data. The drones not only count inventory but also help employees determine if something’s missing or in the wrong spot.
This isn’t the only high-tech solution Ikea has used to streamline work in its warehouses. In its Covina, California, store, Ikea employs an automated racking system that has eliminated the “majority” of forklifts to help keep more items in stock. Ikea has also experimented with an automated warehouse in Croatia where “small, radio-controlled robots” retrieve bins containing the company’s products and deliver them to employees during order fulfillment.
“Introducing drones and other advanced tools — such as, for example, robots for picking up goods — is a genuine win-win for everybody,” Tolga Öncu, the head of retail at Ingka Group, says. “It improves our co-workers’ wellbeing, lowers operational costs, and allows us to become more affordable and convenient for our customers.”