RFID in Finland – Some interesting recent cases in Finland

RFID Lab Finland Association is owned by its member companies including all the major players in the RFID and NFC industries that have operations in Finland. There are RFID tag, card, and reader manufacturers, software, and solution provider companies. From the public sector we have two cities with hi-tech mindset, Vantaa and Oulu. Several universities that have RFID activities have also joined. The smallest members are one man startups, and the size spans all the way to global companies such as Tieto, Stora Enso, and SMARTRAC. We are the RFID and NFC cluster in Finland and one obvious objective is of course to network all the members. For the companies RFID Lab Association membership equals more business!

The customers of the RFIDLab Finland Association are typically the potential end users of RFID technology for example in the manufacturing, whole sales, retail, logistics, and service provider sector who want to improve their business processes or create new businesses. We help companies with the business potential of RFID and NFC technologies. From the RFID Lab Finland web-page the customer can easily find a suitable solution provider to work with.

The strategy of RFID Lab Finland Association is quite simple and clear. We bring together the RFID companies and the potential customers. The customer will get operational efficiency and the RFID company will get business. We create value for both. RFID Lab Finland Association operations include seminars, training, showroom, help desk, consulting and initiating joint projects. Seminars and training are directed to the customers and focus on how to use RFID in business. For example on October 3rd we will have an RFID in Retail seminar in Vantaa. Our showroom close to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport is filled with RFID products and demonstrations from the member companies. You are also very
welcome to visit our showroom! More than 600 customers visit the showroom annually and get hands on experience with RFID and NFC in business. Help desk and consulting up to about two hours is offered free of charge to the potential customers. Quite often as a result of a consultation session and with the permission of the customer a one page business lead to the members will follow. From this point on it is competition and the customer will be contacted by the solution providers. Several successful RFID deployments in Finland started this way.

Technical Trade RFID/EPC project 2010-2011 is a good example of an RFID Lab Finland project initiative. Our aim is not just to get a company but the whole value network interested in deploying RFID. The whole sellers and their manufacturers were the customers in the project. The project team came from GS1 Finland, Aalto University and Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. The project was funded by the customers, GS1 Finland, Vantaa Innovation institute and Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. The aim of the project was to find out what are the investments, benefits, and payback time if all the manufactures and whole sellers started to use RFID with shipments. The feasibility of RFID with metal and liquid often found in the products in this industry was also carefully examined. One goal was also to educate RFID experts to the involved companies and create a discussion forum for them.

RFID in Finnish Railways network (VR Group)

VR Transpoint is Finland’s leading transports & logistics service company with net sales €580.6 million in 2010 and 2600 employees. It operates in ten European countries including Russia. VR Transpoint offers a wide range of high-quality and up-to date rail, groupage, bulk goods and international transports & logistics services. The biggest sector is rail where VR Transpoint operates with 10 000 freight wagons.

A major part of VR Transpoint’s workforce worked in rail-yards doing wagon shunting with old fashioned tools such as pen, paper, walkie-talkies, faxes, and manual entry of data to the ERP system. This was time consuming and there was a risk for human errors. The objectives were to increase the automation level in wagon shunting, improving wagon tracking and maintenance, improving the use of railway network sensor technology, and increasing the customer service with real time wagon traceability information.

RFID technology (GS1 EPC UHF Gen 2) for identifying the wagons was chosen. The project was started in 2009 and after a pilot testing VR Transport decided to implement a full scale system and tag 10 000 freight wagons, 400 locomotives and 1,000 passenger wagons. Vilant Systems was selected to provide the RFID solution.

As of today the system is in use in shunting in 50 rail-yards. All shunting yard workers have an RFID handheld with mobile connection and can walk alongside a train and pass the information to the central backend system. RFID is also currently used for wheel damage detection. The system is integrated to wheel defect measuring devices and the wagon causing an alert can now be identified when the train passes by.

RFID in Valio’s logistics

Valio is the biggest milk processor in Finland founded in 1905. Valio is owned by 18 co-operative societies that are owned by milk producers. Net sales is € 1.9 billion. There are 15 plants in Finland, two in Estonia, and one in Russia. Valio has always been highly innovative when it comes to new technologies.

The Valio distribution center in Jyväskylä is highly automated and the picking process is carried out by robots. Robots can pick items for mixed deliveries in a very detailed and accurate manner. Valio uses in logistics returnable assets such as roll cages and dollies, which circulate around in the production unit, DC, transporting, and customers’ premises.

The returnable assets are valuable and some of them get lost or damaged. It would help to know to which customer we sent the roll cage that has not returned or which customer continuously returns damaged roll cages. The automated system in DC is working with a stack memory, where the dollies are observed in particular order in a queue. In fault situations the memory can get messed up or deleted and recovering the whole system
requires manual identification.

Valio saw the potential of RFID in its logistics processes and wanted to test if the technology is feasible and mature enough for use in the Jyväskylä DC. The complex working environment, products containing liquids, metallic containers, cages, and cradles are challenging. Valio has been working with Wisteq and Aksulit solution providers in the pilot.

Currently the pilot has moved to the second phase in Jyväskylä DC. 25 000 metal roll cages out of 100 00 used by all the companies in the Finnish dairy industry are tagged. Furthermore 50 000 dollies out of 200 000 are tagged as well.

Jukka Wallinheimo

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