Automated production, assembly and packing

Challenge

A need to constantly keep logistic and production costs down due to fierce competition in a consumer-driven market as well as increased competition related to digital learning and entertainment solutions.

Solutions

Production, assembly and packing processes have been automated. Secondly, Tactic has invested in a fully automated high bay warehouse to improve logistics. Lastly, Tactic develops digital apps as add-ons to their top brands. 

Costs

Tactic has invested approx. 5 million Euros in automation and digitalization.

Result

Digital apps and reduced production costs have had a positive economic impact on Tactic’s annual accounts. As a result, Tactic’s manufacturing remains in Finland as they have managed to increase productivity and lower production costs.

Introduction

Tactic Games Oy (Tactic) is a creator and producer of board games. Board games are Tactic’s core business, but they also sell outdoor games, and in 2012, Tactic took on the role of distributer for different brands of toys (their own and other companies’ toy brands) as well as a publisher of children’s books. Tactic’s headquarter, factory and logistics centre are situated in Pori, Finland. Tactic also has subsidiaries in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Poland, Netherlands, France, UK and USA and have importers in 80 countries.

The company was founded in 1967 in a garage in Pori under the name Nelostuote, when they released the board game Kimble, which is still one of Tactic’s top brands. In 1968, Tactic built a small manufacturing plant in Noormarkku, just outside of Pori. In 1991, Tactic moved to their current address in Pori and has expanded gradually ever since, including a 1,880 sqm. expansion of the production facilities in 2000, and another 2,000 sqm. extension of Tactic’s premises was completed in 2008. In 2011, the construction of new premises started in Pori. The continuous expansion of Tactic’s premises in Pori demonstrates the growth Tactic has experienced.

Though most manufacturing takes place in Pori, Tactic also has subcontractors and manufacturers in other European countries and in Asia, who supply Tactic products that are labour intensive.

Increased global competition – investing in the automation of production and logistics

Being a part of a very competitive international toy industry, coupled with a strong wish to keep production in Finland has forced Tactic be innovative – both in terms of product development and in order to keep logistic and production costs down.

“We [Tactic] need to be innovative as our competitors move their production to China, Russia and the Baltics. We decided not to move production away from Finland as we are patriotic. Besides, it is easier for management to control the processes when production takes place locally.”

- Markku Heljakka
CEO, Tactic Games Oy

Tactic started investing in the automation of their production of board games more than 10 years ago. Since then, Tactic has invested in automation several times. At first, Tactic invested in separate machines for boxing and packaging the board games. In 2006, Tactic started combining the machines into one line, including conveyers and automatic packing machines, and in 2010, Tactic added high speed robots to the line. In 2013, Tactic built a second line that was linked to the first, which consists of robots instead of automated machines. Tactic also connected the machines to the internet. For these investments, Tactic received financial support from the Finnish Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres), which supports and helps businesses in Finland.

Today, Tactic’s automated board game production and packaging process consists of five key steps. The five key steps are 1) printing machines, 2) gluing machines, 3) cutting machines, 4) an automatic assembly line consisting of robotic arms and conveyer belts, and 5) an automatic packaging machine and palletising system designed by the Finnish company Jomet. The latter step includes automatic conveying, packing of the board games in boxes by robotic arms and palletizing of the boxes by robotics. Total productivity has increased so that the labour cost per produced item is still on the same level as it was 10 years ago, even though the salaries of workers is on a totally different level.

“The main production of Tactic’s board games has always been in Finland and will stay, as long as I can see, in the future.”

- Markku Heljakka
CEO, Tactic Games Oy

Besides investing in the automation of production, Tactic is also investing in the automation of logistics in order to be able to act quickly when receiving orders from a customers.

“We are continually investing in new methods. For instance, right now, we are building a new, large storage facility, which is completely automated and robots will work 24 hours a day. The aim of these investments are to answer our challenges.”

