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Global Aviation Maintenance Company Tracks Tools via RFID

The system makes it easier for the firm to account for every tool, helping to eliminate the possibility of foreign object damage, and to manage the maintenance of the tools themselves.
By Claire Swedberg

The Dot-On is a circular tag measuring 6 millimeters (0.2 inch) in diameter and 2.5 millimeters (0.1 inch) in thickness, while the Dash-On's dimensions are 12 millimeters by 13 millimeters by 2.2 millimeters (0.5 inch by 0.5 inch by 0.09 inch). Both tags are designed for mounting directly on metal parts, says David Read, Xerafy's director of European sales, and can be embedded in a tool at the point of manufacture. For this deployment, however, the tags were all affixed to the tools' exterior, with each tag encoded with a unique ID number.

Every aircraft worker is assigned multiple tools for use on a day's project. At the start of a shift, an employee reads each worker's tool tags via a CAEN R12401 handheld UHF RFID reader that communicates with a laptop or tablet computer via a Bluetooth connection. The staff member also uses the ToolsCheck software running on the computer to store the bar-coded ID that is scanned from a worker's badge, and to input an ID corresponding to the task being performed that day.

The CAEN R12401 handheld UHF reader can communicate with a laptop or tablet computer via a Bluetooth connection.
All of those tag ID numbers are then stored in the NG Way software. If any tools are due for maintenance, an alert will appear on the screen and the worker will be denied use of that tool, which will then be taken to the company's maintenance department. A maintenance worker reads the tag ID via a CAEN RFID handheld, and then uses a computer linked to that handheld to input data on a laptop or tablet regarding work being performed on that tool. Once the maintenance work has been completed, the employee again reads the tool's ID and stores a record of the maintenance tasks completed, thereby enabling that asset to be reused for aircraft servicing.

Workers are expected to return all tools to their cases after using them. When a tool case is brought back to the crib, a staff member reads all of the tags. If the system determines that a tool is missing, a handheld reader can be set to Geiger mode, and an individual walks through the work site with the device, listening for a sound that indicates the reader has detected a signal transmitted by that tool's tag.

Thanks to the pilot, Poli reports, the MRO company has determined that the technology improves visibility and provides assurance that tools receive maintenance when they should—and do not end up missing—and now intends to expand the solution's use to other facilities. In the meantime, he says, NG Way and Xerafy are currently marketing the technology to other aircraft maintenance and manufacturing companies as well.

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