Daher Aerospace Ltd, part of the Daher group of companies, provides manufacturing and logistical services to major aerospace customers.
The Daher SCR programme involves the tracking and movement of 22,000 high value containers around the globe for a world-renowned aerospace engine manufacturer. The containers move through the supply chain between the manufacturer’s suppliers, their manufacturing sites, and Daher.
The high value containers need to be tracked and traced between several suppliers and a third-party transport provider. They are grouped into sets and must be shipped out to the suppliers in these sets. Having visibility of these containers in the supply chain is imperative in order to maintain the flow of the operation.
Daher implemented an RFID solution for this service in 2005 but with advances in RFID technology it was becoming obsolete. Having implemented an RFID solution to the company for another, unrelated project in 2011, Waer was the obvious choice to provide a new solution.
What had changed?
Advances in technology had left the 2005 system out of date, with many areas for improvement:
- Ultra high frequency (UHF) technology has matured
- Global RFID standards have been implemented (particularly EPC Gen 2) allowing organisations to interpret one another’s RFID tags
- The availability and quality of supporting software expertise has grown.
The challenges… and their solutions
The challenges posed by the project were many and varied:
- The containers are not all made of the same material, so suitable UHF RFID tags had to be found that could be read through metal, plastic and wood but remain within budget
- Previously, tags were encoded using a Daher-specific standard that made them very difficult to use outside the scope of the project. Daher has now adopted the internationally recognised EPC Gen 2 standard so that the tags can be read by all parties. Waer also programmed the tags so that they can be read with either the previous coding system, with which operators were already familiar, or the new coding system, significantly reducing training time and resources.
- The containers must be delivered to the manufacturer’s suppliers as a complete set, sometimes with up to 20 components. With a strong track record in capacity management, WAERlinx has the functionality to allow assets to be grouped together to fulfil a particular service as a kit and tracked together within that kit. It can report back on how many instances of that kit are available and what the future demand for that kit looks like.
- Each kit needed to be able to use both Daher’s own SCR identification reference and the manufacturer’s kit number; WAERlinx’ built-in part number alias functionality enables the referencing of the kits by either identifier.
- Previously, operators laboriously cross-referenced screen alerts against a list of alert codes to determine any action to take. Alerts were being entered at the container level when often they were needed for the whole kit. In addition there was no mechanism for determining a start and end date for the alert, and there was no way of knowing when the conditions of the alert had been fulfilled. Now alerts can be entered at container and/or kit level with a start and end date. In addition, alert messages can now be instantly emailed to a set of contacts when they are triggered, improving communication and reducing both man hours and the potential for error.
- The containers follow a cycle whereby they are returned to a Daher site after production and are then passed through a cleaning and maintenance cycle by default.
- The existing system provided no option for an RFID stock count. Any stock checking and reconciliation had to be done using reports and spreadsheets. Now, user can capture all the RFID tags within their location and then scan the barcode of the location before transmitting the data. In WAERlinx, a comparison is made between the data in the system and that received from the scan and the results are made available through a management screen with discrepancies highlighted.
- Historically, many RFID projects have focussed solely on capturing and recording tag scans but the information is now used more intelligently to aid decision making, providing data for Waer’s mobile business intelligence dashboard WAERconsole. The customisable KPI dashboard comes with a number of valuable reporting tools as standard: inventory, transaction history and status reports, amongst others, serving to deliver a high level of management information into the SCR supply chain.
When Daher implemented their RFID system in 2005 they were at the leading edge of RFID. Having built the new solution on internationally recognised standards with a robust architecture means that, although the hardware may change, this solution is future-proofed from obsolescence and again, Daher leads the way.
Appendix 1 - WAERlinx RFID Architecture
- A Cloud-based architecture capable of supporting gates and users across multiple organisations, globally
- The RFID element of the solution is stand-alone so that it can readily integrate into other solutions
- Leverages the power of core WAERlinx by being able to integrate directly with its functionality (see www.waersystems.com/waerlinx for more information)
- Processes readings from both static gates and handheld RFID devices
- Configuration of RFID gates is flexible, with definition based on multiple antennas, potentially attached to multiple readers
- Supports several RFID gate configurations: manned, unmanned and directiona