Using RFID system at the tooling department of an Aircraft Maintenance Center

Hey Space Geeks! Now that we know that we are not alone, we are here, another week, with a new edition of “short but curious” post. We can’t talk always about space, but we can do it about “things that fly”, so lets start.

In this case, I would like to share you my experience about implementing a RFID system in a warehouse in the Cessna Spanish Citation Service centre here in Valencia, a maintenance centre for Beechcraft and Cessna jets.

Cessna webpage picture

In our case the problem wasn’t with the parts storage, but with the tooling storage. Then, we decided to apply a technique, usually used to better track the boxes or pallets in a traditional warehouse, to our tools. As the main issue of the maintenance plant was that the mechanics usually forgot where the tools where and sometimes they got loose even inside of the planes( that later were flying to countries as far away as Egypt), we decided to implement a tracking system that was already working in the aircraft building facilities. Taking into consideration that the tools in the aeronautics industry are extremely expensive, the company decided to invest in the RFID system.

The tooling department, then started to add the tags to the boxes with the tools and to the tools themselves( you can see how it works here and here). Given each tag a tracking number in the system and assigning this tracking number to the corresponding tool. Then we gave the mechanics a card that they should attach to their accreditation card( when working in the air area of an airport you should always wear an accreditation card that allows you to pass do different zones). In that way, we got the opportunity to identify which mechanic has taken each tool, at what time, and where the tool was. So at the end of the day, when doing the inventory, we were able to find who had each tool ( or who lose it).

Nevertheless, as usual with this system, not all was wonderful. There were some problems:

  1. The tags were perfect for some tools, but big for others, especially for the calibration ones or the precision ones. We couldn’t attach it to them, as the precision would be lost. Then the only option was the 3 of this list, with its own problems.
  2. The system sometimes fails. Mainly because the mechanics put their cards with the telephones and the cards stop working.
  3. The tags were attached to the boxes of most of the tools. Sometimes the mechanics took the tool out of the box and then lose it. This made the system fail, as before implementing it.

Nowadays as far as I know, the system is getting better with some modifications and the Textron Aviation group( whose Cessna is part of) is starting to implement it in some other Maintenance Centers around the World.

As always, let me know if you have any question or if you want to share any similar experience.



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