Metsä Group is a world-leading producer of tissue and cooking papers, board, pulp, wood products as well as wood supply and forestry services. In 2011, the Group’s sales totaled EUR 5.3 billion with operations in some 30 countries.
Metsä Group’s high-quality products come mainly from renewable Nordic wood and wood fiber. The company has long traditions and strong know-how in all its core business areas and it is active in research and development in order to develop new products and to diversify the use of its current products. Furthermore, the Group tries to find new ways to use its wood raw material more efficiently. In this effort, Metsä Fibre – part of Metsä Group, was considering the implementation of RFID-based system. Through automation, this system would offer more efficient logistics’ processes and better customer service.
Metsä Fibre has a capacity of 2,4 million tons of pulp and delivers several different pulp grades and qualities to its customers globally. For Metsä Fibre’s customers, on-time delivery of the correct pulp product is a mission critical activity for continuous production. To ensure uninterrupted production, even in case of shipping errors, Metsä Fibre’s customers have had to keep buffer stock. Hence, a lower amount of shipping errors means a lower buffer stock needed and a more efficient supply chain overall. Metsä Fibre needed to improve the traceability of pulp units throughout the supply chain and reduce shipping errors. By implementing Vilant’s RFID solution, Metsä Fibre wished to not only improve the accuracy of the shipments, but also allow customers to trace material flow on arrival to customer mill sites.
The RFID system includes passive RFID tags, RFID readers, and RFID software. Each tag has a unique identification number encoded in them. At the Metsä Fibre pulp mills, RFID tags are encoded and automatically applied inside every pulp unit between bales. This equals 1 tag per each ton of pulp produced. The RFID tag contains the pulp unit’s grade name and production lot number. When scanned, the RFID tag discloses information to the reader. Tags may be scanned with forklift readers, gate readers or handheld readers at any point in the logistics chain.
Metsä Fibre uses passive RFID technology. The tags do not contain batteries; they use only the energy from signal of an RFID reader. The tags’ label paper and water-soluble adhesive dissolve in fiber pulping. Additionally, the materials in the RFID tag’s antenna and microchip have no impact on the frequency of deposits, holes or defects in paper and board.
Metsä Fibre’s RFID tags have been developed specifically for identifying pulp. Since the tags are not removed at any time after application, they must fully comply with the dirt count specifications and end-uses of the final products.
Vilant software connects fixed, forklift and handheld RFID readers to Metsä Fibre’s back end system. It offers global control for its RFID based logistics process. An entire shipment of RFID tagged pulp can be identified quickly and easily at close to 100% accuracy. The RFID reading is logged in Metsä Fibre’s database. This information is available through our extensive reporting tools. At ports and terminals, operators can use RFID for tracking shipments and identifying bales correctly.
The system consists of the following software:
- Vilant Engine – an embedded control software inside the reader that enhances the software functionality of off-the shelf RFID readers
- Vilant Device Manager – controls all readers and gives real-time information to Metsä Fibre’s backend system.
After extensive testing during both, the pilot and full production scale implementation, it was confirmed that the RFID tags do not affect the quality of the end product or the ongoing papermaking process.
Today, Vilant has already deployed RFID solution at four Metsä Fibre mills.
Results and Benefits
- Effective & reliable way to track pulp units generates significant savings in material flow management
- Enables close to 100% accuracy of identification
- Simplifies stock management & helps to avoid costly errors
- Improves labor efficiency as there is less manual work
- In-time delivery control & real-time shipment visibility
- Improves production planning & customer service.