Ikea scales up drone usage for inventory management


Ikea is using drones on a large scale for its store-level and online inventory management, with 100 of these autonomous robots now flying around at 16 of its European locations. According to Ikea’s parent company, Ingka Group, it is the first retailer to successfully implement such a solution on this scale.

Two years ago, Ingka Group and the Inter Ikea Group’s Supply Chain Development Team, together with Verity, a supplier of indoor drone systems, began developing a fully autonomous drone solution to track inventory, improve employee welfare and ensure the best possible customer experience across all channels.

Today, 100 drones take flight during non-operational hours to improve stock accuracy and ensure product availability for both online and physical retailing. This solution has also resulted in a more ergonomic workplace for Ikea employees because they no longer have to manually confirm each pallet.

Omnichannel retailing centres

The investments in technology help Ikea to better support customer fulfilment and become true centres for omnichannel retailing, according to Tolga Öncu, Head of Retail at Ingka Group. “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’ wellbeing, lowers operational costs and allows us to become more affordable and convenient for our customers,” states Öncu.

The first drone was deployed at Ikea Switzerland in 2021. The 100 that are currently operational are stocking inventory at 16 different locations across the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Croatia and Slovenia.

Ikea heritage

“Being at the forefront when it comes to innovative and value-adding solutions is part of the Ikea heritage. We are always curious to learn from others,” comments Peter Ac, Head of Innovations in Supply Chain Development at Inter Ikea Group. “This project is a great example of how we have collaborated across Ikea and, together with an external partner, have come up with a solution that we all benefit from.”