How a wireless network keeps inventory in check

Tools

A leading aerospace company has built a wireless local area network (WLAN) system that will help it keep track of parts and manufacturing tools and boost inventory functions. The Boeing Company runs one of the largest plants in business today, covering almost 100 acres at 472 million cu. ft. The facility in Everett, WA, is also home to the development of the company's 787 super jumbo jet that should take flight this summer. Keeping track of all the equipment and manufacturing tools in such a large facility is not easy. The process was labor intensive and costly until the IT department brought in location tracking on a WLAN. Now engineers can quickly find and assemble parts and airplane kits, and very little goes missing or lost. That means less money spent on replacement parts and greater productivity, say IT leaders.

The first step was setting up a tagging system using the company's using an 802.11 network. But not everything has been tagged with RFID tags as the cost of the tags is still pretty pricey, so Boeing tagged items on components and tools "valuable enough" to warrant the cost. Now up and running, the company is discovering that the WLAN is useful for a slew of other business needs and is seeing benefits all over the tech map--from better security and management to quality of service gains. The new hurdle is now how to manage all the tracking data being collected. However, IT leaders seem confident that with a good management strategy the data management piece will also reap big benefits. Article