Spectator stands
Helsinki Opera
Finnish National Opera and Ballet

Interview on the subject of barcodes with Tapio Säkkinen and Kari Mokkila

Hello Mr. Säkkinen, hello Mr. Mokkila,

Today we want to talk about barcodes in theatre.
We have been in contact since 1993, at that time under the name “Theaterbaukasten Dresden”, and 30 years ago we also delivered modular stage material to you for the first time.
When I asked you a few weeks ago if our current delivery had arrived safely in Helsinki, you replied that everything had arrived safely, had already been barcoded and taken to the warehouse.

Barcodes??? That was the first time I heard about the use of a barcode system in theatre. 

It made me curious and I think the topic could also be interesting for many theatre professionals we are in contact with.
So I am glad that you are willing to share your experiences with us and I hope that we will gain new insights and knowledge.

Ventum-S Bühnentechnik
Barcode system helsinki

Mr. Säkkinen, Mr. Mokkila,
when you introduce something fundamentally new, it is often to solve a grievance or at least a problem.
Was that also the case with you in the run-up? What was the initial situation and when was that?

We have the sets for about 100 productions and 27,000 costumes in stock. Plus a large amount of small parts. The previous storage system was not able to manage this quantity of material in the desired quality. What is available and where it is located should be mapped as accurately as possible. In addition, the operation of the storage system should be simplified. To achieve this, we introduced a Trail Asset Management System, which also functions as a logistics system.

Trail is a system developed in Finland, originally for theatres. It is now used by many other organisations. We introduced it in a pilot project and have been developing it further together with Trail Systems since 2011.

We already know that our modular aluminium components are part of your barcode system. What other components are integrated into the barcode system?

We have integrated pretty much all the materials we use in the theatre into the barcode system. For example, all the sets, costumes and props, even the ballet shoes, and also the furniture of the opera house, the machines, etc. are integrated.

Can you briefly describe the systematics of your barcode system? I mean, how exactly can you determine the locations of the components? Who has access to the location data and where is it stored?

For sets, each working drawing of the set is provided with a barcode sticker, which is stuck on the set after it is completed. Completed sets are scanned onto a warehouse trolley by a mobile device, then the trolley is scanned onto its ‘parking space’ or onto a truck travelling to the warehouse. At the warehouse, the wagon is read in at its storage location.

The data can be accessed by means of all technicians via mobile phone. The transport orders run via the Trail programme. The transport order specifies a time window in which the goods must be at the opera house.  This allows for complete, timely and efficient loading. Situations in which only airfreight would help are thus avoided.

What hardware and software did you have to purchase?

We use the software “Trail Asset Management”.

If you want to know more about it, you can find more information under the following link:  https://trail.fi/

We have had good experiences with the software and have continuously developed and optimised the software together with the provider, so that our experiences have been incorporated into the product.

On the hardware side, we use standard PCs, Macs, mobile phones or handheld devices as well as various barcode printers.

How long did it take from the first thoughts to the implementation and what difficulties did you encounter?

It took some time from the first thoughts to the implementation. In addition, we made the first attempt with a software for the retail trade. However, this proved to be too complex and thus too cumbersome.  As a result, we switched to the Trail software, which we work with today. The whole process took a few years.

Where there any reservations among the staff when the new system was introduced?

Everything that is newly introduced takes time. The staff have to accept the new system and learn to appreciate it.  But now everything works smoothly. The staff see the advantages of the system and enjoy working with it.

Have the hopes you placed in the barcode system at the beginning been confirmed?

On the whole, everything works very well and we have achieved our goals in this area. The management of materials is much faster than before and the overview is much better than it would ever have been possible with traditional systems. Of course, there is always room for improvement and we are constantly working on that.

Are there things you would do differently today?

For the VENTUM-S parts, we made each individual part its own idiviuum.It would have been better to manage the total number of standard parts. So, for example, 5 pieces of alumimium practical 1m x 1m x 1m.  This would allow us to see more easily how many pieces of a particular standard part are available. So now we have each of the aforementioned Praktikabel recorded individually, which is only the second best solution.

Did you reach what you wanted, or are there plans to expand or optimise the whole thing even further?

The development together with Trail Systems is an ongoing process. It will probably never be finished because of the changing requirements and because there are always new ideas for further optimisation.

However, we have already reached a level that makes our work much easier and gives us a good overview of the number and location of the materials.

Is there perhaps a step-by-step plan that you would recommend, or is it better to get started right away?

It is better to start right away. Step by step would mean running several storage systems side by side for a while. I can only advise against that. Many theatres use Trail and a beginner will certainly get good advice from colleagues. Gladly also from us.

Can we arrange a Zoom session where interested parties can ask you specific questions about the barcode system?

We can arrange a zoom session through VENTUM-S, where we will be happy to answer any questions the participants may have.

Mr. Säkkinnen, Mr. Mokkila,, thank you very much for your time and your willingness to share your knowledge with our partners and customers.
Have a great day and continued success with the Bardcode system.

Remark: If you are interested in this topic and the above mentioned zoom date, please contact us. We will then organise a date.

Dear customers, partners and friends,

Our next workshop will take place in Dresden on 24 November.
In addition to the familiar topics (turntable, stage system and Mecanum stage wagon), this time our new developments, lifting equipment and slope adapters, will also be the subject of the workshop.

Tel. +49 351 49 40 359 or info@ventum-s.com

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