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KLM Maintenance Cuts Parts' Packaging Costs With RFID

Working with packaging supplier Nefab, the MRO provider is tracking cases and boxes used to transport airplane parts to and from customers, lowering packaging costs by 50 percent.
By Mark Roberti

Nefab affixes the tags—most of which are reusable—to the packaging and maintains a database of parts and the type of packaging each part requires, as well as the packaging's location (prior to using RFID, Nefab's and KLM's workers had to spend a lot of time searching for packaging for a specific part). Now, readers set up throughout the areas where packaging is stored read tags and provide accurate inventory data on which packages are at specific locations, thereby making it easier to find what is needed.

The system is virtually 100 percent hands-free and can be paperless. So KLM E&M's employees no longer need to manually record when packages arrive. The Web-based APIS solution allows KLM's managers to log in and determine what packages were shipped, where they were delivered and when they were received. The system also tracks packaging that has been used, is no longer needed and has been sent back to Nefab, which puts some packages back into storage for eventual reuse, sends some for repairs and discards packaging that cannot be reused. The APIS solution also provides statistics regarding the number of cycles that a particular package has undergone.

Each piece of special packaging is fitted with an Omni-ID Power 50 BAP tag—which, Omni-ID says, offers a read range of up to 50 meters in BAP mode, or 7 meters in passive mode.
"We can track and trace the location of equipment and are in the process of preparing our products and process with RFID," says Jos de Kleine, KLM Engineering & Maintenance's logistic development manager for the Netherlands. "The system gives workers all the information included on the paperwork, which eventually gave us quicker processes and thus savings."

Jos de Kleine, KLM E&M's logistic development manager
The system reduced the cost of packaging by 50 percent, de Kleine reports, and delivered better insights into the other 50 percent of the costs. It enabled KLM to standardize its packaging and set up key performance indicators with suppliers so their performance can be measured.

KLM's goal is to use the RFID system to reduce operational costs by at least 25 percent, decrease the number of parts held in inventory and lower throughput times. To accomplish that goal, the firm plans to streamline processes using the APIS solution. It will integrate the RFID data with its SAP and maintenance systems. In addition, KLM E&M is working with several airline customers to encourage them to install RFID readers, so that the system can track when packaging has arrived from KLM or been shipped back to the MRO provider.

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