RFID guides manufacturer to timely landings

Aircraft parts supplier tracks unique item information for perishable components in high volumes.

Latest News

U.S.-NAFTA trade is up for sixth straight month, reports BTS
AAR reports annual U.S. carload and intermodal gains for week ending June 17
Digital Issue: The Current State of Third-Party Logistics Services
New JDA survey finds missing link to omni-channel success for manufacturers and retailers
FTR report makes the case for Twin 33-foot trailers in the LTL sector
More News

Latest Resource

Digital Issue: The Current State of Third-Party Logistics Services
It has become quite clear that logistics professionals are now facing an unprecedented set of challenges. From tightening capacity, to ongoing regulation hurdles, to the complexity brought on by e-commerce, today’s shippers are transforming the way they manage their logistics operations.
All Resources
By ·

Manufacturing composite parts requires a process of cutting, forming and curing advanced composite materials rather than using metal components. ATK, a Clearfield, Utah-based manufacturer of composite airframe and engine components, sought to track the process of handling perishable materials at high volumes. By installing an RFID system, the company gained visibility into material location, remaining usable life and the dynamic condition of each item as it moves through processes.

With customers like Airbus, General Electric and Rolls-Royce, the company transports, stores and monitors perishable materials at subzero temperatures. Typically the initial usable life is approximately 700 hours, and if composite material spends significant time out of freezers it must be discarded.

Passive RFID tags (OATSystems, a division of Checkpoint Systems, oatsystems.com) are now affixed to materials used to fabricate structural components, and an RFID scanner reads those tags as they move in and out of storage freezers. The tags are read through storage, layup and curing processes to ensure the material is “fresh” and moved efficiently. The system’s software tracks times for each unique item.

In addition, ATK is tagging the tooling on which products are formed and cured in autoclave ovens at high temperatures and pressure. Because each tool is unique to the part or component being fabricated, the company has a record of when each specific kind of component has been formed, bagged, cured and ready for the final manufacturing processes before shipping.

According to Jim Morgan, program manager of ATK Space PMO, this enables ATK to meet stringent requirements from customers. “We can enhance our efficiency when we know where tools and materials are, and we don’t need operators to spend time looking for either of them,” he says. “In addition, the system helps us detect expired material before it can be used. If material has expired, there is an indication on the visual monitor in the work cells.”

Morgan said that RFID has been a critical asset that enabled it to meet aggressive delivery targets. Commercial aircraft manufacturing is experiencing a period of rapid growth in the use of composite materials to improve fuel efficiency. ATK is now able to produce up to 25 miles of composite components per month. Without the ability to automate the tracking of these innovative manufacturing processes, Morgan said, it would be difficult to deliver on commercial contracts, which are set for significant production rate increases in coming years.


About the Author

Josh Bond, Senior Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

Subscribe to Logistics Management Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Article Topics

All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
Digital Issue: The Current State of Third-Party Logistics Services
It has become quite clear that logistics professionals are now facing an unprecedented set of challenges. From tightening capacity, to ongoing regulation hurdles, to the complexity brought on by e-commerce, today’s shippers are transforming the way they manage their logistics operations.
Download Today!
From the June 2017 Issue
Here are five trends that every shipper­—and potential shipper—must watch as the demand for experienced logistics and supply chain professionals soars.
2017 Rail/Intermodal Roundtable: Volume stable, business steady
Cross-Border Logistics: NAFTA tune-up time
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Women in Logistics: Breaking Gender Roles to Win the War for Talent
In this session you'll hear from a panel of women who are now leading top-level logistics and supply chain operations. The panel will share their success stories as well as advice for women who are now making their way up the ladder.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
2017 Top 50 3PLs: Investment and Consolidation Maintain Traction
The trend set over the past few years for mergers and acquisitions has hardly subsided, and a fresh...
The Evolution of the Digital Supply Chain
Everyone is talking about terms like digitization, Industry 4.0 and digital supply chain management,...

2017 Salary Survey: Fresh Voices Express Optimism
Our “33rd Annual Salary Survey” reflects more diversity entering the logistics management...
LM Exclusive: Major Modes Join E-commerce Mix
While last mile carriers receive much of the attention, the traditional modal heavyweights are in...