Stuart Westley: Robson Handling Technology has an extensive history in conveying, having been founded in 1906. Our first work in airport baggage systems was in the 1980s. We designed bespoke conveyors for the Hong Kong post office, which we found were perfectly suited for airport baggage conveyors. Our first baggage systems were for London Heathrow Airport, Terminal 4, and since then we have worked extensively in the airport sector.
Airline passenger numbers are set to drastically increase over the next 20 years. There will be more passengers, flights, airlines and increased terminal congestion. The challenge for airports will be how to create more retail space and serve the increased passenger numbers without large-scale terminal expansions and their associated costs.
In parallel to this increase in passenger numbers is a change in how passengers are using airport terminal check-in facilities. Passengers expect to have more choice and control over how they plan their trips, and are using airline apps more frequently. In 2015, for example, the European average percentage of passengers who checked in using an airline app was already 71%. This is set to grow in future. Airline apps will replace functions previously offered by CUSS kiosks. The Robson/BBC Tagomat and self-bagdrop stations (Bagomat) allow passengers to use their airline apps to check in prior to arrival at the terminal and, once there, quickly and easily tag their bags, and drop them into the baggage system. This allows them to move quickly into central search and beyond to the departure lounge.
Self-bagdrop systems that are implemented correctly will increase passenger throughput and reduce queue times during check-in. We have a partnership with BB Computerteknikk (BBC) of Norway and offer a very quick two-step, self-bagdrop solution that is used throughout Norway. There is much research illustrating how passenger stress levels are high when arriving at the airport terminal, reduce after check-in, and reduce further once they have passed through central search and into the departure lounge. At this point, they can relax and start to enjoy the travel experience; they can start to think about shopping, having a meal, or spending money. Reducing the check-in time through the use of selfbagdrop therefore maximises the time the passenger can enjoy relaxing and spending money in the departure lounge.
The Robson/BBC two-step, self-bagdrop process uses a very quick and effective self-tagging station - the Tagomat - which is located at strategic points throughout the terminal and allows the passenger to self-tag their luggage at any time from arrival at the airport to the check-in area. This means that Tagomats are not only useful in airports. Indeed, they can be found in airport train stations, in airport hotels, at main terminal thoroughfares or even away from the terminal at city centre hotels and train stations. The tag is printed within ten seconds and the passenger can walk to the check-in area where the tag is self-scanned and the bag taken into the baggage system. Using this quick two-step system greatly reduces the queues at check-in because of the ease and simplicity of the operation at the bagdrop station.
IoT is set to drastically change baggage handling over the next few years. The remote monitoring of equipment is the obvious first application of this system. Real-time data will be provided to inform maintenance support staff which pieces of equipment need preventative maintenance.
Only the necessary equipment is worked upon, saving on the unnecessary expense of working on equipment due to a time-based algorithm. This will reduce maintenance costs and maximise uptime. As the internet of things grows, companies who are looking at turning data gathered by equipment into valuable information will win out.
We use Super Premium Efficiency IE4 drives as standard across all our range of airport products. But efficient baggage hall design has a greater bearing on overall energy efficiency. Robson airport engineers have years of experience in using space efficiently in even the most congested of baggage halls. All this aims to design effective solutions that minimise the number of conveyors required and the associated power absorption.
Our layout designs are the best in the industry and use available space effectively to ensure an efficient baggage handling solution. But keeping airport operations working efficiently during installation work is key to the success of any project.
All our projects and programmes are formulated with this principle at the forefront of the planning process. Phasing plans are put together collaboratively with the customer to minimise any system downtime. To this end, installation works are generally done in parallel with ongoing operations. At the same time, tie-in work is done out of hours or at times of low demand.