Cost savings are key in airport operations, with pressure on prices in every area. Efficient, high-quality baggage handling not only offers direct cost savings, for example by reducing energy usage and labour requirements, but also minimises error costs such as those caused by system downtime and short shipped bags. How can baggage handling systems contribute to cost savings in all these areas?

One of the main opportunities for reducing running costs is by optimising energy efficiency. This can be achieved firstly by intelligent system control to adapt system capacity to the required load, and secondly by design changes to take advantage of new technologies and detail improvements.

Smart controls for dynamic capacity adjustment

Intelligent system control takes advantage of the fact that baggage volumes vary significantly, for example with the typical morning and evening peaks. Maintaining maximum system capacity throughout the day means there is substantial excess capacity much of the time. With smart controls, belt speeds can be reduced and complete sections of the system switched off dynamically as load factors fall. The use of smart algorithms allows fully automatic capacity adjustment, matching demand without the need for manual intervention.

Vanderlande Industries’ standard controls solution, Vibes, provides an integrated automation solution, including analysis functions for system monitoring, analysis and optimisation to continuously improve the quality of handling, and use of resources including energy.

Smart system control allows automatic capacity adjustment, saves energy, and reduces and simplifies maintenance without manual intervention.

Secondary advantages of intelligent system control include reduced wear and tear on moving parts and optimised maintenance. By scheduling preventive maintenance in the ‘slow’ periods it can be carried out conveniently and economically, without the need for total system shutdowns. Improved preventive maintenance also reduces the risk of costly downtime due to equipment failures.

Bagstore optimises system capacity and efficiency

Further savings can be made by optimising system capacity during the design phase. Use of temporary bag storage means the departure system does not need to be designed for the maximum expected input capacity. The crane/racking-based Bagstore acts as a fast, fully redundant random access buffer for ‘peak shaving’ of excess bags. Bags can be stored with great energy efficiency in any empty rack position, and called forward individually for sorting and loading exactly when needed. All bags for a specific flight can then be sorted efficiently in the same time-window, so bagstore helps to maximise both the capacity and efficiency of the total system.

Energy-saving opportunities through technology developments

As well as these possibilities for smart system control, technology developments and detailed improvements open up opportunities for savings in energy and materials. Research findings supported by field measurements show that the biggest potential energy gains in a baggage handling facility are not in the sorter, but in the transport belts. In fact these use more than twice as much energy per metre as the sorter, and often account for as much as 85% of the total system energy consumption.

Through innovative redesign, significant savings can be achieved in the conveyor belts, for example by reducing friction losses and improving energy-conversion efficiency. In the moving components, a low-friction belt, optimised tensioning unit and lighter pulleys reduce energy requirements and save materials. All these items are incorporated into the Vanderlande Industries Greenveyor belt system, which allows energy savings of up to 40% compared with standard systems. Many of these improvements can also be achieved quickly and cost-effectively in existing systems with Vanderlande Industries’ revision, modification and retrofit (RMR) programme.

Further energy savings can be made in the choice of the electrical gear motors. The latest motors with an energy-efficiency rating of IE4 (super premium efficiency) are now starting to become available. Significant gains can also be made by upgrading older systems to the existing IE3 (premium efficiency) or IE2 (high efficiency) standards.

Higher conveyability and fewer disturbances

Another innovation aimed at increasing efficiency and reducing costs is Bagcheck, which analyses and classifies incoming baggage to determine conveyability. Automated decisions on conveyability are made with greater accuracy and consistency than by human operators. Smart software allows Bagcheck to adjust its decision criteria in-line with airport operating conditions, thereby saving on manpower costs and significantly reducing the chance of jams and resultant costly delays.

The same benefits are provided by Vanderlande Industries’ Tubtrax destination coded vehicle (DCV) system, in which single baggage items are carried uniformly in tubs for 100% conveyability with positive RFID tracking of each item. Although the initial investment is higher than for raw baggage systems, this is more than compensated for by the higher conveyability and low mishandled bag rate (IRRATE).

The result is lower operational costs with fewer costly operational disturbances. Attention for sustainability is underlined by the lightweight tubs, which minimise energy consumption in transport. Further energy savings can be achieved by combining Tubtrax with a Bagstore system to hold tubs until they are needed, instead of having them constant circulate on the system. Vanderlande Industries’ tubtrax system has been installed at numerous airports, including at the recently opened Midfield T1 Terminal at Barcelona Airport.

By optimising availability and reliability, these innovations allow the lowest possible total cost of ownership to be achieved. At the same time the associated energy savings make a significant contribution to the increasingly important aspect of sustainability.