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Bell Helicopter's On-Time Delivery Rate Climbs Higher

The aircraft manufacturer is managing the movement of parts from a central warehouse to each production location, using an RFID solution from OATSystems.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 13, 2012Bell Helicopter, a civil and military aircraft manufacturer, has brought its on-time delivery (OTD) of parts used during the production of helicopters to 99.81 percent since installing a radio frequency identification system to track the internal movements of parts and containers in 2011. The company, a division of Textron, is employing an RFID solution designed by OATSystems.

Since the deployment, Bell Helicopter estimates that it recouped its investment within a year, according to Aaron Druyvesteyn, the firm's manager of logistics, who described the solution to an audience at RFID Journal LIVE! 2012, held last week in Orlando, Fla. The financial return comes from reducing the amount of labor hours employees spend searching for missing parts, as well as performing associated stock adjustments. In addition, the high traceability of parts has dramatically reduced the potential for disruptions to the production schedule. In fact, Druyvesteyn said, the company has already saved approximately $300,000, surpassing its total RFID system investment of $250,000.

Bell Helicopter designed a low-profile RFID portal that incorporates an Impinj reader and a pair of reader antennas flanking each side of the dock door.

Bell Helicopter distributes parts from its central distribution center (CDC), located in Fort Worth, Texas, to its eight component and final assembly locations, in Fort Worth, as well as in Amarillo, Texas, and Mirabel, Quebec. The company's goal was to better manage the movement of aircraft parts, and to reduce the incidences of lost or misrouted shipments.

Not only can missing parts or shipment errors cause delays and require additional labor, but the aircraft industry's stringent regulations can make the misrouting of components more expensive than they would be in most industries. For example, if a part erroneously leaves a warehouse for production, and then needs to be returned, strict guidelines require that it be inspected again before it can be restocked at the CDC—another cause of additional labor hours and delay.

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