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Turkish Technic Uses RFID, ZigBee and Other Auto-ID Technologies to Improve Efficiency

The system helps Turkish Airlines' maintenance, repair and overhaul division to identify and manage the movements of aircraft, components, tools, technicians and vehicles as the planes are serviced and maintained.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 02, 2015

Turkish Technic, the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) arm of Turkish Airlines, has boosted the efficiency of personnel and tool usage, while reducing unused inventory stock, thanks to a complex network of automatic-identification technologies that includes passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags. When the company first began seeking a technology-based solution that could improve overall worksite management, it found that its needs for better tracking of tools, inventory, technicians and work-in-progress (WIP) would require a hybrid approach.

The solution that Turkish Technic has developed and implemented, throughout the course of about three years, includes not only EPC Gen 2 RFID tags, but also active sensors based on the ZigBee protocol, along with Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting Systems (ACARS) and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) wireless technologies, which are used to transmit information regarding an aircraft's location and its equipment's status. Data culled from the network of sensors, tags, readers and navigation technology is managed on a single software platform, enabling the company to track individuals, assets and WIP at its MRO facilities. The company reports that the system boosts the level of productive work that employees carry out, as well as the use of resources, and enables just-in-time inventory ordering to reduce the cost of storing inventory onsite. Installation commenced in April 2012.

Approximately 5,000 tools, toolboxes and test equipment items, as well as the shelving on which they are stored, have been fitted with passive UHF tags. Each rack is marked by a tag so that the toolboxes can be associated with their rack locations.
Turkish Technic operates MRO facilities at several locations at Istanbul Ataturk Airport, where its primary purpose is to provide maintenance services to its parent company's fleet of planes. However, the firm also provides maintenance services to other major airlines and cargo planes operating in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Services include the maintenance and repair of engines, auxiliary power units (APUs), landing gear and other components. The company employs 2,500 workers and has four hangars (with space for up to 22 aircraft altogether) in which planes are serviced.

The company has been developing the solution—which it calls Networked Maintenance Repair and Overhaul—to better manage its maintenance resources. These consist of technicians, tools, parts and inventory, small vehicles and other ground services equipment, individual hangars and the airplanes themselves. "The overall performance of the MRO operations depends on how efficiently we use the resources that are available to us," says Orkun Hasekioglu, Turkish Technic's research and development project manager, who will describe the installation in detail during a presentation at this year's RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, being held in San Diego, Calif., on Apr. 15-17. However, he adds, without proper tracking, measurement and control of the resources, and their locations and status, effective resource management is impossible.

Inefficiency is among the main challenges that the system targets. Prior to launching the solution, the company found that a large percentage of a technician's time was consumed by searching for parts and documents, as well as locating and retrieving ground services equipment. When it came to inventory management, Turkish Technic had an average overstock of parts valued at $2.5 million.

The company learned that there was no single technology it could use for monitoring all assets, inventory and personnel, and thus developed a network of sensors and other technologies to create what it describes as an Internet of Things solution. The firm created its own network to manage the location and status of each tool, part, person, vehicle and aircraft.

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