RFID Talk Blog

Airbus outlines process improvements from RFID

Carlo Nizam, head of value chain visibility and RFID for Airbus, provided updates on several RFID initiatives at today’s general session at RFID Live. RFID has greatly helped Airbus at several of its European operations. In Hamburg, Germany, Airbus turned to RFID to keep track of 800 container shipments. Airbus utilizes just-in-time manufacturing, so there is typically little or no reserve stock for many parts.

“We needed to make sure each container was delivered to the right place, the first time and every time,” said Nizam. By using RFID and installing 100 readers at the facility, Airbus was able to reduce the number of containers by eight percent. “That pays for the project and puts money back in our pockets as well,” said Nizam.

Airbus is also using RFID to provide visibility for tool management. The manufacturer uses more than 500,000 tools company wide, and each tool is required to be booked-in and booked-out when in use. Lost tools need to be hunted down, often a laborious process. In addition, tools need to be repaired and calibrated, which is done manually with bar codes.

“Visibility is not reliable and we don’t know how many times a certain tool has been used from a calibration standpoint,” said Nizam. “So we repair them every four months regardless of how often they are used, and that costs lot of money. Using RFID allows us to book-in and book-out tools and to use more of a fixed time basis for repair and calibration based on a usage basis.”

The solution, which helps to manage the mandated tool maintenance schedule, was initially used to tag tens of thousands of tools at an Airbus plant in the UK, and is now being duplicated at plants around the world.

Nizam said Airbus’ most exciting RFID project centers around using active ultra wideband RFID technology to track work in progress at plants around the world.

“We want a real-time view of our work in progress across multiple sites across the world,” he said. To achieve that, Airbus is adding active tags onto major component assemblies. By knowing where components are at all times, Airbus can quickly track work in progress and measure delivery needs for each plant in real time.

“By having all this information we can compare it against the targets we set in our software programs,” said Nizam. “Should there be too much inventory or a process violation, it is flagged in real time.”

The system is not complete yet, but is on target to be live in June.

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