It started small-scale, just like any other project. Today, the Swedish Transport Agency and LearningWell’s work has won awards worldwide, and has become a de facto standard for the European rail network. SCA has now taken over the baton, while other actors in the forestry industry applaud the project enthusiastically.
The Swedish Transport Agency had an idea. If Sweden’s freight train rolling stock were fitted with RFID tags, all stakeholders would benefit. The advantage for the Agency was the contribution the technology could make to lowering maintenance costs for track and rolling stock. Furthermore, healthy profits beckoned for freight customers. If they were able to continually monitor where their wagons were, and what goods they were transporting, they could save valuable time on loading and deliveries.
Initial testing showed that accurate timing to final destinations, and concise information about trains’ wagon order could save freight operators an hour’s work during unloading.
“When we were appointed as strategic advisors at the end of 2008, we could see that the Swedish Transport Agency had a great idea, but that they had missed some basic points,” says Gunnar Ivansson, who has been LearningWell’s RFID expert on the project ever since. “We quickly concluded that they should expand their horizons beyond Sweden’s borders because the majority of freight traffic in Sweden originates from the continent.”
SCA heads development of forestry-Sweden
Lars Jonsson at SCA says that he came across the Agency’s project by chance. SCA had carried out its own tests, but had not yet identified a satisfactory solution. When he heard about the new system, he immediately called to find out more about it.
He explains that the project SCA now runs together with LearningWell is widely talked about in the Swedish forestry sector, and that there is a great deal of interest in how the project will perform.
“The entire sector is focused on making time savings, and it’s in this area that the solution will save substantial sums of money when it’s fully implemented.”
All actors in the forestry sector face a common problem. A key challenge is keeping track of information about timber, from felling to delivery to customers. With the system SCA and LearningWell are now building, the expectation is to improve quality and secure virtually all information, even at terminals that store up to 100,000 cubic metres of timber.
“Naturally, I’m proud that we’re driving this initiative,” says Jonsson. “I like that LearningWell is hands-on, and very easy to work with. Whenever we make a decision and start something, everything goes very quickly. They’re focused on solving issues for us here and now, rather than coming up with something that works in 10 years’ time.”
A multi-award winning project
In comparison to rival solutions, RFID tags are easier to use and cheaper. Reading is automatic and works even when trains are travelling at high speeds. Furthermore, it has become a de facto standard for rail networks across Europe.
There are currently some 330 RFID readers installed in Sweden and around 4,000 wagons that use the technology. This means that around a quarter of Sweden’s freight rolling stock are fitted with RFID and can be tracked all over the country. The Swedish Transport Agency and goods shippers across Europe see considerable advantages with the project. Evaluations are currently underway to also use the system on trucks.
To date, the solution has won the Golden Tag and the Mini Tag at the European Tag Awards. The Mini Tag went specifically to LearningWell for “significantly contributing to the successes” of the project. Prior to this, the system won the global standardisation organisation GS1’s prize for the world’s top project – all categories. And it was one of three finalists in the RFID Journal Award Best Implementation category.
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Katarina Brunsson, CEO West
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