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Boeing Deploys RFID In-House for Assembly Management

The company is using Fujitsu's new RFID Integrated Label to track up to 7,000 different components built into aircraft at four Boeing factory sites.
By Claire Swedberg

With the technology in place, after an aircraft is completely assembled, Boeing automatically sends its ARL report to the corresponding customer, based on the RFID tag reads, indicating the assembly process for a specific aircraft is complete. This, the company reports, helps it to save labor time and prevent the incidence of errors.

For airlines, Yu says, the tags can be used as a source of information for such purposes as improving aircraft inspection operations. Each tag stores data regarding a component's manufacturing date and location, as well as any subsequent maintenance or inspection. Authorized parties conducting their own work on a component can write further data to the tag based on the actions being taken.

Fujitsu is sending its starter kits to both Boeing's and Airbus's suppliers so that they can begin tagging components before those parts are shipped to the aircraft manufacturers. According to Takehisa Matsuda, Fujitsu America's manager and director for AIT solutions development, the company has sent starter kits to 46 supplier sites since January 2016—13 in the United States and Canada, 21 in Europe and two in Asia. "We estimate that 10 to 15 sites are related to Boeing projects today," he says, "and it's continuing to grow in the coming year."

The RFID Integrated Label being used is Fujitsu's most recently released flexible label, which comes with up to 8 kilobytes of memory and is designed for managing data related to aircraft parts and emergency equipment stored on aircraft, says Kevin Wrenn, the senior VP of Fujitsu America's Platform Products Group. The label comes in three sizes: 70 millimeters by 32 millimeters (2 inches by 1.3 inches), 55 millimeters by 25 millimeters (2.2 inches by 1 inch), and 35 millimeters by 25 millimeters (1.4 inches by 1 inch). All three versions are less than 2 millimeters (0.08 inch) thick.

Fujitsu's label meets the requirements for aerospace use, including the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) AS5678 environmental standard and the Air Transport Association of American (ATA) Spec 2000 requirement for information exchange and sequencing. The tag's memory is divided into a section for lifecycle information and another for permanent data, such as the part's serial number.

Fujitsu is also developing a flexible long-read-range RFID label at a lower cost for monitoring additional aircraft parts, such as emergency equipment that must be tracked and maintained by airlines to ensure that they are present on each flight and in good working order, based on inspection records.

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