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Rolls-Royce Tests RFID's Potential to Drive Its Supply Chain
The U.K. engines manufacturer is exploring ways RFID might be used to improve its internal processes.
Nov 20, 2007—Rolls-Royce, a manufacturer of gas turbines, engines and parts used in aircraft, ships and submarines worldwide, has been testing RFID for use in tracking its internal supply chain. Ultimately, the company hopes to determine whether the technology can be utilized across its entire operation, to cut costs and improve its logistics operations.
Headquartered in London, Rolls-Royce is exploring how RFID might help it refine the complicated processes it relies on to build and service engines and parts, says Andy Higginson, logistics service line manager at the company's defense aerospace division, and to make those processes easier to monitor. Specifically, the manufacturer is interested in documenting, in real time, aspects of its operations that could potentially hurt production. "RFID can show us where problems are in advance," Higginson explains, "to help us manage the problems."
A Rolls-Royce RFID project team first performed a technical assessment with help from IBM. "We were looking for the place where we could get the best bang for our buck," Higginson says, adding that the company wanted to define its information requirements so it would not be overwhelmed with data collected via RFID.
Once the information requirements were established, Rolls-Royce tested RFID hardware from six vendors—including nine passive and four active RFID tags and interrogators—at its facilities in Derby and Bristol, the headquarters of its defense aerospace division. Rolls-Royce preferred not to purchase equipment off the shelf without first testing it, or to hire a systems integrator. "This was about being on a journey to educate ourselves," he recalls.
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