Industry guidelines for traceability have been in place for many years and are contained in ATA Spec 2000 Chapter 9, Automated Identification and Data Capture (AIDC). AIDC includes standards such as bar-coding, 2d Data Matrix and RFID, which are used to mark and identify products and/or store information which can be read in an automated manner. During the past 30 years, commercial applications of bar code have extended to virtually every industry. These applications include point-of-sale transactions, inventory control, shipping and receiving, and time and attendance monitoring. More recently, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a term that is generally applied to the use of special integrated circuits which contain data which can be electronically read from a distance without direct line of site. Common applications in this area include entry-cards/badges, toll road "smart passes" etc. Within the airline industry, these collective standards provide an accurate, easy and inexpensive method of data entry and data storage for the tracking and traceability of aircraft parts and aircraft part shipments. AIDC is the preferred technology for automatic data collection because it is the simplest means available to meet the airlines' tracking needs. Recognized standards, low cost and international acceptance help ensure that they will remain technologically viable for many years.
Spec 2000, Chapter 9 defines the following specifications:
- Customer Receipt Process. Using Spec 2000 bar coding specifications, suppliers can provide bar coding on the document/label/tag for a shipment item and an external label for the box, to assist airlines in automating their receiving processes. With a quick scan at the loading dock, airlines can quickly and easily record and upload important information regarding the contents of a shipment.
- Repair Agency Receipt Process. Repair agencies also can benefit from the automated processes afforded to them by receiving Spec 2000 bar-coded shipment labels designed especially for repair agencies and their suppliers.
- Permanent Parts Identification. To allow for "cradle-to-grave" tracking of serialized parts and to facilitate the use of automated processes in parts handling, this specification allows the use of multiple bar code / 2d data matrix symbologies and/or RFID to permanently mark an aircraft part. The model for this specification was the license plate concept for automobile registration. License plates are simply pointers to a database of unlimited fields of tracked information. Similarly, the part number and serial number uniquely identify aircraft parts and become the pointer. Airlines use part numbers and serial numbers of repairable components in many daily business activities. These include provisioning, processing warranty claims, tracking part flight hours and landings, tracking part installation and removal time, and monitoring regulatory agency compliance. Airlines are now beginning to track the maintenance and repair history of parts using AIDC coded parts.
Bar code symbols may be printed on a variety of materials, such as plastic, aluminum, ceramic or steel. The requirements of the application will dictate which label material should be used. The bar code should remain on the part through the entire life of the part. It should also be readable with a commercially available standard contact or non-contact reader or scanner. Code 39 and code 128 are the preferred symbologies for permanent parts identification; however, in cases where the marking area is limited, Data Matrix may be used. Different symbologies are chosen depending on the application and trading partner agreements.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has been recently introduced for parts identification in certain applications. Benefits of using this technology include the ability to read part information without direct line of site. For example, by using RFID chips on parts of the oxygen system stored in the overhead bins, an airline would be able to check expiration without having to open the bin. Currently, the standard dictates that the "permanent part marking" data will be identical to that used on bar codes and data matrices. However, it is anticipated that a further benefit to RFID will be the ability to store additional information within the part, such as date of last removal, number of operating hours, etc.
- Traceability Data. Chapter 9 has recently added a section which helps companies determine what steps and data are necessary to allow cradle-to-grave parts traceability. Although this is not yet a "data exchange" standard, it will be necessary for companies which produce, ship, receive, operate and repair parts all to maintain important information about these parts in order to achieve this goal. The Traceability section describes this information.
Using AIDC technology on aircraft parts and part shipments can improve the accuracy of reliability and maintenance information exchanged between airlines and manufacturers. AIDC technology provides an accurate, easy and inexpensive method of data storage and data entry for computerized information management systems. AIDC supports an efficient system of tracking key aircraft components during their entire life cycle. The benefits include:
- Improved data accuracy
- Reduced cycle time to correct service-related problems
- Enhanced ability to identify and remove rogue parts
- Helps reduce the risk of counterfeit parts
- Improved tracking
- The ability to maintain repair history, including upgrades
- Reduced inventory and warranty claim-processing costs
To implement a Spec 2000 Bar Coding system:
Third Party Products/Services
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