As a single aircraft may contain several million separate components, thorough component management is critical in the aircraft industry. Traceability is required for every process that the component is involved in over its several-decade lifecycle, from design and manufacturing to servicing and disposal. Making this an even more complex challenge is the fact that the aircraft industry encompasses parts suppliers, airframe manufacturers, airlines, and MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Over hole), so the tracking process needs to cover multiple companies and even multiple countries, often resulting in waste such as excess parts in inventory. Furthermore, ensuring that each of the numerous components is replaced with the correct article during maintenance is a time-consuming task for technicians. Moreover, while there is an urgent need in the airline industry to reduce costs in order to compete with other forms of transportation, there is also a need to ensure that component-tracking and maintenance is performed safely and securely.
To enhance transparency and visibility in its parts supply chain, in 2009 Airbus began using RFID labels on components for its state-of-the-art mid-sized A350 XWB, and expanded their use to all Airbus planes in October 2012. In January 2013, the company decided to move forward on its "Airbus RFID Integrated Label" project, which aims to replace the nameplates that had been used to display component information with highly traceable RFID labels.
In this project, Airbus will be attaching Fujitsu RFID tags to major aircraft components across all Airbus planes. This will make it possible for Airbus and its parts suppliers to confirm manufacturing and maintenance information for each respective aircraft component. Furthermore, making it possible to check storage information on individual parts and inventories at any time enables a top-level component resupply process that shortens delivery lead times, avoids redundant procurement, and optimizes inventory levels.
Fujitsu RFID Integrated Labels meet the SAE AS5678 standard, the rigorous standard applied to aircraft components for quality, and conform to ATA Spec 2000 standard ver. 2013, the standard data format of the aircraft industry. The labels are available in two types: 1-KB and 8-KB memory, and in three sizes (large/medium/small). Usable with metal and non-metal items, they can be applied to components produced by hundreds of parts vendors around the world. Read range is approximately 1.5 meter, and the labels support the frequency ranges used in the US and Europe.
Fujitsu has also been working to enhance its product offerings, such as with RFID readers, encoding and printing solutions and system integration for customers' existing ERPs.
Fujitsu is ready to receive orders for labels and all related products, which will be commercially available in the market from June 1, 2014.