How to integrate digital asset tracking into a non-digital process

In an ever increasingly digital era, there are still many companies who rely on non-digital methods to track work and processes, especially in locations where legacy offline processes have not been updated. One such company is a customer of ours who works in the aerospace industry – in fact they are a major global manufacturer of engines and key components to both military and civilian aircraft. 

Our customer’s manufacturing process is broken down into sub-assembly stations where each component passing through must have a relevant ACR Card (job card) with it. These A4 sized paper documents are transported in plastic folders and follow the components assembly throughout its stages. This documentation is critical for each sub assembly module it corresponds to (no card – no work) because it provides information and traceability of how the component has been manufactured. In aerospace, this is mission critical as every single component must be able to be traced back to its origins when it was assembled – even down to the nuts and bolts!

However, these documents can go missing – and when they do, they create a very big headache for the customer. 

What can go wrong?

Firstly, the time it takes to find the job card physically. Searching a massive aviation warehouse with hundreds of stations and similar job cards, can take days of manpower meaning the manufacturing process is slowed down or even stopped. 

Secondly, if the job card cannot be found, it must be reprinted – something that requires special authorisation and time to be done. Alongside that, and more critically, in some cases the component that the lost job card was attached to then must be stripped back down and remanufactured step by step with the new job card being re-stamped to ensure the correct process has been followed again. 

This then wastes considerable time remanufacturing an already made part, increasing costs and downtime. The customer has stated that downtime costs on average £110 per hour in manual labour, and the time taken from requesting the job card reprint, through disassembly to reassembly can take up to six weeks. This means a £25,000 in lost manual labour hours alone. 

What can be done to stop this?

While the customer is planning to digitise their systems in the future, the rollout across all of their UK manufacturing locations could take years, so in the meantime the challenge was to come up with a solution to avoid lost and misplaced job cards.  

We started by putting a small tracking beacon into the plastic folders that contained the individual job cards. Over 250 of them are linked to a central online portal, so that at any given point the folders could be tracked and located across the entire site which comprises of multiple large warehouses. 

We then expanded the customers tracking options by adding beacons to multiple other documents and assets that were deemed ‘high-risk losses’ including Handover Books, warehouse keys, gate cards and inspection equipment. The total number of tracked assets for the customer rose to almost 1,000 – all monitored in one online portal.  

Asset Tracking Portal

More than just location tracking

One added benefit from tracing the job cards that we highlighted to the customer was the company now had a greater insight and overview of their Work in Progress (WIP) during manufacturing. At any point they could track a job cards location timeline and see where bottlenecks, holdups and blockages were occurring. This gave the customer far greater visibility over the day-to-day processes and enabled them to make changes and modify that process, gain an understanding of actual time to complete rather than average times, and allowed them to streamline their whole manufacturing line with minimal interruption.  

If you would like to see how Pathfindr’s real-time asset tracking can help your business, click the link below and book in a meeting with one of our team today.