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FREDA case - Lithuanian furniture maker optimizes just-in-time manufacturing with RFID

SC Freda is one of Lithuania’s oldest and largest furniture manufacturers, with a history dating back to 1880.

SC Freda is one of Lithuania's oldest and largest furniture manufacturers, with a history dating back to 1880. The Kaunas-based company produces wood furniture, notably for Swedish global retailer IKEA, including cabinets, dressers and tables for household use. SC Freda ships high volumes of furniture-typically 10,000 pallets of furniture per month, or 15 to 20 truckloads every day.

In August 2010, SC Freda implemented an RFID system designed to increase the accuracy of furniture shipments, and to heighten the efficiency of warehousing and truck loading. Freda management chose Lithuanian technology integrator Autepra to provide the RFID solution, which consists of installed RFID readers, passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tags, Nordic ID PL3000 mobile computers and truck- and forklift-based systems. 

The new RFID process replaces the former paper-based system whereby a sticker was manually affixed to finished products and then taken off as products were loaded onto trucks. The old system allowed management to keep track of quantities and types of products shipped, but was time-consuming and prone to human error.

With the RFID system, finished products are transported from the factory to a warehouse by conveyor and forklift, with one quick stop for packaging. As goods are packaged, RFID tags are applied, recording the type of furniture, time and date of manufacture. Each time that a tag ID is generated and encoded, the data is added to SC Freda's ERP system.

When a truck is loaded, the forklift operator fills orders based on the list of all required items displayed on the screen of his vehicle's on-board computer. As the forklift passes through the RFID portal of the loading dock, an installed RFID reader compares tag information against the order to be filled in Freda's ERP system. The forklift computer is then updated, displaying loaded items in green, or issues an alert if the wrong item is loaded. In this way, mistakes are caught before the truck is full. And if staff needs to locate specific pieces of furniture within the warehouse, they make use of a Nordic ID PL3000 to find them.  With a reading range of 1.6 metres, fast scanning and ultra-long battery life, the Nordic ID PL3000 makes locating products simple and efficient. Once a truck is fully loaded, the forklift computer sends the driver a confirmation, and the truck departs. When goods are received at the other end, retail staff scans the barcodes supplied as part of the RFID tags.

To date, Virginijus Brundza, Production Manager at SC Freda, is quite pleased with results. "This RFID solution has provided us with a new, cost-efficient tool to grow our business," says Brundza. "We've achieved a completely new level of transparency and automation in our manufacturing logistics."

Brundza found that the RFID system eliminates human error and also enables administrators to track precisely when items are produced and shipped out, giving them detailed knowledge of the timing required for specific types of products to be manufactured. This knowledge is particularly crucial for SC Freda because of the high daily production volumes involved and the warehouse room available. Space is limited, so just-in-time production is a critical part of SC Freda's business model.

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