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Metsa Fibre Boosts Accuracy, Speed of Wood-Pulp Shipments

The Finnish company has employed a UHF RFID solution from Vilant to track the locations of bales of pulp, from the point of manufacture to their delivery to a European paper mill.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 20, 2012Metsä Fibre, a Finnish producer of wood pulp used to manufacture paper and cardboard, reports that it has improved efficiency at its four mills, reduced shipping errors and increased the visibility of its goods within the supply chain, thanks to a newly deployed radio frequency identification system. The solution, provided by Vilant, was taken live in December 2011, following a pilot of the technology at Metsä Fibre's pulp mill in the city of Rauma. In January of this year, one of Metsä Fibre's customers—a paper mill—began reading the RFID tags in order to document the receipt of pulp shipments, as well as storing that data and sharing it with Metsä Fibre. Thanks to RFID readers installed on forklifts and at a conveyor portal, the company is afforded better data regarding where particular grades of pulp are located, without requiring its staff to manually write down serial numbers.

Metsä Fibre's four pulp mills produce a variety of pulp grades, which are formed into bales and are then shipped from Finland, typically via seagoing vessels, to paper mills and other customers throughout Europe and around the world. During that process, the bales may remain in storage prior to shipping, at Metsä's own mills and at port warehouses. Although the company produces more than 20 different grades of pulp, the bales can often look similar. Thus, the firm reports, ensuring that the correct bale is included in the proper shipment can be a labor-intensive process.

Metsä Fibre's Tarja Nousiainen
"Prior to the RFID installations, dispatching was based on visual identification at each storage point," says Tarja Nousiainen, Metsä Fibre's VP of key accounts and pulp supplies. This, she explains, was accomplished by printing serial numbers on the bales. "The problem was that these markings have not been very clear and readable. In addition, all the handlings and identifications, as well as reporting, have been based on manual data in each storage point on the way to the customer mills."

Metsä Fibre began looking into RFID solutions as early as 2005, but determined that using passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags in the presence of wood pulp would not be easy. The company selected Vilant because of its willingness to perform the necessary research and development to ensure that an RFID system would function within that environment.

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