Aviation MRO has been an early adopter for RFID tool tracking solutions, setting the standard for how other industries can address their own tracking, safety and productivity challenges.
Managing tools and equipment is critical in aviation. Recently when a Chinese MRO technician left his headset after performing some routine work on a landing gear, there were luckily no operational consequences; the plane landed safely at its destination and the headset was recovered.
The consequences could have been worse. At $13 billion annually, the estimated annual cost of FODs (Foreign Object Damage) in the aviation industry is receiving increased attention. In an industry where margins have been historically thin and where safety is of paramount importance, the pressure is building to find operational solutions. It comes as no surprise then that the aviation industry includes a number of early adopters of tool tracking and management solutions aimed at preventing material and human accidents, production incidents, late deliveries, and more.
With ATA’s Spec 2000 update encompassing RFID technology, the aviation industry paved the way for effective technology solutions by creating a framework for its supply chain, standardizing information between manufacturers, airlines, maintenance companies and other parts suppliers. Other industries have been watching closely and are now looking for solutions to their own safety and productivity challenges, with strong interest observed in MRO for railways, power generation, as well as oil and gas.
The challenges they meet will sound very familiar to MRO and aviation veterans:
● High labor costs
● High risk of FODs
● Cost of replacing missing or stolen tools
● Loss of usage and maintenance data
● Absence of real-time management
Implementing and managing a tool tracking solution comes with its own challenges, and return on experience in the aviation industry helps identify some low-hanging fruit that can result in fast improvements:
● Manual record-keeping and paperwork
● Human errors and lost records
● Lack of real-time visibility
● Low-efficiency single item scanning
● Barcode labels that are easily damaged or rendered unreadable