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Making RFID Work for All

Having learned from the experiences of early adopters, companies are engaging suppliers in more collaborative ways to encourage them to tag items or shipments.
By Mark Roberti
Apr 03, 2015

At RFID Journal LIVE! 2015, Carlo Nizam, Airbus' head of RFID and value chain visibility, will talk about the jet plane maker's collaboration with parts suppliers, MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) service providers and customers. Airbus began using RFID internally to improve processes, then expanded the technology's applications to other companies within the larger Airbus group. Now, as Airbus seeks to track and manage all serialized parts with RFID, the company is actively engaging suppliers it will require to tag items. At the same time, it is working with MRO companies and airlines that can use the tags for their own benefit.

"It has always been an important part of our vision to take an approach that creates value for the whole industry: our supply-chain partners, airline customers and service players," Nizam tells RFID Journal. "The expansion to include permanent RFID on all traceable items will do just that and help enable value for everyone, both upstream and downstream."

Illustration: iStockphoto
Nizam has been leading Airbus' efforts to use RFID to improve operations for almost a decade, so he is well aware of some of the struggles early adopters had in getting suppliers on board. Most suppliers to the U.S. Department of Defense and Walmart simply put tags on cases and pallets to comply with requirements. They didn't use the tags to their own advantage, and reports surfaced that they didn't adhere to any quality-control standards. Faced with a backlash from consumer packaged goods companies that were not benefiting and had to manage separate tagged inventory for Walmart, the retailer dropped its tagging requirement.

Airbus is hoping to avoid these problems by providing flexibility and support to supply-chain partners. Suppliers can choose to use what is known as an RFID integrated nameplate (which contains an embedded RFID transponder) to replace a conventional non-RFID nameplate, or they can use separate RFID tags in addition to existing nameplates. Airbus is also beefing up the RFID expertise of its supply-chain engineering teams to help support supply-chain adoption. And the jet maker is openly sharing lessons learned from its RFID deployments, to help supply-chain partners take advantage of the technology's capabilities.

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