Identified at first glance

Innovative procedure for material identification in international repair cycle

Supplying internal and external customers globally with aircraft materials holds many challenges in terms of logistics. Timely identification of the required spare parts in particular offers a variety of options in the supply and return. The identification process at Lufthansa Technik Logistik Services (LTLS) extends from incoming goods processing and (certificate) checks to booking in the Lufthansa Technik materials management system through to processing of all accompanying documents. The aircraft material is then forwarded by LTLS to the workshops. The routing of the material via various points – from the customer to LTLS to the workshop and back again if necessary – frequently leads to long transport times, high transport and handling costs as well as large material stocks. 

LTLS has now developed a new procedure called gate.control (gate = Global AsseT Expert) to identify materials in the international component cycle and enable direct shipping of spare parts from the customer to the closest MRO operation (Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul) and back again if required. The project benefited in this respect from the intense cooperation with the participating quality departments. gate.control allows serviceable and non-serviceable spare parts to be identified early on. This is made possible thanks to a remote procedure, which consists of non-influencable control software, hardware for recording information and a predefined process, which defines the responsibilities of all parties involved.

The aircraft material can therefore be identified already at the customer site. The central element here is a box of about one cubic meter in size that was developed specially for this purpose. It has four overview cameras and an exterior camera, which are used to produce photographic documentation of the aircraft material and the packaging condition. The mobile detail camera allows the nameplate to be captured in high resolution so that part and serial numbers can be checked. A scanner is used to digitize any accompanying documents. More than 90 percent of all aircraft components at Lufthansa Technik can be captured in the box. The remaining materials are photographed using the exterior camera and can therefore likewise be incorporated in the predefined standard process. The data capture process is controlled by software to guarantee that the information intake is standardized and handled identically every time.

The information package is then transmitted to the responsible technical department in LTLS. Specially trained employees are responsible for carrying out the binding identity and quantity control and also certificate checks. The material is then booked into the Lufthansa Technik merchandise management system and the documents created are sent to the providers locally. This new procedure allows the aircraft material to be sent physically from the customer directly to the MRO operation (and back again if required) without an LTLS employee having to be on the ground with the customer. There are currently three gate.control boxes available with trained personnel in Singapore, Mexico and Paris. Additional boxes are planned with the result that the number of specially trained employees will also increase accordingly. A patent has meanwhile been registered for the procedure and the gate.control box.

The gate.control remote procedure shortens the turnaround times for aircraft material by up to 45 percent and leads to reductions in transport costs of up to 40 percent. Moreover, warehousing and routine costs are minimized and – thanks to consistent and standardized photo documentation – data quality is improved. In light of the strong dynamic in the aviation sector, it will soon be necessary to contemplate additional application fields in which gate.control and other innovative procedures aimed at improving the existing value creation systems can be used. Commercially focused airline customers in particular have a heightened interest in identifying innovative models and technologies to further reduce costs and therefore remain competitive. A comprehensive supply chain management for MRO operations would be one further conceivable concept of gate.control.