Procurement of the Central Library Oodi’s internal logistics robotics solution – Case City of Helsinki



City of Helsinki

Object of procurement

Library automation and robotics solutions

Value of procurement


Objective of procurement

The objective is to acquire a robotics solution that enables the library’s internal logistics to be automated as far as possible. The automation of the internal logistics will liberate personnel resources to improve customer service and content production tasks. What’s more, automating heavy work stages will improve the employees’ well-being at work and ergonomics.

Parties and operators participating in procurement

In addition to the culture and leisure time experts of the City of Helsinki, a legal counsel and a head of procurement from Helsinki’s group administration also took part in the procurement.

Procurement procedure

Innovation partnership



Grounds for selecting innovation partnership

There were no ready-made solutions on the market to meet the library’s requirements. Thanks to the client and suppliers’ joint development enabled by the innovation partnership, it has been possible to make sure that the developed solution will meet the client’s requirements as much as possible.  The selected mode of procurement made it possible to support the companies’ development work and, that way, encourage the companies to invest in the development work.

Procurement preparations: identifying requirements

The willingness of the automation suppliers to develop solutions for the library that require a level of automation that clearly exceeds the normal was provisionally charted during the procurement preparation stage. Potential ideas for logistics automation were mapped by the means of market dialogue.

Invitation to tender for innovation partners: negotiation procedure

The procurement announcement was published on 19 May 2017; the preliminary invitation for tenders was announced on 19 May 2017; and the deadline for the preliminary tenders was set to 24 August 2017. Seven (7) preliminary tenders were received by the deadline. On the basis of the preliminary tenders, three (3) operators were selected. One round of negotiations was held with the three selected operators, with the purpose of finding an automation system that takes logistics work to a more advanced level and directing the work of employees to content and customer service work. All three (3) operators submitted a tender for the final invitation for tenders. The procurement decision was made on 19 September 2017.

Potential challenges

An investment should be made in the procurement preparations and dialogue by allocating both the client and supplier’s resources to the development stage. It is a good idea to prepare for unexpected delays during the development.


What was achieved?

The development work made it possible to fine tune the solution such that it will reliably and securely meet the library’s requirements.

The solution makes it possible to automate:

  • Book box changes for the sorting machine with 25 sorting targets
  • Book box transfer from the material handling facility in the basement to the customer premises on the second floor
  • Best-sellers shelving
  • Best-seller shelf transfer from the material handling facility in the basement to the customer premises on the first floor

Other significant benefits outside work automation include improved ergonomics as there is less lifting of heavy boxes and part of the material can be shelved by robotic arms.
Thanks to the solution, the saved human resources can be allocated to customer service and content production. The new tasks better correspond to the library employees’ skills. For its part, the solution enables better-functioning and more extensive library services.

Were the objectives reached? 

The system is going through the testing phase. The final results regarding the benefits provided by the system will be discovered during this year (2019).

What were the effects of the procurement? 

The procurement has made it possible for the supplier to invest more in product development.

The deployment of robotics in a public space enables library users to explore a new technology.

The development work has shown that autonomous mobile robots as well as the technologies used in them are at a satisfactory level so that they can be safely operated in the customer premises. Mobile robots have also proven that they can manage well also when the customer premises are busy. The project has also provided more information about the additional solutions needed for mobile robots in order for them to be safely operated on premises to which the public has free access.

How has the issue been monitored during the procurement agreement?

The solution’s prototype was tried and tested at the end of the development stage. During the deployment stage, functionalities linked to safety and functionality have been repeatedly tested and they will be tested further.


Procurer’s comment 

The procurement process provided valuable lessons. The project proved innovation partnership to be a functional way to improve development. In the project, the customer participated unusually actively in the development work.

Would you do something differently?

It would be a good idea to set maximum cost limits for the development stage.

Method sharing

In the light of the experiences gained from the project, it is fair to say that the customer and supplier’s joint development work yielded functional solutions that, on the one hand, take into account the customer’s needs and, on the other hand, promote the supplier’s business opportunities.