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RFID im Blick

RFID in the Airbus Smart Factory Part 2: 3D-asset and tool tracking in real-time make processes safer

Use Cases | By PR RFID im Blick | 10 November 2014
RFID in the Airbus Smart Factory Part 2: 3D-asset and tool tracking in real-time make processes safer Photo: e*m company / H. Goussé

Transparent Production with the Airbus Business Radar

Highest quality standards in order to protect human lives: „Should a screwdriver get lost in an airplane, it may cause fatal damages if the plane leaves the ground. This scenario must be prevented by all means – RFID supports us here. Furthermore, to streamline our production with RFID, we are increasing our processes’ transparency and are promoting innovation.“ From individual RFID-tags applied to a tool, to the smart factory, Marc Lorentz of Airbus Operations, tells in this interview, how Airbus, with RFID technology as the key enabler, optimizes Smart Factory’s business processes, insures quality and reduces costs at the same time.

Marc Lorentz, RFID-project manager Germany and Great Britain, Airbus Operations, in an interview with „RFID im Blick“

Part 2: Active RFID in the Smart Factory

Localization down to 15 centimeters

Marc LorentzMarc LorentzFrom the process optimization to process innovation: Active RFID-sensors are installed at the hall ceiling of Airbus’ production area. All tools, logistic- or manufacturing units that are equipped with an active RFID-transponder can be localized down to 15 centimeters. Marc Lorentz: „Everything an RFID-tag can be attached to, can be tracked. Not only localization but also analysis is possible with this solution. How long are the transport routes? Where is what being used? If, for example, it is noted that the tool issue is far away from the place of action, we can relocate the place of tool issue to shorten the time it costs for our employees. Search times are not only minimized, but almost eliminated. Significantly less work interruptions happen, because when a tool is being searched for its location can be checked in the system at any time.“

Reliable calibration data

Due to the ability to localize and the higher transparency, fewer tools are needed. Calibration processes that would mean an outage at short notice can be coordinated better, explains Marc Lorentz: „Before the implementing of the solution that allows a usage-based calibration, the calibration schedule was based on estimations. Now, due to the tool issue process being noted, a usage can be determined. An automatically running counter triggers a corresponding notification if the calibration is due.“ The system was implemented at numerous European sites for several tens of thousands of different assets, and is now in operative use at Airbus, Airbus Helicopter as well as at Airbus Defense-and-Space.

Active RFID-sensors at the ceilings of the production halls make three-dimensional localization of tools equipped with transponders possible. This ensures tagged tools only to be used in the respectively authorized areas.Active RFID-sensors at the ceilings of the production halls make three-dimensional localization of tools equipped with transponders possible. This ensures tagged tools only to be used in the respectively authorized areas.

Localization in 3D

„We are taking one step further“, announces Marc Lorentz. “Defining zones where particular tools are not allowed, we can get an automatic alarm generation as soon as those tools are in this zone. The location is not only possible in a 2D-top view but also in 3D. Due to the additional dimension of height, the RFID-solution is also applicable; for example, localization in high-rack warehouses. The additional dimension of Data broadens the range of process analysis options.“

Aim: End-to-end implementation

„Airbus perceives RFID as a key enabler for process improvement“, summarizes Marc Lorentz. „In order to be able to consistently benefit from the potentials of process improvement, we want to realize an end-to-end implementation which also benefits our suppliers and customers. We are cooperating with external suppliers and standards organizations to push forward the technology together. For us, RFID is the business radar that we want to take as the base for a development of an intelligent process chain.“ Suppliers and customers are mainly willing to use the solution together with us. „Many partners would like to implement this sooner rather than later. For the manufacturer, the implementation of the technology of course means additional expenses. We still need to provide additional education at that point in order to convince the companies of the technology’s potential for their own benefit.“

Contribution to achievement of global aims

From its foundation until mid-October 2014, Airbus had delivered more than 8 700 airplanes. While more than 14 600 orders had been received in the same time. „Therefore, about 5 900 planes are on Airbus’ production schedule. The order situation is very good. However, there is an increasing pressure for a quick and precise fabrication coming from the market itself. Even exchange rates have had a significant impact on the economic efficiency of the production. Due to the fact that the majority of employees, suppliers and service providers are being paid in Euro, it is leading to higher costs as the majority of the sales are being done in US-Dollars. An efficient, secure and flawless production – in which RFID has a big contribution – is therefore essential“, says Marc Lorentz as a final statement.

Please also read Part 1: RFID-based tool control

Last modified on Wednesday, 21 October 2015 17:14