Innovative spare parts logistics

A Finnish Revolution.

In 2013, a success story that now spans all of Finland began with a single spare parts container. It was the brainchild of Finnish company Trailcon, a distributor of spare parts for commercial vehicles and a BPW Group subsidiary.

Cooperation with BPW began as far back as 1983 and was taken to another level in 1985 when the company became a subsidiary of BPW. Alongside Trailcon, four other subsidiaries in Finland and the Baltic States with a total of 330 employees, 42 branch offices and three workshops are now united under the umbrella of BPW Kraatz Finance Oy.

Innovative spare parts logistics
Sometimes you have to turn the old-established upside down to give rise to something new.
BPW subsidiary Trailcon is bringing mobility to the warehouse.
BPW subsidiary Trailcon is bringing mobility to the warehouse.

Container with sophisticated concept

The idea for the mobile warehouse emerged in 2012 in response to the desire to develop a unique concept that optimises spare parts procurement and can be implemented in the immediate vicinity of the customer. From then on, everything went very quickly. “The first container was set up here within just six months,” reports managing director Hans-Peter Kraatz. A development team of four did a great job, equipping the prototype, codenamed Trailcont, with numerous extras to make it highly practical. For example, the container is fully insulated, features heating and air conditioning, and is completely sensor-controlled. Besides, adequate security is ensured by video monitoring. In case of fire or unauthorised access, the system immediately raises an alarm.

Member card for spare parts

The Trailcont is opened with a key card. Employees of workshops that have registered to use the container can access the warehouse around the clock. The Trailcont has enough room for 1,300 to 2,000 spare parts. The assortment varies, depending on customer requirements. More brakes or more wheel hubs – workshops can select their own range from 800 different part numbers. “In most cases, containers are used jointly by several workshops. If demand increases, further containers can easily be placed next to or on top of each other,” explains Hans-Peter Kraatz.

Automatic product identification

Use of the Trailcont is straightforward and self-explanatory. Inside, the warehouse and the packing area are separated by a sliding door. When users have taken what they need from the warehouse, they close the door and put their selection on the packing table, where all parts are scanned automatically. For this purpose, all items available in the Trailcont carry an RFID sticker that can be read by a radar scanner. In less than a second, the system registers all incoming and outgoing items and updates the inventory data in real time. A list of part numbers is shown on a touchscreen so that users can check and confirm the selection.

Simple in every direction

In the central office, every outgoing item is automatically registered as a repeat order, enabling the warehouse to be restocked the very next day. At the same time, the goods system sends an invoice to the workshop for the respective parts. All functions – up to invoicing – are based on the RFID tag, which gives every product its identity. A further advantage of the system is that Trailcont stocktaking is performed in a matter of seconds. The workshops are also impressed by the simplicity of the solution. In addition to the convenience of having the spare parts supply virtually next door, the time saving is an important consideration. Thanks to the Trailcont, long waiting periods – not uncommon particularly in rural areas – can be reduced to a minimum. Moreover, the Trailcont warehouse is also used by workshops nearby as it enables them to work outside of normal opening hours. This benefits end customers too. Today, 15 containers are in service across Finland, and the feedback from customers is positive. “The Trailcont helps to make the work routine of our customers significantly easier. This is appreciated, the workshops are enthusiastic,” says Joonas Kraatz, who in 2016 became managing director of Trailcon, which has been overseen by the same family for four generations.