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Airbus Installs RTLS for Large-Component Assembly

Ubisense RFID tags, readers and software will make it easier for the aircraft manufacturer to track production of key components for its A380 double-decker planes.
By Claire Swedberg
Airbus began seeking an RTLS solution for large-parts assembly in 2009, and tested several technologies on component assembly for the A400M, a military transport aircraft. The company then determined that the Ubisense system provided the best solution, because it could allow for expansion of the system (scalability), and because it provided high levels of accuracy when tested.

"The use case is to track large aircraft sections and have a more real-time view of our industrial flows," says Carlo K. Nizam, Airbus' head of value-chain visibility and RFID. "Real-time information can help us better support increased production rates quicker and more accurately."

Although Airbus chose to launch the system with the A380, Nizam says, the company will consider using it elsewhere as well. "If it works as we anticipate it will," he states, "we will certainly consider scaling it across other aircraft programs."

Airbus has embarked on a number of other RFID technology projects (see Airbus Trials Showing Strong Results). Recently, the firm announced how it intends to use EPC Gen 2 passive RFID tags with as much as 8 kilobytes of memory to track the maintenance of repairable parts for its new A350 XWB planes (see Airbus Signs Contract for High-Memory Tags).

According to Nizam, all RFID-related data is collected by what the aircraft manufacturer calls the Airbus Business Radar—an automatic data-collection network fed by multiple auto-ID technologies. The information collected by this internal system is then forwarded to the company's corporate auto-ID middleware platform. "This," he explains, "is the equivalent of an internal air-traffic control system that can track, in real time, the location of assets, tools or other data related to the production of our aircraft." Any authorized Airbus employee could then access this information, either at the plant where the assembly is taking place, or at the company's office in Toulouse, France.

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