VR Group offers travel, logistics and infrastructure engineering services. VR Transpoint is Finland’s leading transports & logistics service company with net sales €580.6 M in 2010 and 2600 employees. It operates in 10 European countries including Russia. VR Transpoint offers a wide range of high-quality and up-to date rail, groupage, bulk goods and international transports & logistics services.
In order to maintain its competitive advantage and achieve its growth targets, VR Transpoint faces a complex set of economic and operational challenges – for example, competitive freight pricing, maximizing asset utilization, as well as, controlling capital expenditure levels. Hence, better automation of its logistics processes using RFID technology was seen as an opportunity to help improve revenue growth and operational efficiency.
The RFID system needed to be accurate, resistant, reliable, and cost efficient. Vilant conducted surveys in different VR Group’s sites to identify how Vilant’s RFID solution for rail would be best implemented. Then, Vilant’s solution went through an extensive testing program with selected hardware and Vilant’s software. Vilant worked with VR Transpoint’s personnel to assure that the new system would work seamlessly in all identified applications. The system includes a set of integrated hardware and software:
- Ironside™, patent pending Gen2 UHF tags from Confidex were used. They give some of the best results on metal. Additionally, they provide low-cost passive RFID in a small sized tag and are very durable (IP68). Over 10 000 wagons and locomotives are tagged with Confidex Ironside.
- 300 handheld readers by Psion, Workabout PRO, are used by VR Transpoint staff to read and transfer the wagons’ RFID information to the backend. This is made available with user-friendly client software provided by Vilant. In addition, the GPRS based reader acts as a computer for exchanging tasks and other information from the back office to the field workers. Workabout PRO is a tough device that can withstand multiple drops from six feet to concrete and is IP65.
- Vilant Railroad Reader Units are built for specific needs of the rail industry. These fixed readers are capable of reading RFID tagged wagons on the move from several meters and giving real time information such as list of train wagons passing, their speed, direction and orientation.
- All the information from the readers is Centrally Managed and transferred to VR Transpoint’s backend system via Vilant’s Device Manager and Asset Tracking software.
1. More efficient asset pool management
The identification of all wagons and locomotives with RFID gives a complete and up-to-date inventory at all times. According to Mikko Särkkä, Head of IT Logistics at VR Transpoint, “Real-time monitoring and traceability of location and movement saves time and simplifies asset pool management, particularly in the rail yards.” The information exchange from the readers (handheld or fixed) to VR Transpoint’s computer systems is made automatically and therefore, the potential for errors from manual work is reduced.
2. Increased availability & productivity
More efficient asset pool administration can increase the utilization of wagons. As a result, also increase customer service performance.
3. Reduced operational costs
Previously, ground control and the control group passed on information about current work tasks and the tasks performed in fax receipts and a telephone. Now, there is an automated communication system. In addition, work instructions are also digitally delivered through the handheld devices for optimal timing. “Manual labor data processing is reduced, thereby reducing errors. Information can be passed quickly, and it can be transferred directly to the customers, “ says VR Transpoint Head of IT, Mikko Särkkä.
4. Added value business applications
For VR Transpoint this is however just the start as the new logistics system gives rise for several additional beneficial applications. Some of these applications include tracking of assets; integration with weighing of wagons; defect marking and tracking; as well as, several cargo customer services leading to a new level of services to VR Transpoint customers. VR Transpoint is already launching a few pilot projects where RFID system helps deliver information directly to VR Transpoint customers’ information systems in real time.