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RFID 24-7 $1M-A-DAY CHALLENGE DAY 10: Airbus ($3-4M)

Sector: Aerospace

Savings: $3-4 million

Airbus has always been a leader when it comes to RFID innovation. As of last year,  Airbus has deployed nearly 20 industrial projects in the “non-flyable” category, ranging from warehouse logistics to tooling management and work-in-progress tracking.

According to a recent issue of Fast 47 magazine, which is produced by Airbus and distributed to its suppliers and airline partners, all of the projects have shown “very strong financial benefits in the order of millions of Euros per year.” (We’re guessing that the actual figure is likely 10 times higher across all Airbus operations using RFID.) In most cases, pay back periods are less than one year, with the most notable benefits being a higher level of automation including a reduction in inventory and capital assets, improved productivity and quality.

Here is an excerpt from the article in Fast 47 magazine:

The results from an opportunity and pilot analysis across a range of in-service processes with key airlines and MRO partners were found to be better than expected. All the projects had a payback period of less than 12 months with medium to strong savings. But one of the critical enablers for these savings was the high memory UHF (Ultra-High Frequency) passive RFID tags on parts.

As a result of this analysis, Airbus became the first aircraft manufacturer to request its suppliers to add permanent RFID tags to approximately 3,000 parts on each of its new A350 XWB aircraft. These RFID tags are designed to remain with the parts throughout their entire lifecycle, in order to enable process automation and enhance the process visibility for airlines, suppliers and MRO organizations.

For example, consider the line side maintenance domain. When a mechanic replaces a faulty unit with a replacement unit, he will be able to digitally scan the faulty and replacement units in order to complete his work order via a mobile RFID handheld reader. He will also be able to remotely upload this information into his Maintenance Information System (MIS) without the need to fill in any paperwork and later type it into his MIS. As a result, the overall process is much faster, the quality of data in the databases significantly improved and there is less administrative work

As previously reported in RFID 24-7, RFID has been deployed at several Airbus locations in Europe. 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 Carlo Nizam, Head of Value Chain Visibility and Auto-ID Program Airbus Information, Communication & Technology.

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.

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