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2010 RFID Journal Award: Minera Norge Takes RFID to the Arctic Edge

In the land of the midnight sun, RFID never sleeps, as it streamlines year-round production and shipping at a Norwegian manufacturer's slate facility.
By John Edwards
Jun 01, 2010Minera Norge, a Norwegian company that manufactures slate tiles, blocks and related products for roofing, flooring and other applications, is breaking new ground in RFID by using the technology to track heavy, tough-to-move loads in one of the world's harshest weather environments. The company's main production site and 20,000-square-meter (215,280-square-foot) storage yard are in Oppdal, Norway, an alpine town that can make other frosty cities, such as Minneapolis and Juneau, seem almost tropical by comparison. "We work all winter," says Knut Fossum, the company's production manager. "Of course, it's not the best conditions to work in, but we manage."

The challenging setting, as well as more conventional business demands, created a simple need for Minera: to quickly and accurately track slate-bearing pallets at its production facility, in order to identify products in all weather conditions, view accurate stock inventory data in real time, speed production and shipping processes, and eliminate shipping errors caused by product misidentification.

The extreme environment doesn't tolerate basic technologies that may work perfectly in more benign climates. Any tracking system that could function in the yard would have been acceptable, but RFID proved to be the only technology fully suited for the task.

Breaking the Ice
Minera turned to ACT System Skandinavia, a technology solutions provider, for help in developing and deploying its identification and tracking infrastructure. "They started to look for bar codes, but we advised them to go for RFID," says Jan Erik Evanger, ACT's managing director.

Even so, not just any RFID technology would be acceptable. "The outside RFID equipment would have to work reliably in all weather conditions," Fossum says. "In the winter, the outside readers would have to read the pallets even if there was 1 meter [3.3 feet] of snow laying on them."
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