Automation of Stores - A case study about using unmanned vehicles at IKEA

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Graduate School

Abstract: Background and Problem Discussion: Industry 4.0 changes business climates and the value creation for companies, rendering some processes obsolete when new requirements are being placed on operational efficiency and flexibility. The transformation towards using Industry 4.0 technologies has already begun, but companies face challenges when wanting to use them. IKEA wants to transform stores by using unmanned vehicles, an Industry 4.0 technology. However, it creates implications as there is no clear guideline of what companies should consider when wanting to use unmanned vehicles. This is especially evident in stores that are part warehouse, such as in IKEA’s case. Purpose and Research Question: The purpose of this study was to get an overview of how unmanned vehicles would affect IKEA’s organization. The research question was: What are the factors that IKEA should consider to use unmanned vehicles in stores? Literature Review: The literature review found current studies on Automation Projects, IT, and Impact on Humans in relation to Industry 4.0 and unmanned vehicles. In some cases, studies specifically addressed unmanned vehicles, but in other cases, broader articles covering Industry 4.0 were used due to the lack of studies on the former. Methodology: Ontological and epistemological beliefs influenced the decisions made in terms of methodology and methods. An abductive approach and qualitative research strategy were used together with a single case study design. In addition, 10 Semistructured Interviews were held with employees at IKEA. These were analyzed with a thematic analysis. In addition, a narrative literature review was done. To summarize, it was an explorative study. Empirical Findings: Three themes were found after a thematic analysis was done. The first, Automation Objectives, included projects, costs, and scalability. The second, IT, included Systems and Data. The third, Impact on Humans consisted of Impact on Employees as well as Ergonomics and Safety. Analysis and Conclusion: After comparing the literature with the empirical findings, 13 factors to consider if using unmanned vehicles in IKEA’s stores were found. They were divided into three main groups: Automation Objectives, IT, Impact on Humans. In terms of managerial implications, IKEA is recommended to take those factors into account, but should remember that they do not guarantee success by themselves and could create new implications if not investigated properly. Research implications include additional research on what to consider if using unmanned vehicles or a similar technology related to Industry 4.0.

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