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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.
Most passive tags could not be easily read through the pulp, according to Ville Kauppinen, Vilant's CEO, and initial read ranges were, at most, a half meter (1.6 feet). Working with numerous RFID tag vendors, Vilant found that several EPC Gen 2 passive UHF tags—specifically, Smartrac's DogBone tag and a custom-made model from Confidex—could be interrogated through pulp bails at a read range of up to 5 meters (16.4 feet).
After a new bale—which typically measures approximately 90 centimeters by 60 centimeters by 60 centimeters (35 inches by 24 inches by 24 inches)—is created as part of a wood pulp order, it passes down a conveyor belt. An Impinj Speedway Revolution R420 reader automatically encodes an RFID tag, which is then inserted into the bale. The Vilant software forwards that tag's ID number to Metsä Fibre's own management system, where it is linked with existing data regarding that bale, such as the type of pulp that it consists of. The Speedway Revolution readers come loaded with Vilant Engine software, which manages read data before forwarding it to the back-end system. Vilant's Device Manager software controls all of the interrogators, sharing read data with Metsä Fibre's own back-end software.
Bales are stacked in groupings of eight to form a shipping unit, and are tied together with wire before being transported by forklift into the warehouse to await shipment. The forklift is equipped with an onboard computer containing a Speedway Revolution reader that captures each bale tag's ID as soon as the shipping unit is lifted. Forklift operators can view which items they are picking up on a touchscreen, as well as input details into the system—such as which bales are being moved into storage, and which are bound for the loading dock for pickup. At the time of loading into a truck or a train, the shipping units are again identified by the forklift reader as each one is lifted. That information is compared with the order data, thereby verifying that the correct products are being shipped to the proper customer. If, at any time, the wrong bales are moved, or if any bales are about to be loaded onto the incorrect trailer, the back-end software will determine that mistake and display an alert on the back-end system for the forklift staff and management.
At the seaports (two are located in Finland, on the exporting side, and one is in Germany, where goods are received), members of the port operations staff employ forklift readers from Impinj, along with handheld models supplied by either Nordic ID or Motorola Solutions, to interrogate tags on pulp bales as they arrive or are placed onto a vessel. That data can then be shared with the Metsä Fibre Web-based software, in order to create an electronic record of what was received and then shipped out of each port.
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