A leading aviation MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) service provider is successfully preventing FODs (Foreign Object Debris) caused by tools thanks to its new RFID-augmented tool control system.
The company operates 12 MRO, Testing and Product Development facilities in Europe and the U.S. It wishes to remain anonymous because it considers its RFID-augmented MRO processes to be a strong competitive advantage. The project design and implementation were led by NG Way of Italy.
Unattended maintenance tools are a leading source of FODs which costs the aerospace industry an estimated $4 billion annually according to the FAA. Boeing has reported the cost to repair an engine that is damaged as a result of a FOD can easily exceed $1 million. FODs can also cause injuries and damage to airport facilities and support equipment.
The pilot project began at a European facility in Switzerland in the last quarter of 2013 and covered 276 tools such as screwdrivers, hammers, pliers and socket wrenches, of various sizes, that are stored in tool cribs. The tools are automatically recorded as they are signed in and out of tool cribs. Information such as the identification of the worker who has been issued the tools and the location where they will be used is also recorded.
If a tool goes missing, supervisors can check the log to see the most recent user and location. Missing tools are quickly located using handheld RFID readers, even if the tool isn’t visible. The system can also issue alerts when tools are not returned or when a tool calibration check is due and provides comprehensive usage data points.
The system relies on Xerafy XS series read-on-metal UHF RFID tags to embed into tools, plus handheld RFID readers and NG Way’s ToolCheck software to record which tools are assigned to technicians, track tool locations and to verify that no tools are left behind when the maintenance activity is completed.
“Xerafy was a natural choice,” said Moreno Poli of NG Way. “We tested many different types of tags, but Xerafy’s ability to read reliably and the minimum size of the XS series tags are unparalleled.”
Xerafy RFID tags make the system possible because they are small (as little as 2.5 mm thin for the XS Dot On) enough to be included in every tool used, and provide excellent read range (up to 2 meters / 6.6 feet for the XS Dash On) and reliability even when used on and near metal objects. The tags can be mounted directly on metal parts or embedded in the metal at the point of manufacture.
“Our main objective is to ensure the safety during maintenance operations. The insertion of the tags on tools will allow us to eliminate any possibility of human error and will be a great help to search for any tools inside the aircraft,” said the project leader from the MRO organization.
The automated system saves time compared to paper-based record keeping and manual tool searches, improves records accuracy and makes tool status information available in real-time.
It has slashed check-in/check-out time and has significantly reduced time spent searching for tools because it reduces the possibility of human error. Integrating the solution into the enterprise’s other asset management and resource management systems has created even greater savings, including reduced maintenance time and costs.