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Lufthansa Technik Uses RFID to Expedite Aircraft Repair

At its German facilities, the aircraft-maintenance service provider is attaching EPC UHF tags to documents that accompany airplane parts, reducing the need for manual data entry.
By Rhea Wessel
For now, the Lufthansa Technik affiliated group is attaching an RFID label to the document that accompanies each aircraft component as it is removed, repaired and reinstalled in a plane. In June, Lufthansa Technik and Lufthansa Technik Logistik completed a four-month pilot with the paper-based application at its headquarters in Hamburg, Germany, as well as at two external maintenance facilities, to gain experience with RFID. In November, the company began rolling out the application at all its German facilities, since it has enabled the firm to significantly speed up the repair-cycle process for components by reducing or eliminating the need for manual data entry.

Once the aircraft components are fitted with permanent RFID tags, the mechanic will use a portable RFID interrogator and computer to read each part's tag directly at the aircraft, then enter information about the steps performed and those that still need to be done. Lufthansa Technik plans to store more than just a unique ID number on the tag—it will also contain the part's so-called birth record, which includes the component's serial number, as well as the name of its manufacturer.

By tagging the documents that accompany components, Lufthansa Technik's staff no longer need collect information about each part manually. Previously, mechanics wrote down, by hand, what was done and what was needed, and workers at the sorting station had to type the information into the computer. Because of this labor-intensive process, it could take several days for a part to be sent to the proper repair shop.

"Thanks to the RFID-tagged documents, we will no longer depend on visual contact to receive the mechanics' disassembly information," Scheferhoff says. "Our future goal is to create same-day logistics with the parts. Precisely, this means that they are removed from the aircraft and arrive at the repair shop within 24 hours."

Lufthansa Technik services more than just Lufthansa planes. It also services the aircraft of other airlines and holds a large stock of spare parts. To implement the RFID application fully, the company will have to tag this extensive pool of components. "We expect for this to take a long time," he says, "since we are talking about a considerably large pool of components which are in permanent circulation."

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