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Air travel is on the up, but airports are running out of space to expand, meaning that there is a demand to provide better operational efficiency to ensure passenger flow still remains as seamless as possible. Because of this there is a greater emphasis on building management systems. However, Ben Farrar, Solutions Specialists in Transport and Defense for Traka warns that neglecting the smaller details, like key and asset management, could have a big impact, as the industry searches for ways to make every process as efficient as possible.
The Civil Aviation Authority reported that 7.8 million passengers went through UK airports in 2013, a 3.5pc rise from 2012. And the projections are set to increase further, with global air travel expected to double by 2030. This will mean more air traffic, as well as a rise in the average number of passengers per flight. But according to the European Commision, airports are already struggling to cope with the amount of passengers, and simply expanding the airport is, in a lot of cases, not an option, as there is no space to do so. Building Management Systems is one solution that looks at improving the efficiencies of all aspects of an airport, and they do have an important role to play in ensuring airport flow. But relying on improved efficiency to deal with more passengers means that time becomes even more precious and deadlines more rigid.
But how do sophisticated management systems control the location of a physical key? And how does BMS ensure that a baggage scanner is fully charged and ready for use at the beginning of a shift? These seemingly small details in the grand scheme of the overall environment can have a real impact on the flow of an airport, and in the changing environment unnecessary delays and the consequences resulting from them will become much more significant.
When operating on large, sprawled out areas of land, ground transport becomes vital to the smooth running of an airport. Vehicles are also difficult to manage centrally, as although there can be trackers built in to locate them, it still requires a physical key to access them.
The vehicles that move an airplane into the loading bays, commonly known as tugs, are instrumental in the boarding and unloading of planes. When operating in an airport, particularly a large airport spanning hundreds of thousands of square metres, the tugs can be misplaced, lost and in some cases will need to be retrieved across relatively long distances. The tugs can cost in excess of £500,000 and although they rarely go completely missing, the additional time it takes to locate a tug can result in delayed flights. Those flight delays can result in hefty fines either for the airline or the airport, so locating the vehicles quickly is vital. A sign in/sign out paper record of who has accessed keys does not allow operators to quickly locate where a key has been issued from or who has taken the key and at what time. Automated key management makes the data visible through software, so it can be accessed anywhere in the airport. This not only helps to locate equipment quickly but it also emphasises personnel accountability, so personnel know that they are monitored if they do not return the vehicles in the correct place and within the correct time.
Vehicles are quite obviously vital to the running of an airport, especially as they span such large areas and require rapid response both for critical and non-critical issues. However, portable devices in varied shapes and sizes are also instrumental to effective airport management. Baggage scanners are vital to managing luggage throughout any airport. Heathrow alone processes 53 million bags a year and has over 30 miles of baggage conveyors and that figure is set to rise as passengers do.
Because of the cycle of shift patterns, a baggage scanner is not assigned to an individual staff member, but is shared. When starting a shift the baggage handler selects the scanner and goes to their position. However, there are very little automated processes available to ensure that equipment is charged and ready for use. There are also limited management systems that can identify when a faulty or broken scanner is returned and there is a reliance on members of staff alerting their manager or team leader.
This simple issue can cause significant problems, as personnel will have to find a working, charged device. In such a time-pressured environment small, functional delays can result in longer passenger delays. Asset management, like Traka’s lockers ensure that devices are available and charged before use.
The industry is facing increased pressure because of the rise in passengers and air traffic. When expanding isn’t possible the only way to ensure continued operational excellence is to improve the overall efficiencies of the airport, taking every detail into account. Although overarching building management systems and other integrated technology will have an impact on ensuring airport flow, the smaller details, like key and asset management, should also be effectively managed and automated to decrease the likelihood of causing delays and disrupting the airport flow unnecessarily.
About the firm
Traka is a key and asset management manufacturer that is part of the Assa Abloy group.