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Airbus to RFID-Tag and Track All Parts Made In-House

The initiative will use new hybrid RFID Integrated Nameplates created by Brady, Tego and Fujitsu.
By Claire Swedberg
May 05, 2014

Global aircraft company Airbus has moved forward with multiple radio frequency identification projects aimed at increasing the visibility of its parts worldwide, as well as tools and containers, both internally and externally. Last week, the firm announced the use of hybrid RFID Integrated Nameplates to supplement its standard, non-RFID nameplates. When attached to a part, the RFID version provides identifying information not only in text and bar-code form, but also by means of its passive EPC Gen 2 tag.

The company has also developed an RFID-based system that it calls the Smart Factory, for tracking tools, logistics media and wing-production processes. Currently, two Airbus plants—one in the United Kingdom, the other in France—are using the Smart Factory solution.

The RFID Integrated Nameplate provides identifying information not only in text and bar-code form, but also by means of its passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tag.
In addition, eight assembly sites for Airbus' A380 aircraft are slated to employ an RFID-based real-time automation system for tracking work-in-progress. The solution is expected to be taken live throughout this year, plant by plant. Carlo K. Nizam, Airbus' head of value chain visibility and RFID, described the rollout during a keynote address at the RFID Journal LIVE! 2014 conference and exhibition, held last month in Orlando, Fla. (see RFID Takes Airbus to New Heights of Efficiency, Part 1 and Part 2). The RFID system, known as Visibility of Industrial Processes (A380 VIP), was initially piloted at assembly plants in Hamburg, Germany; St. Nazauire, France; and Broughton, England. The second stage, now underway, involves the solution's installation at all eight sites.

Airbus' aircraft division (commercial and military) reported €42 billion ($58.2 billion) in revenue last year, with 18 worldwide sites for the design, manufacture and assembly of its aircraft. The company is developing and building multiple new aircraft models, including the A380, A350 XWB, A320 NEO, A400M and MRTT. Production-rate demands have been increasing for all aircraft, Nizam reports, and there is constant pressure for improvement and innovation in production. These demands—as well as the overall complexity of offering different products at multiple sites, within multiple countries—has led the company to research and test RFID solutions that might help it to increase visibility.

"Savings can come only from doing something different," Nizam told the audience at LIVE!, but to improve a process, the company needs to be able to identify where parts, tools and other assets are located, and when, and thus know what is happening at each assembly site. Therefore, he said, the firm has been using RFID to gain the visibility required to identify which steps in the process require improvement. Utilizing the technology in combination with software, Nizam explained, affords Airbus a potent continuous-improvement tool. Thanks to its use of RFID and bar-code technology, the company can now move away from a paper-based view of the supply chain to a digital view.

Airbus has established what it calls the Value Chain Visibility and Auto ID Program for nonflyable and flyable parts. As part of this program, Nizam said, the aircraft company has built a portfolio of next-generation RFID-enabled systems that the firm calls "Lighthouse" processes. Each Lighthouse process represents an application in which RFID is piloted, with a goal of developing a system deployable across multiple sites. "That's what we've been doing over years—developing a series of process modules, and copying and pasting them across the company," he stated, adding, "There is no one-size-fits-all solution. You need different tags on different objects for different processes."

USER COMMENTS

Marcia Simon 2014-06-03 09:38:20 AM
MAINtag is very happy to be part of this Airbus initiative.

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