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Finland Post Finds RFID Can Deliver ROI

After completing a two-month RFID trial, the national mail carrier believes there is a clear business case for using tags to track reusable assets such as roll cages and crates.
By Jonathan Collins
In the meantime, Finland Post intends to pursue a strategy of small-scale deployments. Over the next few years, the company plans to test technologies in small pilots requiring limited investments. Finland Post's goal is to ensure its own future competitiveness. "We need to test the system to see if it will work with EPC Gen 2 tags and make sure the RFID environment can be integrated with our existing enterprise resource planning software," explains Pienimäki. "This will be with lab tests tracking roll cages in the short term, but further out, other transportation units [larger roll cages] and then high-value shipments will be tagged and tested."

Finland Post is certain RFID will play a key role in its ability to deliver better service to its customers. Therefore, it will continue to carry out a selection of small RFID pilots during the next few years to stay informed of the technology's development and its potential across areas of its operations.

During the tag-testing process, crates were tagged and passed through the portal with promising results.

According to Pienimäki, the company believes RFID combined with other technologies—such as a real-time location system (RTLS) and 2-D bar code symbols—will be essential in the future.

By 2008, the company expects to be tagging and tracking other assets aside from cages, and to integrate its RFID systems with its customers' own deployments. A year later, selected shipments will be tracked at the item level, and Finland Post will provide real-time tracking to its customers, but the company does not expect to track transportation assets and shipments across its operations until 2010.

In the meantime, the carrier will begin testing RFID tags for the nearly 1 million reusable plastic crates it uses to process and transport mail, in conjunction with roll cages. The crates are approximately 1 foot wide and 2 feet long. Finland Post is replacing these crates to match the requirements of new sorting machines. Furthermore, it wants to add tags to link and record crates automatically to the roll cages they are in. That way, Finland Post will eventually be able to ensure that crates have been loaded onto cages intended for the same destination. "It doesn't add a great deal to the cost of each crate, and I would rather add tags now," says Pienimäki.

During the tag-testing process for the cage-tracking trial, crates were tagged and passed through the portal with promising results. "Ninety-three percent of the crates were read with our standard passive tags [used on the cages]," says Salomaa. "We are quite sure that if we design the tags a little better and adjust the antennas, we could also get a 100 percent read rate for the crates, as we did with the cages."

The new crates are set for delivery in late 2006 or early 2007. In the meantime, Finland Post says it will work to specify the tags and suppliers it will use. "We have started RFID-tagging with roll cages," says Salomaa, adding, "Every parcel and every box will eventually be tagged, but not for some time yet."

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