Case: Metsä Board – Real-time asset tracking

Real-time asset tracking monitors transport conditions and the location of the shipment. Data and analytics generated by sensor monitoring is used to reduce losses. As a result costs are reduced and customer satisfaction improved.

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real-time asset tracking
Source: Metsä Board Corporation image bank

Metsä Board is a leading European producer of high-quality fresh fibre paperboards. The main applications of Metsä Board’s products are consumer goods packaging for food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and electronics, as well as retail-ready and food service applications. The company is actively working to develop new, more environmentally friendly packaging solutions and is a pioneer in responsibility in its field. Metsä Board’s customers are branded product manufacturers, processors and wholesalers. The products are delivered to about one hundred different countries.

An efficient supply chain is a prerequisite for profitable business

Because products are shipped around the world, supply chain efficiency is one of the basic prerequisites for a profitable business. In outsourced transport, shipments pass through several different operators and visibility throughout the supply chain is reduced. Improving supply chain efficiency is a challenge if only the information provided by transport and storage companies is available. With proprietary asset tracking, it is possible to collect the necessary data to help streamline the supply chain, find bottlenecks and identify problem areas.

Good visibility in the supply chain is important for estimating delivery times and monitoring transport conditions. In outsourced transportation, the purchaser’s visibility into the supply chain is most often limited to nodes such as the arrival of shipments at the terminal, and no information is available about events during the journey. Delivery times are long for worldwide shipments and there are several intermediate warehouses along the way. Therefore, real-time status can be difficult to assess and identify problem areas.

Increasing customer satisfaction

The quality of transportation has a major impact on both customer satisfaction and costs through both loss and delivery times. In order to achieve good customer satisfaction, timely delivery and good condition of arriving goods is important. Although the board usually withstands very long transport and different transport conditions, for example, too high humidity can wet the product. For this reason, it is important that the plastics that protect the packaging remain intact throughout transport.

Loss also increases costs. A broken shipment delays deliveries and causes extra work, thereby increasing costs for both the customer and the supplier. Lost value is not only the value of a damaged product, but costs are also accrued by increased workload and a impaired customer experience.

Real-time monitoring with sensors

The supply chain was examined as a whole, from the production plant to the customer. According to the shipments, reusable sensors were connected, which can be used to monitor the location of the shipment as well as the conditions during transport. Due to the challenging transport conditions, the long transport time, and the process of handling the shipments, the sensors selected required high temperature and humidity resistance as well as long battery life. Intel’s logistic sensors with a replaceable battery, which can withstand even harsh conditions, were selected as sensors. These sensors can withstand temperatures of 50 degrees, dust and high humidity for a longer period of time and have a battery life of about 200 days.

Once the functionality of the sensors was confirmed, the sheet pallets got on their way. The sensors were attached to sheet pallets and the conditions during transport could be immediately monitored in real time. The data quickly provided a good understanding of transportation routes, schedules, and conditions. The data showed e.g. the exact location of the transport with its times, the times and places of interim storage and changes in conditions during transport.

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Freigh data analytics

The primary purpose of freight monitoring was to improve the visibility of the supply chain and to identify areas where there was a risk of packaging breaking, thus reducing losses. The condition of the packages was checked at storage points along the way. Any broken packaging was repaired and the breakage was recorded in the system. This provided records of the locations and times of the breakages. This data, along with the data collected by the sensors, already helped to delineate the possible causes of the breakages.

To validate the results, an even more detailed analysis was performed based on the data obtained. The system was taught to identify the parameters that changed when the protective plastic broke. In this way, the time and location of the breakage could be accurately determined based on the transport conditions measured by the sensors. Once the problem is localized to a specific place and time, problems can be prevented in advance. In this way, the data effectively reduced losses and the benefits of the project were realized quickly.

Artificial intelligence and data analytics

Artificial intelligence was utilized in the analysis. With the help of artificial intelligence, the data analysis process could be automated. This speeded up the analysis process, reduced manual workload and kept analysis costs low. Especially in the laborious data preparation phase, where the raw data is transformed into a dataset, automation can significantly reduce the workload required for analysis.

In addition, artificial intelligence was used to make observations from the data that would have been easily overlooked by the human eye. In real-time monitoring, the sensors transmit values ​​of different quantities at short intervals, so that due to the large amount of data in a simple visualization, momentary deviations are easily hidden. Artificial intelligence is great for finding insights and formulas from a large amount of data. From the formulas identified in the data, predictions can be made, future problems can be anticipated, and efforts can be made to act proactively to eliminate the problems. Proactivity promotes supply chain efficiency and reduces losses.

Real-time monitoring reduces losses

Empirica’s real-time tracking of shipments and analysis of freight data enabled the accurately locating of packaging breakages and the immediate addressing of problems.

“The collaboration with Empirica worked well and we were able to figure out the stages of the route.”

– Leena Yliniemi, Product management director, Metsä Board

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