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Wood Companies Look to RFID to Raise Yield, Reduce Carbon Footprint

Twenty-nine European partners are developing an RFID-based application and supply-chain analysis system that may be used to increase sawmill efficiency and raw materials usage, improve logistic operations and minimize environmental impacts.
By Rhea Wessel
Nov 06, 2008A European Union-funded project launched in 2006 to develop a system for analyzing the forestry supply chain will move into the final pilot phase next spring, project leaders at Finnish forestry IT service provider TietoEnator reported Wednesday at the RFID Journal LIVE! Europe conference in the Czech city of Prague.

The 29 project partners aim to lay the groundwork for improving the use of wood and optimizing forest production while minimizing any harmful environmental impact. Passive RFID tags on logs will be interrogated, providing real-time data that can be utilized to improve yield and logistics, as well as reduce waste—all through better supply chain transparency. After logs are processed and the initial RFID tags they carried are destroyed, partners will rely on Data Matrix 2-D bar-coded labels applied to wood products to identify each item. They will also test the use of RFID and 2-D bar-coding to help calculate the carbon footprint of individual wood products.

Ville Puntanen
The three-year project, known as Indisputable Key, received €12 million ($15.3 million) in funding, including €7.7 million ($9.8 million) from the European Union. The rest of the money was provided by project partners such as research institutes, universities, industrial developers, and forestry and sawmill companies, hailing from Estonia, Finland, France, Norway and Sweden.

Companies involved in the wood-production supply chain currently generate information regarding the raw wooden material, but do not share all of that data with one another. Consequently, some €5 billion ($6.4 billion) worth of raw wooden material are wasted in Europe every year, according to Ville Puntanen, a team leader at TietoEnator, and Antti Sirkka, a business intelligence architect.

Using both RFID tags on logs and 2-D bar-code labels applied to finished wood products, the Indisputable Key project will develop a system to trace wood throughout the supply chain. The work will be conducted in five separate pilot projects.

In one pilot, partners in Sweden will insert a nail-shaped RFID tag into logs, then track them to gain a better understanding of how sawmills can improve yield. In many cases, sawmills are unable to locate the desired logs immediately, and thus lose time spent searching for them. In this test, partners will also track the boards labeled with 2-D bar codes, to determine each board's carbon footprint. The computer system will compile data collected via RFID with information associated to the board's bar-coded ID, and calculate the environmental impact of that board's production.

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