Enabling Automatic Inventory of Spare Parts with RFID
Valmet is the leading global developer and supplier of technologies, automation and services for the pulp, paper and energy industries. The company has over 200 years of industrial history and was reborn through the demerger of the pulp, paper and power businesses from Metso Group in December 2013. Valmet has 12,000 professionals around the world and net sales in 2014 were approximately EUR 2.5 billion.
Valmet’s services cover everything from maintenance outsourcing to mill and plant improvements and spare parts. The strong technology offering includes pulp mills, tissue, board and paper production lines, as well as power plants for bio-energy production. Valmet’s advanced automation solutions range from single measurements to mill wide turnkey automation projects.
Valmet paper has a consignment stock service for their paper mill customers to supply doctor blades, which are consumable spare parts for paper making machines. These blades are stored in customers’ warehouses around the world. Since the blades are crucial for the paper making process, Valmet needs to make sure that the stock levels are optimal in all locations and the customers do not run out of them. Keeping track of the inventory manually was time consuming and therefore expensive. A solution was needed to automate stock level reporting and make it an easier, faster, more efficient and more reliable service for customers. Valmet believed that an RFID based solution would help them achieve these benefits.
Vilant implemented an RFID solution for tracking doctor blades and their stock levels automatically. All blades are now tagged with UHF RFID labels and storage shelves are equipped with RFID readers. The readers are connected through GPRS mobile network to a centralized Vilant Server that reports existing stock levels in real time. With the implementation of this solution, Valmet was able to increase the accuracy of the blades available at the customers’ location, optimize the stock levels and reduced maintenance and logistics’ costs previously caused by manual inventory methods.
The system consists of dozens of automatic RFID warehouses in Europe and North America. Vilant took full responsibility of the implementation and carried out the rollout in cooperation with the customer. In addition, Vilant offers full hardware and software support.
The system includes the following aspects:
- Hardware – All doctor blades are tagged with 4×6” standard Gen2 UHF labels, encoded with GIAI. They are identified in the warehouses with Vilant RFID reader units. RFID tags are printed and encoded by an RFID printer (type: Printronix SL4M).
- Software – Vilant’s RFID client software is used on the readers to gather product information when a doctor blade has been removed or added to the shelves. All stock level information is synchronized between Vilant Client and Vilant Server software over GPRS/3G network. Stock level information is visible in real-time on Metso’s Extranet web page. Additionally, history and replenishment views provide information about the consumed blades and can be used for forecasting the blade consumption and production steering. The tracking of shipments from production unit has also real-time visibility.
- Installations were carried out by Vilant.
- Project management was also carried out by Vilant.
The new and improved version of blade inventory with RFID brings the following benefits:
- Efficient management – A single global solution, applicable everywhere and manageable online through a web interface.
- Savings in time and resources – It makes the process easier and efficient as a doctor blade can be identified based on RFID tag and inventory is automated through a central monitoring system.
- Improved customer service – Accurate and real-time monitoring of the stock levels reduces shortages and enables replenishment lead-time tracking from production.