ATK Automates Aircraft Manufacturing Plant with RFID

May 22, 2013 Kristen Hess

ATK Automates Aircraft Manufacturing Plant with RFID

ATK, an aerospace, defense and commercial products manufacturing company, spoke during RFID Journal LIVE! about their successful RFID deployment at ATK’s ACCE facility in Clearfield, Utah.

ATK manufactures a variety of aircrafts and aircraft parts, including rockets engines, business jets, and fighter planes. To improve manufacturing efficiency, ATK sought an RFID solution to automate inventory of tools and part components.  Additionally, ATK utilizes composite materials made with carbon fiber for many parts. These composite materials are temperature-sensitive and have finite lives. ATK wanted to use RFID to monitor the composite materials’ amount of time outside freezers and thereby verify the quality and integrity of the material.

ATK partnered with OATSystems to create an effective RFID solution. After a successful pilot, ATK began full RFID deployment in its ACCE facility.


How It Works:

ATK tags all incoming composite materials with passive RFID tags. When the materials enter the ACCE facility, Impinj Speedway Revolution readers log a receipt of the material, including a timestamp to start tracking out-of-freezer time. As the materials pass into the freezer, more Speedway readers activate and read tags as the door opens, updating the location and amount of time spent outside the freezer instantly in the OAT Foundation Suite software. When the composite materials leave the freezer to go to the lay up or cutting and bagging area, readers once again detect the tagged items, and their out-of-freezer status is updated in the OAT software. Once the materials are cured and no longer temperature sensitive, the readers cease tracking the tags and their status is again updated in the OAT software.

Tools within the facility are also tagged with hard tags. As a tool carrying composite materials passes through the read range of a Speedway reader, the reader detects the EPC code of the tool, which is encoded with information about what that tool is supposed to be working on. The OAT software, integrated with the ACCE enterprise system, then sends automatic instructions to work centers about how to use the tool to carry out its task.

RFID Benefits:

ATK IT Director Brian J. Andrus and Program Manager James Morgan told listeners at RFID Journal LIVE! that the RFID solution has:

  • Improved manufacturing efficiency to meet delivery timelines
  • Improved traceability and documentation of tools and composite materials
  • Reduced waste — Morgan estimated that there was a 15% reduction in scrap since implementation
  • Given staff freedom to do value-added tasks  instead of manually tracking tools and materials

ATK plans to continue to embellish its RFID system with more automated software alerts and directions to work centers. It also hopes to integrate RFID into more of the supply chain, starting with its material suppliers.

Learn more about OAT’s RFID asset tracking system.

Image source: RFID Journal

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