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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
Fraport's RFID-based system safeguards maintenance processes and generates reports in compliance with federal regulations. It also helps the company maintain a complete view across the entire asset life cycle and locate reoccurring faults more quickly.

When working on an untagged shutter, the engineer applies a tag and then records details of the shutter in the SAP system. Similarly, the airport has extended the deployment to fire doors, smoke detectors and emergency lights. Fraport has 20,000 fire doors that must be tested annually. Last year, maintenance engineers began tagging the doors when they did their tests and repairs, though maintenance work data was still collected manually, using Fraport's existing paper-based system. Presently, about 80 percent of the doors are tagged and work is being carried out using the RFID-based system.

Following a successful pilot program involving the tagging of smoke detectors in various vents last year, Fraport is now applying tags to all 800 of its faculties' smoke detectors. In addition, the airport is tagging 8,000 escape route lights, applying tags being applied to a metal part of each light.

Breitwieser believes that while Fraport's RFID deployment has solved many issues, the project has been a long and complicated one. "In terms of ROI, all I can say is that the amortization takes too long, and it takes too much time and too many people to set up applications," he says.

Despite Breitwieser's skepticism about the use of RFID outside federally mandated safety checks and documentation, work has begun at Fraport to use RFID in other maintenance areas. In December, a pilot system extended tagging to departure lounges. So far, 30 lounges have been tagged, with maintenance staff using handhelds to read each room's tag and report its condition. The application displays a checklist of 75 items related to the state of the room—ranging from the room's temperature and cleanliness to the supply of newspaper available for passengers. Having completed the trial, the company says it is ready to start tagging all the airport’s lounges.

Fraport is testing one other use for RFID. For the past year, a trial has been underway to tag some of Fraport's fleet of cars and trucks used around the airport. The goal is to achieve efficiencies by knowing the sources of costs. RFID tags placed on the vehicles near the fuel tank have to be scanned by a reader at the on-site fuel pumps before any fuel can be dispensed.

The company intends to complete its planned facilities maintenance RFID rollout at the end of this year, and continues to explore the technology's potential to improve operational efficiencies and reduce costs in other areas of its business. Meanwhile, Fraport's experience of using RFID at Frankfurt may serve as a launching pad for using the technology at other locations. A consortium involving Fraport recently won a 30-year contract from the Indian government, for instance, to modernize, expand and operate Delhi Airport.

"Frankfurt is a reference site for our operations around the world," says Robert Payne, Fraport's international corporate communications manager. "We introduce technology here and perfect its use, then use it as much as possible in our operations elsewhere."

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