Orange Business Services fires up Safran Aircraft Engines with IoT

Safran aircraft engines in manufacturing process

15,000 sensors create an Internet of tools tracked by 250 antennas

Orange Business Services (OBS) has cracked a new problem for manufacturers with the Internet of Things (IoT) – industrial scale management of tools.

The geolocation and digitisation project it built for Safran Aircraft Engines (SAE) has created a system that could be adapted for use by comms service providers in many other industries, according to Emmanuel Routier, VP of Industry 4.0 at Orange Business Services. There were lessons learned on the comms side, too, according to Routier, as the service provider overcame a challenging environment for setting up signals.

Lessons learned on the comms

The new system, that Orange Business Services has built, now manages 15,000 tools in Safran Aircraft Engines’ two giant factory plants in Villaroche and Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, which are spread over 55,000 and 20,000 square meters, respectively. In the factory, each complex stage of engine production has to be precisely orchestrated and involves multiple teams, supplies of components and the application of conditioning materials such as air and liquid cooling systems.

Missing items can cause painfully expensive delays, and the tools are the most likely to be either lost or faulty. The SAE plants have 15,000 tools and 75,000 square meters of space for them to get lost in.

Losing tools would be fatal

When Orange Business Services was commissioned to track and manage the tools, its plan was to tag each of the 15,000 tools with a sensor (tracker) to pinpoint their location using 250 antennas. However, according to Routier, the factory plants create a harsh environment for signalling on certain wavelengths.

Orange Business Services uses Bluetooth® between the trackers on the tools and the antennas in the Safran factories. The antennas’ backhaul technology mixes fixed Internet, Wi-Fi, and cellular.

Each tool is tagged with a tracker associated with a customer reference ID. As the signals are sent out from each tool, the antennas calculate the precise location, to within 3 meters, based on the angle from which the signal arrives.

Ubisense management system

The reference IDs for each tool are managed through a Ubisense service platform that Orange Business Services customised. This platform tells exactly where each tool is at any moment. The customised service platform also provides a dashboard that enables Safran’s engineers to monitor all the tools for preventive maintenance.

As Safran’s service integrator, the Orange Business Services project managed three main partners: ELA Innovation provided the tracking devices and expertise, Quuppa provided the antennas, and Ubisense created the management system.

Though this Industry 4.0 system was customised for Safran, it could be readily adapted and applied to other manufacturing and industrial companies, says Routier.

Orange’s commitment was crucial

The Orange teams’ commitment throughout the implementation of the entire project was crucial.”

Christophe Blayo, Head of tooling for commercial engines assembling at Safran Aircraft Engines

With our dual expertise as a carrier and an integrator, we draw on our ecosystem of partners to bring market-leading technologies together, allowing us to best meet our customers’ needs across the entire value chain.”

Emmanuel Routier, VP of Industry 4.0 at Orange Business Services

This article was first published at

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