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RFID Helps Milano Malpensa Airport to Complete Maintenance Work On Time

To make its repair and cleaning operations more efficient, the airport installed 50,000 tags to equipment and other objects, and issued RFID-enabled phones to all its maintenance workers.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 19, 2013

By applying Near Field Communication (NFC) tags to tens of thousands of items, and by equipping maintenance workers with NFC mobile phones, Italy's Milano Malpensa Airport reports that it has made the maintenance and repair of its facilities and equipment faster and more efficient. The airport installed the RFID-based solution to manage maintenance throughout its facility in 2012. Since then, says Stefano Dolci, Milano Malpensa's senior project leader, the airport automatically knows of every repair or maintenance request received—for everything from a lighting unit to an aircraft-boarding bridge—as well as its status at any given moment.

The solution, known as CAM (an acronym for Controllo delle Attività Manutentive, which translates to Maintenance Activities Control) was provided by RFID360, which supplied the airport with tags, as well as software to manage the collected read data. Since the deployment began a year ago, Malpensa has attached a total of 50,000 passive NFC RFID tags—one for every object or area that requires servicing, including fire extinguishers, electrical panels, bathrooms, moving walkways and elevators.

Milano Malpensa's Stefano Dolci

Like most airports, Malpensa has a complex environment in which thousands of service calls are placed annually, related to the repair, maintenance or replacements of equipment. In order to respond to those calls, the airport depends on an army of 600 workers, consisting of internal personnel and third-party service providers. Managing all of these workers and their assignments each day, Dolci says, is a monumental task.

The airport already uses RFID technology to automate its processing of baggage received by passengers and routed to the appropriate aircraft. The airport utilizes 1.3 million EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags each year on baggage, to automate this process and ensure that every bag is loaded onto the correct aircraft. By reading each bag's tag and linking that data to its assigned flight, Dolci explains, Malpensa has been able to eliminate manual labor previously required to make sure that bar-coded baggage tags were properly scanned, and that the luggage was routed accordingly while moving down conveyors. The RFID baggage-handling system was installed in 2007 (see Milan's Malpensa Airport Prepares for RFID Baggage Handling). Thanks to the system's 99.95 percent accurate read rate, Dolci says, "We don't need manual workers, and our mishandling rate is very low." Prior to the RFID system's installation, that rate was between 3 and 4 bags for every 10,000 handled—but with RFID, he reports, that rate is less than one bag per 10,000.

More recently, the airport decided that it would like to have an automated solution for managing its maintenance, repair and cleaning staff. With passive NFC HF RFID tags installed on equipment and other objects throughout the airport, staff members could use an NFC-enabled mobile phone or tablet to read the tags, thereby creating a record of which services are being provided, as well as any exceptions encountered (such as identifying another problem that must be addressed, or a part that needs to be ordered).

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