Many airport security checkpoints are close to full capacity and costs continue to rise. How can the service be made more efficient? Speaking to Future Airport, Søren Jangaard, CEO of WO Airport Interior, describes the design solutions airports can pursue to meet this challenge.

What kind of company is WO Airport Interior?

Søren Jangaard: This Danish company has a 100-year-long history, starting as a carpentry business before evolving into the design and industrial production of airport interiors. The human-centric perspective has always been the starting point of the design and manufacturing process.

What are the main challenges for airports when it comes to security checkpoints?

The capacities of security checkpoints in many airports are close to the limit due to increased traffic, and changes in procedures and regulations. Security costs continue to grow, and airports must take advantage of every opportunity to improve efficiency and reduce capital expenditure and operating expense (capex and opex).

Security screening capacity is also limited by space restrictions in the central part of the airport. Everyone knows that LAG restrictions will be lifted, but not exactly when, or what the consequences will be for the security process. On top of these challenges, passengers’ experiences and evaluation of airports are becoming increasingly important.

How are you working with airports to meet these challenges?

WO Airport Interior has a long history in the design and supply of airport equipment for security checkpoints. Our focus is on the security process, and on how to design and optimise the various parameters. We have identified five main design drivers that are part of everything we do:
1. Focus on the flow: in automatic tray-return systems, the access to the tray dispenser is often an overlooked bottleneck: several systems allow only one passenger at a time to grab a tray and start loading. Tray size is also of great importance for the flow and the usage of scanning capacity. It is rare that very large trays are optimal.
2. Footprint of the security process: there is a complex relationship between tray size, throughput capacity and the length of the security system. A compact security process with no wasted space is ideal. That can be achieved by using multiple levels and by having multiple functionalities integrated in the same equipment.
3. Flexibility: this is a prerequisite if you want solutions to fit specific airport layouts and fixed structures without compromising cost and security. We work with an array of modules that can be combined and upgraded. Airports also need flexibility to adopt new screening procedures and new technologies when the LAG scenario becomes reality. Flexibility is also key to improving processes. If layout and procedures can’t be changed, staff and team leaders will soon abandon further actions on process improvements.
4. Passenger experience: we know from several studies what upsets passengers. When a journey begins with a good experience, it affects the overall impression of the airport. The strategic importance of the security process increases as the first point of personal contact when ticketing, check-in and baggage drop become self-service. Aesthetics and good design that integrates form and function has a strong influence on passengers. By making the security process logical and intuitive, flow increases, and queuing and waiting times decrease. From a commercial perspective, the saved time might be converted into increased profit in the retail area of the airport.
5. Capex and opex: the economic parameter is, of course, very important. By reusing and standardising modules, capex can be reduced due to scale of economy. In the selection of components and technical principles, robustness and simplicity should be kept in focus to reduce service and maintenance cost. An often overlooked factor in improving staff efficiency is ergonomic means. By optimising working positions and feature individuality, the throughput can be increased and the rate of sick leave reduced. Remote screening is another design trend. In the first remote screening projects – going on right now – airports expect to cut cost by 10-25%.

What sets you apart from other companies in the field?

I think our strong commitment to these five design drivers has been turned into a unique product concept and performance that is noticed by passengers, staff and airport professionals. Focus on design, form and function is encoded in our DNA. We are so committed to development that our guiding vision simply is to offer the ‘World’s best security process’. That is a high ambition, so we should remain innovative and still be challenged by ourselves, customers and partners.

Should airports invest in new technologies?

Within a few years, airports will need to invest to be able to implement new LAG regulations. However, they should not only look at the screening technology but at the whole process as well.

It is my experience that there is too much focus on technology and that other significant opportunities to improve the process are often overlooked. We know there is at least a factor of two in the difference between the average and best-performing airports in Europe. This is not due to screening technology, as the equipment is often the same; the difference lies in how much attention the airport gives to process improvements. It is a complex task, but insights in the human factor are a key to process design and improvements.

Good design is good business for the airport and for its commercial partners. You don’t make money on security, but the airport and partners can certainly lose money on poor security process design.