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Meggitt Polymers & Composites Uses RFID to Track Aircraft Components, Materials

The company's San Diego plant is employing a GlobeRanger RFID- and sensor-based solution to track the work-in-progress of engine components, and plans to use the system to automate mold press settings.
By Claire Swedberg

Workers are also using Zebra Technologies handheld readers to conduct audits if a question arises about the data provided by the fixed readers. Additionally, in the event of a quality issue related to a specific aircraft component being manufactured, personnel can use a handheld reader, in search mode, that acts like a Geiger counter to quickly locate and quarantine that item. This can be accomplished within a matter of minutes, Giles says, whereas manually searching for an item in the past could take several days.

Since the system was installed in May 2015, Giles reports, it has saved at least one hour daily in labor required to fill out paperwork, thus freeing up employees to work on the products themselves. "We generate a 'line of balance,' report that the value-stream [product] manager receives every day," he says. That data—which, according to Giles, includes the quantity of components currently in production, along with the stage of production for each individual component—can then be shared with the customer. After the system was first taken live, the company's management wanted to confirm the results manually, so as to ensure that they were correct. Since then, the firm has gained confidence that the RFID-based data is accurate.

MPC San Diego's Daron Giles
In the assembly area, a large screen displays data from the iMotion dashboard that indicates each part's location and status: red, green or yellow, based on how long a particular part remains at a given location, as well as its in-process time and overall age.

The company expects to use the RFID-based location data to better resolve bottlenecks in the future, now that the information is revealing where work might be backing up. Because of MPC San Diego's success with the RFID system for manufacturing the single JSF jet component, Giles says, the firm plans to expand the system's use to other products as well. It has gone live with three value streams so far, and is currently working on using the technology for two or three more. "The incremental cost of adding readers and antennas is relatively small," he states.

The next project, Giles says, is an integration of the WIP system with the operation of the oven and press machines. The iMotion software already collects each kit's temperature data and location, in order to monitor its temperature and determine how long it has been exposed to any specific temperature level.

Giles says he also envisions using the RFID solution to track the calibration of tools, automatically identifying when a tool is calibrated, based on an RFID read, and then alerting personnel when the next calibration is due.

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