Companies that are managed by their founders are said to be significantly influenced by their founder’s personality. This may be the case for smaller companies. But is this obviously also true for large corporates like Ikea, a company with more than 150,000 employees? Its founder Ingvar Kamprad is supposed to be a remarkable person. Beautiful goods for little money – the success principle of Ikea is to a large extent grounded on his personality. Anyone who manages to start a company at the age of 17 and develops it to worldwide success, proves strong decision-making and a clear focus for what is important. Since I got to know Ikea a bit closer, these qualities seem to be part of the Ikea success formula just as Billy and Rationell. But that’s not a start On my first visit to the Ikea logistics center in Mengede, walking from the car park to the main entrance, I met a number of Ikea employees. Surprisingly, everyone greeted me with a friendly hello. Nice coincidence, I thought, smiling to myself. In a small village such as Kamprad’s home town Agunnaryd this may be normal, but in this gigantic logistics center with more than a thousand employees? Meanwhile I see it differently. I have encountered people here who develop tailor-made solutions for complex tasks, people that work their way to complex solutions every day. Bog standard solutions do not work with high goals Ikea as is committed to. Down-and-dirty? This is not the Ikea way. At Ikea Logistics, you see experts working hand in hand wherever you look. Knowing about the power of sharing knowledge that adds to the individual’s competencies is the name of the game. What started off with an impression of mere friendliness, has grown into a perception of colleagues contributing with a sense of openness, responsibility and in a highly communicative way to their business’ success.
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Christoph und Andreas are Service Leaders at Ikea Logistics. They describe what working for Ikea means:
The size of this location is truly impressive. As an employee, don’t you run the risk of being overlooked?
AR: This location here houses a Europe-wide central warehouse for the supply of all European Ikea stores, as well as the customer order warehouse for direct delivery to customers in Germany – hence the enormous dimensions of our premises. It also houese other Ikea companies. Our warehousing logistics department, for example, belongs to Ikea Logistics GmbH. We are 33 colleagues and work together in small, powerful project teams, everyonoe contributing with the individual specialist knowledge. We know each other well and we help each other. I did not feel anonymous here, on the contrary: we develop close relationships: everywhere there are communicative corners, which are used by the colleagues. Some sit together for coffee after lunch, others are having a project meeting. Ikea is diverse, each employee is important, everybody contributes to innovation. With Establishment Support, which is my area of responsibility, we are logistics planners, who also support implementation and go-live phases of those new units. Witnessing our plans becoming reality is the great advantage of our work. Everybody here is aware of practical everyday-life in a logistics unit. If needed, practical logistics may be witnessed in the warehouse next door.
CB: Yes, developing practical and efficient solutions is what we do here. This also applies to Research & Development, the development department at Warehousing Logistics, which I belong to. We are always looking for new intralogistics solutions. Many suggestions come directly from our Ikea stores and warehouses, so there is constant alignment with their practical needs. As our solutions need to prove thir viability through pilot testing, we ensure that they will turn out useful in everyday life. Oce we approve a new solution, it may be applied worldwide.
This site seems to be the heart of all Ikea Logistics innovations worldwide…
AR: Another very important feature of Ikea: We are designing standard processes and solutions for our logistics units. This does not mean that we are adapting all our units to the standards. We rather itentify the optimal solution for each individual unit. Our task is to find solutions that enable each individual to fulfil its tasks in the best possible way. For us as employees, a claim arises: taking a close look, analyzing in depth what we see and finally deriving the optimal solution. In some cases a groundbreaking one.
CB: Our tasks always require the talent to deal with unknown situations, defining the best possible solutions. Nothing here is ordinary. We all work very autonomously. Even job starters are encouraged to make decisions independently. But everyone here can count on his colleagues; We support each other with our know-how, paying attention to each other’s needs. The willingness to make decisions and to take responsibility iss a characteristic for everyone in Ikea. Even thought the scope of responsibility varies with professional experience and position, it is part of every task.
A job with leeway…
AR: This is really important to us. Starting at Ikea Logistics means entering an exciting environment: multicultural and international project teams, here on site as well as everywhere else.We constantly experience how our work moves and improves things better. In other words, every Ikea employee can contribute to the overall progess. Ikea wants to offer its customers an ever-improving shopping experience, we make it happen. Anyone can develop his career goals at Ikea, on site as well as internationally.
Inga talks about working at Establishment Support Service Area:
Here in Establishment Support we support all projects worldwide for new Ikea logistics units. Our task always starts off differently, because every project is individual. Sometimes it starts off with acquisition of the building site, sometimes existing objects need to be rented, with many variations in between. At Ikea Warehousing Logistics, we have developed numerous warehousing processes and evaluated warehouse automation solutions in close cooperation with our partners in Ikea Supply Chain. But every new unit is different. We work everywhere in the world: one day in Australia, next week in America, then again somewhere in Europe. Working at Ikea Logistics menas becoming a specialist. As specialists, we are not only familiar with the latest intralogistics developments, we also gather in-depth experience in solving complex intralogistics problems. We are all planners here, but theory is not enough We are on site when a new unit is launched. Then you sit at the gate in the morning, wearing helm and safety shoes, solving unexpecte problems with your unit colleagues. If we planned well, we will see the success. If something goes wrong, it contributes to our learning cure. Mistakes are for learning, not for being told off, because no single new unit is like the previous one. Taking a close look and finding solutions, in a sense of endeavour and self-confidence, that is what working at Ikea is all about.
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(c) Interviews, Photos and Video: IKEA Logistics GmbH, 2017