In complex baggage handling projects, effective management is the vital link in ensuring that objectives and customer expectations are met in terms of time, cost, quality and performance. That doesn't happen by itself: it demands a well-structured and disciplined organisation with the right combination of skills, resources and experience.
This approach might seem common sense; however, imagine this in practice at what is one of the world's largest transfer hubs, Istanbul New Airport. Covering an area of 76.5 million square metres, it is three times the size of London's Heathrow, operated by iGA and is one of the most significant undertakings in the history of Turkish transportation.
Located at Arnavutköy, approximately 35km north of the city centre, the airport will provide tremendous economic and social value to the region over the coming decades. Up to 36,000 people worked on the airport's construction, which meant that, for Vanderlande, meticulous project management was the cornerstone for a successful outcome.
In the aviation industry, there is no standard development. Project management has to translate an airport's needs into the best solution that meets all requirements. However, smooth execution isn't simply a question of ordering and installing equipment. Customer requirements and external conditions may also fluctuate.
There must be inherent flexibility to take timely and effective corrective action when appropriate. For Vanderlande, its personnel must assume an important coordinating role in dealing with change in such a way that causes minimal disruption and delays. These factors make a responsive and proactive approach essential.
On 30 December 2015, iGA awarded the contract for the baggage handling system (BHS) to Vanderlande. In December 2017, the final conveyor was installed, bringing the total length of the entire system to 42km.
"Playing such a key role in the construction of Istanbul New Airport would be a unique challenge for any company," says Hans Geraedts, project director. "Due to the complexity involved, including the many variables, harsh weather conditions and multiple stakeholders, Istanbul needed a partner with a proven capability and demonstrable experience in handling comparable sites," he adds. "As a leading supplier and integrator, we regard project management as a prime responsibility in providing effective control over BHS design, function and performance."
Vanderlande's integrated solution inside Istanbul New Airport comprises modular conveying and sorting hardware, including individual carrier system (ICS) technology (TUBTRAX 2.0), ECAC standard 3 in-tub screening and a 100% redundant racking-based early bag store (EBS). In total, approximately 18km of ICS conveyors and 24km of raw baggage conveyors were installed.
To control the baggage handling process, Vanderlande implemented its VIBES software suite. This supports the daily operations at Istanbul and includes a batch-build module that facilitates a 'pull' process. The pull process enables a highly efficient flight make-up process by storing each bag in the bag store and pulling it out on demand.
Vanderlande also signed a five-year operation and maintenance agreement with iGA. As part of this performancebased contract, the company is responsible for the IT and controls, maintenance and operational performance of the BHS.
The company's project managers were the vital link for getting the job done, while ensuring customer satisfaction at all times. As well as taking a proactive approach, this required the ability to respond effectively to any situation to guarantee schedules and budgets were maintained, and to mitigate the impact of other external events.
Among the principle factors for successful project execution are the detailed planning of resources, personnel and materials, constant monitoring and review. Maintaining a strong level of communication and promoting teamwork - internally and externally - are also essential.
"From start to finish, Vanderlande's involvement lasted around 33 months," states Andrew Manship, Vanderlande's board member and executive vice-president of airports. "It was tendered, commissioned and completed in one of the shortest timescales I've ever known. At every stage, our emphasis was on maintaining a close partnership with iGA, starting with the initial analysis of their requirements right through to total life-cycle support."
A relatively short time after being awarded the contract, Vanderlande's dedicated international team achieved a world record in BHS engineering, supply and installation. In September 2017, Vanderlande's efforts were recognised and it received an award for being the best-performing contractor at iGA.
Excellent project management was one of the significant contributors to winning this accolade. The constant coordination and communication from Vanderlande's project managers ensured that the execution of its activities were smooth and predictable, yet still retained the necessary flexibility to deal with special situations.
For Geraedts, the rewards are tremendous. "Having a blank piece of paper at the start of a project, but leaving a thriving system is highly satisfying to me," he enthuses. "It is what I enjoy most about working on large-scale projects, such as Istanbul New Airport. With Vanderlande's experience and expertise, I have learned that anything is possible - even if the challenges are great. We finished on time and iGA can be assured of excellent support for years to come."