- Markku Heljakka
CEO, Tactic Games Oy

The storage facility, which is being build next to their headquarters in Pori, is a new 26 m. high bay, unmanned automated warehousing system designed by Swisslog. The warehouse has a number of innovative features, including being remote-controlled through a Warehouse Management System (WHS). Secondly, a battery driven crane picks up pallets from the stacks and brings these to a conveyer by using satellite information. Thirdly, the warehouse is very energy efficient. There will not be much need for light as the warehouse is unmanned, it uses very little heating energy and there is no ventilation. The total investment, including building, is approximately 3 million Euros, which gives Tactic approx. 6,500 new pallet places.

Digital apps – an added value and increased awareness of the physical games

In addition to Tactic’s investments in the automation of manufacturing and logistics, increased competition as well as possibilities related to computer games and other digital learning and entertainment solutions has forced Tactic to look into digitization. Though board games are still the focal point of Tactic’s businesses, digitalization has become essential.

“We develop digital applications to add value to our board games and outdoor games as the digital applications add new elements, new features, etc. The other reason why we are looking into the digital world is that the smartphone is one of the most important things for most people. And if our games' digital applications are on their smartphones, it heightens brand engagement and brand-knowledge of our physical board games and outdoor games.”

- Olli Kivelä
COO, Tactic Games Oy

Today, Tactic aims to develop digital applications for its top brands in order to market, to increase awareness of and to add value to their board games (hybrid games).

The digital application ‘Mölkky Score Tracker’ has helped increase sales of Mölkky

Mölkky (www.molkky.com), which was launched in 1996 in Finland, is an outdoor throwing game. In Mölkky, the players use a wooden pin (also called "mölkky") to try to knock over wooden pins (also called "skittles"), which are marked with numbers from 1 to 12. Knocking over one pin scores the amount of points marked on the pin. Knocking 2 or more pins scores the number of pins knocked over.

When Mölkky became part of Tactic 5 years ago, less than 20.000 Mölkky games were sold annually. In order to increase sales, Tactic started to distribute the game to different countries and to promote the game on different platforms including on websites and social media (Youtube etc.). In addition, Tactic also developed a digital application – The Mölkky Score Tracker - which works as a score pad. The Mölkky score tracker allows one to create their own game, add players or teams, add pictures with the camera and keep track of a game's progress. The Mölkky Score Tracker has helped increase awareness of Mölkky. Today, Tactic sells approx. 500.000 Mölkky games per year and demand is higher than production capacity.

The Toy industry is a very relationship-driven industry and success relies on forming strong relationships with retailers, suppliers and other companies as well as developing popular products. Tactic has a well-developed network and is continuously interacting with their customers (importers, distributers and retailers) and consumers. As a producer and distributer of toys, it is very important to have one’s products listed by the retailers in order to be present in the shops. According to CEO Markku Heljakka, Tactic constantly strives to improve their customer- and consumer-service through establishing an electronic ordering system and web-shop for retailers.

“The purpose of these services are to be able to deliver our products on time, in the right order and to the right door, to suit the store's needs.”

- Markku Heljakka
CEO, Tactic Games Oy

The results: increased competitiveness and continuous manufacturing in Pori

According to Olli Kivelä, COO at Tactic Games, the automation of production, packaging and warehousing has first of all kept costs down, which has made it possible to keep the majority of production and logistics in Finland. Secondly, due to Tactic’s focus on constantly developing new products and refreshing their popular board games helped by digital applications and platforms, Tactic has managed to keep their leading position in the board game market in the Nordics and in the Baltics.

“Whether we make physical products or digital applications, there is one essential reason for why we're here and why we make and develop our products. We want to give people good, warm moments of togetherness, and create unforgettable gaming sessions.”

- Olli Kivelä
COO, Tactic Games Oy

Learning from experience, Tactic will continue to invest in the automation of production and logistics as well as digitalization in the coming years. The reason being, according to CEO Markku Heljakka, that if they do not invest in automation and digitalization, production costs will rise and Tactic will lose its position in the market.