Ikea is looking into using drones in its massive warehouses to improve efficiency, cut down costs, and transform its supply chain. Ikea has turned to the founders of Amazon Robotics to fully realize the benefits drones can bring to its warehouses worldwide.
Ikea has brought in Olof Orstadius to explore automation in its warehouses. Orstadius is a logistics developer who has been walking through Ikea’s warehouses to learn more about the company’s setup.
Logistics developer Olof Orstadius said:
Imagine the time being spent, making sure that the pallets are in the right place, and containing the right products. On top of that, we also need to keep track of how many products each pallet contains. We always want to secure product availability for our customers and also create a better ergonomic workplace for our co-workers. With automation, our co-workers can focus on value-adding tasks.
Along with the exploration into drones, Ikea teamed up with Verity, a company known for its drone light shows and autonomous drone systems. The two partnered to begin test flights of autonomous drones in Ikea’s warehouses to scan product barcodes and keep track of inventory.
Raffaello D’Andrea, Verity’s founder and one of the founders of Amazon Robotics said the following on the drones used:
“The system consists of a set of autonomous drones that take off from a charging station and go from pallet to pallet collecting images, videos, and 3D depth scan data. Algorithms then extract actionable insights. For example, one location was supposed to have a pallet, but the pallet was missing. Another location had a pallet, but it was the wrong one.”
Once the drones have done their rounds of scanning, it automatically flies back to its base station and begins to download all of the data collected. Once it’s done, the data is imported into a database that keeps track of stock levels and alerts staff if anything is getting low, prompting them to order more if needed.
Orstadius finished with:
“Instead of manually checking the pallets using paper and pen, the solution is making the data collection digital through a camera and other sensors. The whole process is done autonomously during the night or between shifts, by the drones. This will increase inventory accuracy and help us show our customers what’s in stock at a certain IKEA store today.”