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RFID Lands at Frankfurt Airport

After placing passive tags on such things as fire shutters, emergency lights and even passenger lounges, Fraport has significantly improved the productivity and accuracy of its maintenance operations.
By Jonathan Collins
As airport manager, Fraport AG is required by law to inspect key safety components regularly, including the airport's fire shutters, fire doors and emergency lighting. Fraport must also service or repair them, and provide a record of such maintenance. Each asset requires an annual inspection, and if damage is found, then the item must be subsequently inspected up to twice a year.

Prior to RFID deployment, the company used its ERP system to flag equipment that needed checking. As a work guide for their shift, maintenance engineers would receive paper forms describing the equipment and work required, as well as maps marked with the locations of individual pieces of equipment. Each item had a unique number assigned to it and its location; after completing any work, the engineers would have to fill out paper forms by hand, detailing any work carried out. Those forms would then have to be entered manually into the maintenance management application from SAP. "Before using RFID, there was lots of paper and information that had to be typed into the computer system, and there was a very high level of errors," says Breitwieser.

Now, with its RFID system deployed, Fraport has found a way to ensure maintenance was done in compliance with regulations, while cutting back-office costs involved in managing the maintenance work and recording its execution. The company has accomplish this by lowering the quantity of paper-based processes, with the goal of eliminating paper records altogether. By linking the maintenance engineers' on-site work more directly with the SAP facilities management software, the RFID system hasmanaged to reduce errors to only a few.

The ERP system loads each of the 30 handheld computers with the work schedule for a specific engineer. The device then displays a list of the equipment the engineer needs to inspect, along with the work he must do. When the engineer is ready to work on a specific item, he scans first the RFID tag in his ID badge to confirm that he is the person carrying out the inspection, then the item tag to display the details of the work required on the computer's touch screen. He then carries out the work, using the touch screen to fill out the correct documentation. For a fire shutter, for example, he would tick a box on the screen if the shutter was in working order, or select from a list of 24 descriptions for the damage he found. When the work is completed, the shutter's tag is scanned again and the start and finish times of the work are written to the tag. Only after this action has been completed successfully is the work recorded as completed.

At the end of the shift, the handhelds are returned to the central maintenance office, where all new data relating to work carried out by the engineers is uploaded to the central SAP management application, using a docking station with a LAN connection. New work schedules are then downloaded to the handheld.

Fraport says the ROI of its RFID rollout has been impossible to calculate, given that SAP shared much of the installation costs because it was using the Fraport deployment to develop its own products. Even so, SAP maintains that Fraport has been saving 100,000 euros annually in data-processing costs by reducing recordkeeping and administrative work. By reducing errors in documentation, Fraport adds, the airport has the potential to reduce the amount of time spent checking for errors by up to 70 percent—or 650 work hours.

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