IKEA now uses 100 drones for inventory operations

As part of IKEA’s technological expansion, Swedish retail giant has expanded its autonomous fleet to 100 drones across 16 locations in Belgium, Croatia, Slovenia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

The Netherlands-based IKEA franchising partner Ingka cooperated with a Zurich-based startup Verity to develop the technology. Verity has been providing IKEA franchises with its systems since the tech’s introduction two years ago.

“We are investing in technology across the board so that our stores can better support customer fulfillment and become true centers for omnichannel retailing,” says Tolga Öncu of Dutch IKEA holding company INGKA.

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“Introducing drones and other advanced tools — such as, for example, robots for picking up goods — is a genuine win-win for everybody. It improves our co-workers’ well-being, lowers operational costs and allows us to become more affordable and convenient for our customers.”

100 drones are now deployed during non-operational hours (between 10:30 p.m. and 4 a.m.), working to ensure stock accuracy and offering real-time overview of the items.

In the meantime, the manual process of checking barcodes of over 10,000 IKEA’s stocking spots could take up to three months.

“Being at the forefront when it comes to innovative and value adding solutions is part of the IKEA heritage,” says Peter Ac, head of innovations in logistics and fulfilment, supply chain development for the Swedish holding company Inter IKEA Group.

“We are always curious of learning from others and this project is a great example of how we have collaborated across IKEA and together with an external partner come up with a solution that we all benefit from.”

IKEA is well-known for its innovative solutions. In February, it partnered with Meta to release an interactive augmented reality (AR) experience for shoppers visiting stores across Sweden.

“We hope the experiment will increase our understanding of how augmented reality can affect a physical shopping environment,” the furniture retailer said in a release.

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