The digital tool storage system for the Eurofighter combat aircraft improves flight safety and simplifies inventory management. Together with the 73rd Tactical Air Force Wing ‘Steinhoff’ in Rostock-Laage, we are putting this digital, mobile tool management and storekeeping solution to the test. .
Digital tool storage system for the Eurofighter
Organisation is everything
Do you know who borrowed what and when? And where it is now? It is easy to lose track of the location and state of tools and whether or not they are required. At the same time, replacing them tends to be unnecessarily expensive and time-consuming. Misplaced tools can also constitute a security risk, especially in highly sensitive contexts, such as the maintenance of complex Eurofighter technology.
At the moment, tool utilisation is largely documented manually. This approach is prone to error due to poor handwriting and typos, and it is extremely laborious: trawling hand-written record books for specific tools takes a lot of time.
To make matters worse, every flying unit in the Air Force, the Army and the Marines keep their records in their own way. The central regulations only govern which information must be recorded, but they do not specify how to record it.
Comprehensive and reliable tool management and a complete inventory are essential, however. When the whereabouts of a tool are unknown, there is a danger that it may be inside the aircraft, for instance, in the place that is being maintained. This can cause damage to parts once the aircraft is put into operation.
Improving flight safety
The Bundeswehr Cyber Innovation Hub is working with the 73rd Tactical Air Force Wing ‘Steinhoff’ in Rostock-Laage to develop a digital and mobile solution for receiving and maintaining tools and keeping an inventory for the Eurofighter. This digital toolkit is designed to reduce errors and improve flight safety.
It is based on a tool management platform system, which supports not just tool documentation but also the efficient management and optimisation of tools.
Scan tools on the go with QR codes
A durable QR code is laser-engraved on the tool, allowing it to be scanned from a modified tablet. In order to track the movement of the tool, it is assigned a fixed location in a virtual, digital twin of the actual storehouse. When somebody needs the tool to repair an aircraft, for instance, they scan the QR code to check it out. With the same mobile scanner, all further movements of the tool – e.g., delivery to another employee or return to the storehouse – can be documented and tracked in real time.
Intuitive and mobile
The project team followed a clear guiding principle: to record data as quickly, easily and securely as possible, exactly where and when they come into being.’ To do so, they run an app that is programmed to meet the needs of the maintenance and electronics squadron on their tablets and smartphones. It allows the competent storekeeper or mechanic to assign a planned purpose, aircraft, location and user to each tool and confirm the entry with a digital signature.
The recorded data are immediately and centrally available to the squadron leader, who can use them to control and manage his or her unit. The filtering and selection options of the software also make it possible to evaluate and use the data for individual tasks, depending on what information is required. Storekeepers can also carry out the daily inventory at the push of a button.
Feedback from the users in Rostock-Laage has been highly positive: not only does the system simplify their work, it also makes it more secure. With so many great advantages, the digital and mobile tool management system may well find additional applications in the Bundeswehr.