Autonomous Self-Service Markets with RFID

Material Procurement as a Service

Material Procurement Costs Reduced

The Finnish wholesaler, ProMart, supplies construction equipment and tools for the construction and shipbuilding industries. Its portfolio includes more than 20,000 products.

The company offers these online, via an app and, more recently, in unmanned self-service stores. These increase customer satisfaction, provide theft protection, automate replenishment management, and reduce costs. The core component is an RFID solution from Turck Vilant Systems.

Success Story powered by: the Think WIOT Group, ProMart and Turck Vilant Systems.


Material Procurement Costs for Construction and Shipbuilding Reduced

ProMart is a Finnish wholesaler of construction equipment and tools. Founded by Sampo Säily in 2009, the company's first customers were industrial companies in the Pirkanmaa region. In the second business year, Sampo's brother Ilkka Säily joined the company. He had close contacts in the construction industry. As a result, the focus shifted towards construction.

In 2019, the decision was made to offer automated stores. Today, ProMart supplies cdifferent manufacturing industries as well as construction companies.

The company operates exclusively in Finland. There are 5.5 million inhabitants living in an area of 340,000 km². The population density is one of the lowest in Europe. In sparsely populated areas, supply is more difficult. However, thanks to RFID technology, the company brings autonomous self-service stores close to customers. The stores are located directly on construction sites or in shipyards.

Unmanned stores have been around in Northern Europe for many years. The first unmanned store in Sweden opened in 2016, and during this time there were also many such stores in China and the USA. However, these did not meet customer requirements.

The challenge was to simplify the payment process, which is exactly what the RFID solution from Turck Vilant Systems does. With this solution, the new store concept was successfully implemented. The result is the EasyMart. This works according to the self-service concept. Payment is made automatically when shopping.

Material procurement for construction sites and shipyards is time-consuming and cost-intensive. ProMart handles this for customers and develops new business concepts for this purpose.


Construction and shipbuilding companies and their employees are ProMart's primary customers.

Hannu Pajula, Development Director


  • Year founded: 2009
  • Founder: Sampo Säily
  • Turnover: 27 million € (2021)
  • Employees: 82
  • Number of EasyMarts: Varies, but > 12

Self-Service Markets

EasyMart in the Turku shipyard

In November 2021, ProMart opened an EasyMart in the Turku shipyard in southwestern Finland.

Standard ISO shipping containers provide the space for the EasyMarts. ProMart sets these up on construction sites and in shipyards. The store itself has a modular design. It is divided into a shopping area and a collection area.

In the former, products are available. The latter is a modular chamber connected to the shopping area. The payment process takes place in the latter. RFID readers can be installed in both areas.

Depending on its size, an EasyMart has hundreds to thousands of RFID-tagged products. In total, ProMart sells over 20,000 items from various manufacturers as well as its own brand Kranit.

These include tools, construction equipment and accessories, fasteners, chemicals, and protective equipment. The company creates the store inventory of each EasyMart in consultation with customers.

EasyMart in the shipping container

The EasyMart in the shipping container is located directly on the shipyard premises.

There is a link between the point of sale and the merchandise management system. ProMart sets upper and lower limits for each product. Entries of purchased, rented or leased items in the inventory list are made automatically.

In the event of a product shortage, the system sends a warning. This triggers a replenishment order to the central warehouse. There, workers attach RFID tags to the goods. Weekly deliveries guarantee high product availability in the stores.

Did You Know?

Turck Vilant Systems has been supplying RFID solutions for self-service stores and warehouses for over a decade. The EasyMart is one of them.

Your contact: Jessica Säilä, Head of Marketing, Turck Vilant Systems!

Automated Shopping

Access to the EasyMart works by means of RFID. Customers identify themselves at the entrance with an RFID card and enter the shopping area. This opens a virtual shopping basket which is linked to the customer's company account. The system allows access to only one customer at a time.

The customer selects items to buy, lease or rent. He then enters the reading area with the products where he identifies himself again with the RFID card. He places the goods on a table. An RFID reader captures their unique IDs. The customer then leaves the store with the products. The system automatically settles the purchase with the linked company account.

"Ensuring the functionality of the reading area was the biggest challenge. The readers must only detect the selected products and for that customer only. Thus each EasyMart has a separate read zone that allows entry to a single person at the time. This way we ensure only their items are registered for their basket," emphasizes Jessica Säilä, Head of Marketing, Turck Vilant Systems. "Tests show that the system works one hundred percent."

