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Norsk Lastbaerer Pool Inserts RFID Into the Norwegian Food Chain

The organization is transitioning to plastic pallets and totes with embedded EPC Gen 2 tags, for use by manufacturers of consumer products sold in Norway.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 19, 2011Norsk Lastbærer Pool (NLP)—an organization established by Norwegian consumer goods manufacturers and retailers to manage a nationwide pool of pallets—is transitioning Norway's consumer goods sector to RFID-tagged plastic pallets and totes, leased by NLP, each with EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags. In February 2011, as part of that transition, the organization intends to pilot the use of RFID handheld readers and fixed reader portals at the factories of snack-food company Maarud and sausage producer Finsbråten, as well as at two distribution centers for retail chain Coop.

NLP was established in 2006 as an organization for reducing the environmental footprint of the logistics operations within the Norwegian fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) supply chain. The RFID pilot is being managed by Hrafn (the Norse word for raven, symbolizing the two birds of Odin), an RFID consultancy and the pilot's chief architect. The RFID infrastructure includes fixed readers provided by Impinj, antennas from Intermec and handheld readers supplied by Nordic ID, as well as Tag Acquisition Processor (TAP) middleware from Reva Systems. Hrafn is also hosting Electronic Produce Code Information Services (EPCIS) software used to store RFID data and make it available to supply chain participants, employing the open-source EPCIS software known as Fosstrak (see Open-Source EPCIS Catching On). Lexit Group is installing and integrating the hardware and providing software that links a user's back-end information, such as the order number and ship-to-location Global Location Number (GLN) code, with the pallets' tag ID numbers, while Telenor Ojects' Shepherd platform links data from read events to the EPCIS software, while also providing hardware monitoring by detecting errors such as connectivity problems with a reader or antennas out of service.

A prototype RFID reader portal designed by Hrafn
At present, approximately 150,000 of NLP's tagged plastic pallets are already in use by Norwegian FMCG companies, though until now, none have had the RFID infrastructure necessary to read the pallets' RFID tags. During the pilot, expected to run until May of this year, participating companies will track when the tagged pallets are packed, shipped, received at distribution centers and shipped again to retailers. All data is being shared between NLP and its supply chain partners, through the use of EPCIS software.

The participants hope the pilot technology will convince consumer goods companies that there is a business case for RFID. At that point, NLP will provide a standardized RFID infrastructure package suitable for any of the approximately 800 facilities in Norway's consumer goods supply chain, including warehouses, DCs and retail stores.

Within the next few years, NLP expects its pool of RFID-tagged plastic pallets and totes to grow to 6 million. Currently, the Norwegian FMCG market moves $28 billion annually on 7 million pallet trips, using a pool of approximately 1.8 million untagged wooden pallets. With plastic pallets, goods shipments will be lighter, and will thus require less fuel for transport. By using RFID tags, participants throughout the supply chain will be encouraged to track data regarding the products loaded onto the pallets. The pilot is intended to demonstrate that pallets can be read in real-world environments, and to prove the business case for tracking pallets as they are shipped or received. For pallet users, visibility helps to ensure that they not keep the pallets in storage any longer than necessary, thereby reducing their leasing fees.

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