IKEA Zaventem using automated drones at night for stock taking

IKEA Zaventem using automated drones at night for stock taking
An autonomous drone from IKEA. Credit: Belga / James Arthur Gekiere.

IKEA has announced it will now use drones to control stocks and guarantee the availability of its products. Already in place in some IKEA stores in Belgium, the new system will be expanded with five drones installed in the Zaventem location, reports Sudinfo.

The automated drones will not be a risk to customers, as they will only fly at night between the hours of 22:30 and 04:00, when the store is empty.

Fitted with a GPS system specific to the store, they operate and take photographs of the shelves at night without needing to be piloted. The data is then transmitted to staff who analyse it in the morning while the drones recharge for the next shift.

Each device has its own section and photographs location-by-location. "We track down goods that are not in the right place and also lost pallets," the Manager of IKEA Zaventem Fabrice Fouquembert explained to Sudinfo. "It used to take three months to do an inventory, as we have 11,000 locations in the shop."

Employees are enthusiastic

The main idea behind the drone system is to ensure correct stock information for customers in the shop and for online orders.

When asked about how the robotisation will impact staff, IKEA spokesperson Colombine Nicolay told Sudinfo that the drones simply free up the employees to do more tasks which add value such as in-store advice and customer interaction.

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Fouquembert confirmed the ease of the employees. "Before, two employees had to climb into a platform and check each location. It was a tedious and complicated job." Sometimes employees even had to look at shelves from the ground using binoculars.

The Zaventem IKEA manager also highlighted the decrease in the error rate in the Ghent store, where the system was piloted in Belgium. "The error rate has dropped from 6% to 1%."

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