Two companies dominate the Aerospace industry and changes in the demands of those two firms heavily affect the rest of the sector. So when aerospace giants Airbus and Boeing say they intend to use radio frequency identification (RFID) across their operations, the rest of the sector have to follow suit or risk losing invaluable current and potential contracts.
Since day one the world’s two dominant commercial airplane manufacturers have put competition aside to promote the adoption of industry standards for marking individual parts, keeping maintenance records on RFID tags and sharing related data. The two companies have held industry forums in North America, Europe and Asia, inviting the world’s airlines, parts suppliers, regulatory agencies, and third-party maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) providers to get on board.
“We don’t want to issue a mandate, set a date and invite people to comply,” said Kenneth D. Porad, program manager for Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ automated identification program, as a warning to the sector more than a decade ago. “This technology is changing quickly, so we want to set the stage with our customers and suppliers. Boeing and Airbus are not going to provide conflicting requirements to common airline suppliers. That would be costly and foolish. We’re rising above competition because this is so important.”
These two corporations firmly believed that RFID would provide major benefits for the entire industry, not least through more accurate information about their demand for parts. They sought to reduce their parts inventory and cut the time it takes to repair planes. The technology would also enable their suppliers to reduce inventory, improve the efficiency of their manufacturing operations and use RFID to verify to Boeing and Airbus that parts they get are genuine, thereby reducing the amount of unapproved parts that enter the extensive supply chain.
Standards were put in place through a collaboration involving Boeing, Airbus and Air Transport Association (ATA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certify the use of these passive RFID tags for parts that will be used on planes. In an almost unprecedented show of solidarity the two firms fully backed the technology from the outset – their early and persistent warnings underlined their unwavering commitment and belief in RFID for Aerospace.
“We’re not ready to say today you have to do it,” he tells RFID Journal. “But it will be a requirement on major parts on airplanes at some point, and we want [our suppliers] to know all about RFID, what the challenges are, and the benefits, and what the roadmap looks like for the technology.”
Fast forward to 2017 and it’s getting hard to remember an aerospace industry without RFID. The technology has become fundamental to operations in the sector, and, the aerospace applications of RFID are still expanding. It was Boeing and Airbus’ forward thinking and resolute stance towards this ideal aerospace technology that laid the foundation for what continues to be a perfect match.