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Zebra's Painter Protection System Helps Prevent Falls at Boeing

The aerospace company is using Zebra's ultra-wideband RFID technology to track the locations of workers painting airplanes, and to verify that they are properly harnessed and working safely.
By Claire Swedberg
May 08, 2015

Aerospace company Boeing has deployed a real-time location system (RTLS) from Zebra Technologies to ensure that workers operating moveable platforms are wearing proper safety equipment when painting new aircraft.

Before installing the system, Boeing had already been well acquainted with Zebra's RTLS technology. "Zebra has been offering their ultra-wideband (UWB) real-time location system hardware and software for asset-tracking applications at Boeing commercial and military sites," says Daryl Stephenson, a Boeing spokesman.

Zebra's MotionWorks UWB RTLS technology tracks the locations of Boeing painters standing on moveable work platforms known as stackers.
The idea for a painter fall protection system was devised when Boeing associates learned that Zebra's MotionWorks UWB RTLS solution was being used by the National Football League (NFL) to track football players, says Jill Stelfox, the VP of Zebra Location Solutions. The system provides statistics regarding athletes and their performance, by using UWB tags and receivers to automatically capture game data, such as the amount of time that players spend in a huddle, as well as how fast an individual runs and how far he moves during a play (see RFID Drafted to Track NFL Players' Every Move During Games). Boeing saw the potential to utilize the same kind of solution to track painters as they moved about an aircraft, working on platforms positioned dozens of feet above the ground, as opposed to players moving around a field.

"They told us they wanted to be sure their folks were safe when painting planes," Stelfox recalls. The company challenged Zebra with designing a system that would disable the platforms' motion if workers were not in a safe condition.

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