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Airbus Leads the Way

As it uses RFID across its value chain to bring visibility and benefits to all areas of its operations, the airplane maker is blazing a path for other manufacturers to follow.
By Mark Roberti
Feb 28, 2011Carlo Nizam, the head of Airbus' Value-Chain Visibility and Auto-ID Program, sent me a copy of the January 2011 issue of Fast 47, the airplane manufacturer's in-house magazine. The issue features articles about how Airbus is pioneering the use of fiber-optic cables instead of copper wire (to reduce weight and increase bandwidth) and trajectory management in order to reduce fuel consumption. The magazine also includes a story entitled "Radio Frequency Identification: Airbus Business Radar," detailing the company's use of RFID.

RFID Journal has written extensively about Airbus' use of the technology (see Airbus Installs RTLS for Large-Component Assembly and Airbus' Grand Plans for RFID). But as the manufacturer continues to define best practices for RFID-enabling a company, it's worth examining how the firm views its RFID initiative.

The article points out that Airbus first began looking into RFID in 2000, as part of its Nonstop Innovation program. "By 2006, there were 15 projects across Airbus, each looking at promising new benefits enabled by RFID," the story reports. "However, it was clear that to maximize the benefits across the company, a coordinated approach was needed to avoid duplication of activities to maximize synergies."

In 2007, Airbus launched its Value Chain Visibility program, a companywide initiative to increase visibility across an aircraft's life cycle, using a collection of automatic-identification technologies, including RFID. (The term "value chain" refers to the entire supply chain, from suppliers to customers.) A dedicated cross-functional team was set up to develop Airbus' strategy, consolidate and prioritize activities, and develop best practices that could be used across the company. The team is lead by Nizam. Paul-Antoine Calandreau manages projects dealing with airline customers, and Jamil Khalil focuses on sourcing and coordinating projects with other companies in the EADS group, which includes Airbus.

"The more visibility a company has into its operations," the article says, "the more measurability and control it can have on its processes, which in turn helps improve those processes, which translates into savings and quality improvements."

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