“As soon as the products with passive RFID tags are in range of the scanner they are logged into a database,” he said.
The passive radio identification technology allows the center to track items quicker and more efficiently, which drives down manufacturing costs, reduces inventory and improves processes, said Bigbee.
Automatic Inventory Systems also are changing the way Air Force Materiel Command does business.
Checking out tool kits from a consolidated tool kit facility historically has been a labor-intensive process. Mechanics had to wait in line at the beginning of a shift, request a tool kit for a particular job, inventory items in the tool kit, and sign for the kit. A similar process was repeated to return the tool kit.
The AutoLocker-RoboCrib is improving the checkout process. Already tested and implemented at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., and the command’s three air logistic centers, these lockers are making a big impact in accountability, safety and productivity, Beerbower said.
The locker system is as easy as it sounds, said Richard Sleigh, program manager for commercial software, CDO Technologies, Inc.
Tool kits are kept in lockers. To access the correct locker, workers swipe their common access card and input a toolkit code at an attached computer-like terminal. A locker door will open and the worker can simply take the toolkit and head out to the worksite.
“These provide savings of money, security for equipment, tracking for equipment and reduce toolkit inventory needs,” Beerbower emphasized.
One depot maintenance shop has reduced its toolkit inventory by 64 percent, a reduction of more than $128,000 worth of equipment.
The lockers proved that the shop employees could accomplish tasks with fewer tools on hand, which equates to the huge reductions, she said.
“Autolockers with radio identification technology can track every single tool in the kit automatically when it is scanned back into the locker,” Beerbower explained. “This cuts down on FOD (foreign object destruction) caused by lost objects on aircraft.”
The locker technology is also being used by information technology personnel at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and Warner-Robins Air Logistics Center, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., to secure and update laptop computers. Each locker is equipped with a terminal port and power outlet.
“The locker can automatically refresh laptop software once it is returned,” Sleigh said. “A program installed on the laptop wakes itself up and does all the updates for you.”
Besides reconfiguring and updating software, the lockers provide security and accountability for the laptops, he noted.