The customer base in the shipbuilding and construction industry is increasingly using digital tools. In response to this, ProMart is also digitizing its services. A high level of user-friendliness is particularly important.

The subcontractors at Finnish construction sites and shipyards often include international companies, whose employees may not speak English or Finnish. Nevertheless, you can shop at EasyMart without having to know these languages.

The goal of ProMart is to simplify shopping. The payment process in particular should not require any special prior technological or linguistic knowledge.

Access via RFID card

Access via RFID card

Automatic capture of goods

Automatic capture of goods in the reading area

Tagged items

A selection of tagged items

Benefits of Autonomous Markets

In-store personnel are only required for replenishing goods

In-store personnel are only required for replenishing goods. Customers benefit from high product availability and easy shopping around the clock.

Improved customer satisfaction is the main benefit of the RFID solution. At the same time, ProMart is opening up new sales areas with the business concept.

An EasyMart can serve between ten and one hundred customers. It is also possible to set up an EasyMart for a single large customer. At shipyards, for example, an EasyMart can serve dozens of users. These benefit from the customized product range, high product availability around the clock, and the simple payment process.

Outsourcing materials procurement to ProMart also reduces costs for construction companies.

In addition, a certain percentage of healthcare workers face situational threats and verbal aggression. Most of these incidents originate from patients and visitors. Healthcare workers most affected by violence are those directly involved in patient care, such as nurses, emergency room staff, and paramedics.

The company has received positive feedback for the autonomous markets: "Customers are particularly enthusiastic about the user-friendliness. This is a good thing, because that was our goal. For this reason, we have decided to name our autonomous stores 'EasyMart'."

The establishment of an autonomous self-service market makes sense mainly for large companies due to the high investment costs. Construction sites and shipyards, where many companies have the same needs, benefit most from the EasyMart.

ProMart expands the sales area through the autonomous stores. The modular design allows them to be set up anywhere. Thanks to RFID, no staff is required at the stores. Only product labeling and replenishment require employees. The business model is profitable even with a small number of customers.

The EasyMart is one of three ways customers can shop at ProMart. A mobile shopping app and an online store complete the range of services. ProMart's development of the autonomous stores goes back to a specific customer request. In the meantime, the business concept has become an essential part of ProMart's omnichannel strategy.


RFID-Enabled Self-Service Concepts appeal to Customers Thanks to Autonomy

Jessica Säilä explains how autonomous markets with RFID, that are close to the customer, simplify material procurement for international construction projects.

Jessica Säilä is Head of Marketing at Turck Vilant Systems.

We knew that the solution had to enable a smooth payment process. To achieve this, the reading area must function without errors. We had to make sure that the read zone remains closed while the tags are being captured and that incorrect readings do not occur. We indicate this with a traffic light.

This way, all shoppers in the store know that they must wait for the lamp to turn green before they may enter the read zone. The solution overcomes all these challenges.

Barcode was another possibility. However, this technology is not as intuitive to use as RFID. This is an important difference. The users of our RFID store solutions are often international and lack a common language. RFID has two major benefits over barcodes: firstly it requires no action on the part of the user.

Secondly, it provides an element of security. The only way out of the store is through the read zone. It would be easy not to scan every item, but the RFID tag on all products carried by the customer is automatically scanned can captured by the readers. This ensures all items are registered as purchased.

Based on different user experiences from our RFID stores, I can also tell that they have minimal issues concerning loss. We believe it is because the users do not pay for the purchases from their own pockets. Billing is automatic, as their company gets invoiced for all purchases. This way, there is no element of personal gain, and forgetting to pay is impossible, as is theft.

ProMart studied the time it takes to procure materials for a company. They found that if two workers had to make three tours, each lasting an hour, the material procurement would cause hidden costs of 300 euros per tour, twice a week. This is based on average drive times to and from the construction sites of their customers.

Calculated over the year, the costs added up to 30,000 euros. With EasyMart, material procurement is far more time and cost efficient.

I would like to say yes to this question. However, the costs are still too high for the smallest companies. Replenishment costs add a percentage to the price of products in EasyMart. Large companies can offset these.

The same applies to construction sites or shipyards with several companies. They benefit from the EasyMart. Additionally, different VMI (vendor managed inventory) systems are getting more and more popular. It doesn't always need to be a full store. Smart cabinets and smart shelves can also solve part of this problem.

Customers really appreciate the simplicity. When everything works in Finland, customers tend to behave quietly. Quiet means that everyone is satisfied. Neither ProMart nor Turck Vilant Systems have heard any complaints. That's how we know that everything is running smoothly.

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