By Chris Stonor
Ikea teamed up with Amazon Robotics and Verity last month to explore how drones can improve the efficiency of Ikea’s massive warehouses as well as its general stores, reports a company website release.
Logistics developer Olof Orstadius, commented, “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,” says Olof.
His job is to investigate and find the right level of automation to incorporate into the logistics throughout the IKEA supply chain. With more than 440 stores and 80 warehouses globally, there are major opportunities for improvement.
Orstadius continued, “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.”
As part of this research IKEA teamed up with Verity, known for their drone light shows and is a global leader in autonomous drone systems. Together, successful trials on warehouse inventory checks have been carried out. Scaled up, this solution has the potential to greatly reduce the many working hours required to manually check inventory.
Raffaello D’Andrea, Verity’s founder and one of the founders of Amazon Robotics, explained, “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.” The drones then return to the charging station to download all the data collected.
He continued, ”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.”
Verity’s autonomous indoor drone systems have, for example, been used in live events and at concerts to create lighting effects through advanced flight patterns with dozens of drones. Flying around and at times above crowds of people means safety is a requirement.
Orstadius commented, “This is the technology we want to bring to IKEA warehouses and stores. Automation is progressing and developing very fast, and the fully automated drone solution that we have been developing together with Verity is a good example of this.”
He added, “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 the inventory accuracy and help us show our customers what’s in stock at a certain IKEA store today.”
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