The latest aerospace tracking system

Nov. 1, 2001
Aircraft isn't the only thing the aerospace industry tracks.

Aircraft isn't the only thing the aerospace industry tracks.

Aerospace companies use CribMastergenerated reports to track tooling and make cost-saving improvements.

As part of CribMaster's system, security features can restrict certain job classes or individual employees from particular items.

With all items logged, CribMaster prints out barcodes for attaching to a facility's bin locations.

There is no margin for error when building an airplane or rocket. Using the wrong cutting tool or a gage that's out of calibration can have a catastrophic rippling effect if gone undetected. To keep this from happening, aerospace companies and other related manufacturing industries are standardizing their processes by incorporating systems that track tooling and gaging.

Managing tools is no longer a plant-by-plant operation. Most facilities realize the benefits of managing tooling inventory and MRO items from an enterprise level. And tracking systems, such as the CribMaster Inventory Management System, give shops an efficient and cost-effective means of doing so.

The CribMaster System from WinWare of Marietta, Ga., manages inventory in the toolcrib as well as point-of-use vending. The software lets most companies learn more about their tool usage and make timesaving improvements to their operations based on the reporting it generates.

Initially, manufacturers install the software to manage tool transactions. However, a handy Crib-Master feature for aerospace facilities is its ability to track tool issues based on cost centers that are customizable for each operation. Samples of these user-defined cost centers include job, machine, workcell, or department. CribMaster handles up to six userdefined cost centers to track tool usage.

For example, one large helicopter manufacturer using CribMaster chose department as one of its cost centers. The system tracks every employee issued a tool and then saves a history of the transactions.

After building several of these usage histories, the aerospace manufacturer analyzes CribMastergenerated reports to find its high-use items within the department. This information, in turn, aids in implementing changes such as eliminating toolcrib travel time.

Associated with tool usage at aerospace plants, says Robert Holmes of WinWare, is travel time to and from toolcribs. In some instances, operators must shut down machines and either walk or ride a bike to the toolcrib, resulting in costly production downtime and non-productive hourly wages.

To remedy this, high-use items are stored in CribMaster ToolBoxes. These are software-controlled vending machines strategically placed in various departments to cut travel time and securely distribute the right tool to the right machine operator.

Besides its ToolBoxes, CribMaster provides ToolCubes, which are modular drawer systems that control access to only selected items via a touchscreen controller. Security features restrict certain job classes or individual employees from particular items, and the system reports on every transaction that takes place at the ToolCube.

For one large Canadian aerospace manufacturer, ToolCubes manage about 5 million dollars (Canadian funds) of cutting tools and MRO supplies annually. The system also locates and secures tools, eliminates concerns with re-packaging tools, and promptly notifies personnel of critical stock situations.

Replacing a chit system
Until recently, NASA Marshall Space Center in Huntsville, Ala., tracked its tools with a chit system. Employees left cards in place of a tool they removed from a bin location, and at the end of a shift or day, the cards were gathered and usage calculated. However, the NASA facility was experiencing security, accountability, and accurate inventory-count problems with the system.

Although employees could be trusted to get their own tools, sometimes they forgot to leave a card. This meant card counts and tool-usage levels were inaccurate, causing stock-outs. The chit system was also time-consuming and caused difficulty when managing multiple suppliers and producing purchase orders.

The space center now uses barcoding and radio-frequency-type scanners, which are part of Crib-Master's system. With all items logged, it prints out item barcodes for attaching to each and every bin location in the facility's toolcrib.

However, NASA crib attendants were concerned about having their hands free to simultaneously retrieve tooling and scan bin and item barcodes on-the-fly. The solution was a ring scanner unit that slides onto the fingers and is secured on the wrist of tool crib personnel. Every transaction is now accurately documented and recorded in real-time communication with a PC.

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