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News

Study Indicates RFID Required to Enhance Freight Traffic between Finland and Russia

VTT Technical Research Centre : 04 May, 2010  (Technical Article)
Electronic messaging and RFID based automatic freight wagon identification brings significant improvements to the transportation of goods between Russia and neighbouring Finland
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has been studying freight traffic between Russia and Finland. The results indicate that the improvement of freight traffic requires the development of logistics information processes and an increased degree of automation. The introduction of RFID remote identifier systems would benefit the entire supply chain, customers, and also the work of authorities at the border between the two countries. Development will require cooperation and agreement on the use of various different standards and applications.

The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland's pilot project surveyed and studied various different possibilities and alternatives for the exploitation of electronic systems and messages between a Finnish timber company and a Russian logistics operator. The aim of the study was to develop the shifting of transport information to an electronic basis. Also under investigation was an automatic railway wagon identification system for transport between Russia and Finland.

The study described the electronic messages relating to one transportation order and its confirmation. In the survey work, it was observed that the exchange of messages relating to freight transport still entails the manual input and receipt of information, and that communication relating to logistics often takes place by e-mail, phone and fax.

In logistics, the benefits obtained from the automation of processes relating to data collection, transmission and recording are significant. Electronically produced, reliable information can be used for many different purposes in logistics management. The introduction of RFID technology (RFID, Radio Frequency Identification) facilitates the steering of freight flows and traffic. The information obtained by this technology is real-time, and processes can be followed on an information network and on various mobile devices. The degree of utilisation of the available stock and infrastructure can be more effectively monitored. The transparency of the information obtained by the technology increases reliability. Advantages are also obtained in reliability of delivery and inventory control. The technology also serves organisations which use shipments, operators, and also officials and customers. The benefits obtained by RFID technology are significant throughout the entire supply chain.

Several major global companies are migrating to remote identification technology which is based on RFID identifiers in the identification of freight units. The positioning of the transport unit may be based on satellite positioning (GPS), internet positioning, WLAN positioning, or on a combination of these. In the USA, the remote identification of wagons in the rail sector has already been in use for 20 years. In Finland, the same technology is in use at the harbour gates of Mussalo (Kotka) and Vuosaari (Helsinki).

One application based on RFID technology which is in use is the electronic seal. This is a unit integrated into a normal mechanical seal, which reveals any breaking of the seal and penetration of the transport unit by communicating electronically with a reader device. The aim of these solutions is to produce up-to-date vehicle and wagon identification data, which can be used in various operational systems.

The electronic data transfer between various logistics actors requires agreement on common standards. Jarkko Lehtinen, a research scientist at VTT, states that major global companies in Russia, Finland and elsewhere in Europe already have working automation systems in place. Thus it is not a case of any technical problem; rather, the problem lies in how to get these systems to talk to one another. Cooperation needs to be improved.

Automation requires a common understanding between the different parties regarding standards, the information technology platform, and the ability to read identifiers which accord with different standards. The development of remote identification of railway wagons between Finland and Russia requires a RFID forum with the Russian players.
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