Indian Aviation MRO Company Expects RFID to Reduce Labor by 50 Percent

The system, provided by Dolphin RFID, is enabling Aman Aviation & Aerospace Solutions to reduce the amount of time workers spend filling out paperwork and inputting information, as well as to ensure data accuracy.
Published: September 19, 2016

Aman Aviation & Aerospace Solutions, an Indian aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) company, is using an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID solution from Dolphin RFID to track the work it provides to customers of its aircraft components. The company is also serving as a reseller for Dolphin RFID’s solution so that Aman Aviation’s customers can utilize the RFID tags for their own in-house inspections or inventory management.

Aman Aviation & Aerospace Solutions focuses on the repair and overhaul of hydraulic and pneumatic systems, as well as engine parts, used by private airlines in India and by helicopter operators. “We travel to the location of the helicopter where it is operating in order to service it,” explains Rajendra Johri, the company’s managing director. The component maintenance for private aircrafts is carried out at Aman Aviation’s workshop.

Dolphin RFID’s solution can be used to track life vests.

Aman Aviation is preparing for an expected growth in the aviation industry in India, Johri reports. The current fleet of aircraft in that country consists of 464 planes, he says, while the number is expected to reach 1,100 by 2020. “This will definitely lead to increasing the component business,” Johri predicts.

Earlier this year, Aman Aviation formed a joint venture with Dolphin RFID to promote and market the use of radio frequency identification in airline operations, such as asset management, baggage tracking and maintenance management. The two companies intend to offer RFID solutions to both Indian and international airlines. Those that deploy the joint offering could not only benefit from RFID-based data related to Aman Aviation’s inspection and repair work on aircraft components, the company reports, but they could also tag and track items requiring frequent in-house inspections, such as life vests and oxygen canisters.

Last month, Aman Aviation began utilizing the technology to manage its own services, and the company plans to introduce RFID-based tool tracking for its own operations in the near future. The system consists of UHF RFID tags from multiple providers and handheld readers supplied by Hanmi IT and Embisphere.

Traditionally, the management of MRO tasks is performed with a manual, paper-based system. Each time an MRO provider receives a component, it creates a document that follows that item. That paperwork is then used to record which services are performed on that particular component, and a copy is stored onsite. “These records are retained for at least three years in hardcopy,” Johri says. Aman Aviation also takes the storage of records a step further, he notes, by keeping copies of these documents indefinitely.

According to Johri, filling out the paperwork, routing it to the proper location after a component leaves the facility and storing it in fireproof containers carries a significant expense. Aman Aviation’s MRO engineers and workers spend 20 percent of their time simply filling out and managing the documents.

If employees visited a client’s site to conduct MRO services on helicopters, they had to bring paper and manually fill out details that could later be input into the back-end software. Not only was the process cumbersome, Johri reports, but it also allowed the potential for errors.

The solution that Aman Aviation & Aerospace Solutions has deployed consists of Dolphin RFID’s Edge Wizard software residing on a local server, as well as tags on components and RFID readers to write and read data to and from those tags. Dolphin’s RFID software can also reside on a cloud-based server to provide remote access to authorized parties, says Suresh Sawhney, Dolphin RFID’s president and CEO.

Many components are already tagged by manufacturers. When Aman Aviation receives a component for MRO work, workers can enter that existing tag’s ID number into the Edge Wizard software, by either reading or manually keying it. Once service to the part is completed, the new inspection data is written to the tag and stored in the software. If the part’s RFID tag is missing or defective, the company attaches to that component another tag containing 2 to 8 kilobits of user memory, and encodes it with the necessary International Air Transport Association (IATA)-approved data. The new tag is dedicated to recording information regarding any repair, maintenance or inspection work that Aman Aviation & Aerospace Solutions then provides to that part.

Each time an Aman Aviation worker provides service to a component, such as an inspection, maintenance or repair, he or she employs a handheld reader to encode the part’s tag with data related to that service. The reader, meanwhile, forwards that information to the back-end software, either via Wi-Fi in real time, or when docked with a computer running the software at the end of a day or shift.

The Edge Wizard software then interprets and manages the collected data. Aman Aviation receives a Microsoft Excel or PDF file that describes the work conducted on each component. In the future, Sawhney adds, Aman Aviation plans to access that data on a cloud-based server.

Eventually, work conducted off-site on helicopters will be managed via RFID as well. A Near Field Communication (NFC) tag will be attached to each helicopter or component on that aircraft, and staff members will read every tag using an NFC-enabled device running a Dolphin RFID app. They will then link the tag ID with data describing the work they completed and upload that information to the server, thereby sparing them the need to fill out paperwork.

But the long-term goal, according to Aman Aviation, is to enable its customers—airline companies—to use the RFID tags to track their components, safety equipment and tools at their own facilities. Those that adopt the solution would be able to write data to the tags as parts leave the facility for maintenance (as an example), or when they are received back. They could use the handhelds to locate specific items, conduct inventory counts, or search for life vests, oxygen canisters or other equipment requiring inspections. “We [Dolphin] will be actively promoting the cloud-based concept to the airlines,” Sawhney states, “as it would give them a better handle on the state of their inventory and maintenance state.”

Since the UHF RFID system was taken live on its site, Aman Aviation & Aerospace Solutions expects that it will be able to reduce the total amount of labor time that its workers require to provide component and helicopter MRO services by approximately 50 percent. “It is time-saving and saves a lot of paperwork,” Johri says. “RFID will help us a lot in time management, reduction of the manpower due to use of this technology and increased accuracy of the data and reduction of errors. This will definitely translate into increased customer satisfaction.”