Aircraft manufacturers are starting to receive more and more parts tagged with RFID technology as suppliers meet ATA Spec 2000 requirements.
Survitec Group, a manufacturer of safety and survival equipment for the aviation and defense industries, has started shipping RFID-tagged life vests to Airbus to comply with the aircraft manufacturer’s RFID mandate. Survitec sent its first shipment of tagged life vests in late August.
Survitec has a capacity to manufacture up to 2,000 life vests per week at its facility in Belfast, Ireland. While only a portion of that product goes to Airbus, the company has decided to tag all of the life vests that it produces.
Airbus announced in 2012 that it will require all life vest suppliers to comply with the dual-memory tag criteria outlined by the ATA Spec 2000 committee.
David Stelling, aviation sales manager at Survitec, says he expects Boeing to request RFID-tagged life vests in the near future. In the meantime, each life vest that Survitec ships to Boeing will already carry an RFID tag, making the company instantly compliant with any future RFID mandate delivered by Boeing.
“Everything needs to have RFID on it that we deliver to Airbus, so we made a tactical decision to tag all of our life vests to make life slightly easier for ourselves,” says Stelling. “Even though not all of our life vests go to Airbus (some are shipped to Boeing and others go to aircraft suppliers or are shipped directly to end users) we made the decision to put RFID in all of our life vests in the interest of simplicity.
“To have some life vests with RFID and some without would have meant creating new part numbers and a lot of changes for us and required the airlines to change the part numbers that already exist in all sorts of places. That would have required a lot of work, so it was easier to tag all of the vests.”
Survitec is one of the first suppliers to deliver tagged life vests compliant with the latest 2013 version of ATA Spec 2000, including the new dual-record data format now required by aviation companies. The company is using Waltham, Mass.-based Tego, a developer of high-memory RFID chips, tags and software for creating smart assets, as its RFID solution provider.
“Tego has substantial experience working in the aviation industry, including with some of Survitec’s major customers,” says Stelling. “This initiative will ensure our customers can accurately record maintenance dates and track asset management data. Operators will be able to rapidly check important information on installed life vests including part number and date of manufacture without the labor intense task of inspecting under each seat.”
Survitec Group also manufacturers multi-seat life rafts for the aerospace industry, including Eurocopter and Sikorsky. Stelling says that although Survitec has not received RFID mandates yet from those customers, he fully expects to. Many of Survitec’s customers have tens of thousands of life rafts in inventory around the globe, making them ideal candidates for RFID.
“We are hopefully future-proofed on RFID for the foreseeable future,” says Stelling.
Survitec also plans to start using RFID within its own manufacturing plants to keep track of inventory as it passes through the supply chain and for asset management purposes.
“Its early days but the feedback has been really good from our production engineering team,” says Stelling. “They are now thinking about where else this could be used and what other benefits we can derive from tagging. Now that we have the infrastructure up and running and understand the hardware and software and the process of tagging items, I definitely expect RFID to be used throughout that facility.”
MAINtag, a provider of aerospace flyable RFID chips and tags, has also announced that it is providing EAM Worldwide and its EAM RFID Solutions division with FLYtag® fiber dual RFID tags for life vests. EAM’s first delivery of life vests with dual-memory tags is for Airbus A320 aircraft owned by European airline easyJet.
“The single-record format efficiently pulls relevant electronic data from a vest, such as manufacturer CAGE code, serial number, part number, date of manufacture and expiration date,” says Alexis Beurdeley, vice president of Atlanta-based MAINtag, Inc.
“Dual-record tags extend that capacity to data renewal along the life cycle of the part. FLYtag fiber dual allows crews to track presence and expiration of life vests and other inflatable parts in a matter of minutes instead of hours.”