KAIZEN: A Change for the Better

After nearly 25 years, Delta Air Lines will implement a new processes with the redesign, upgrade and overhaul of its baggage handling system at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where it operates the world’s largest airline hub.

Some might say this is particularly true of the airline industry. The concept for the baggage system project was initiated more than 10 years ago through a study performed by B&P Consultants. But it was only last year at this time that an updated study was presented to Delta’s executive committee by the GSE management group. Approval for the project came in February and the funding was finally approved in July.

With Delta having just come out of bankruptcy, other major projects being negotiated, and the $100 million price tag on this project, Foster’s group had to diligently and thoroughly present each and every benefit and cost savings. “We had to go through and dig out every savings that we could; based on less baggage tractor traffic, fewer tractors, fewer drivers, etc.,” Wix says. “We are also looking at a significant savings in fuel costs because we are proposing to put more than 200 pieces of electric GSE on the terminal.”

Converting to electric necessitates building an entirely new power infrastructure, and according to Wix, “it’s perfect timing and only a small incremental piece compared to the overall project.” To support the electrical upgrade, two transformers with switchgear will need to be installed in the terminal and four transformers with additional switchgear supporting both the conveyor system and the electric GSE will be placed out on the B Concourse.

Though the plans for the baggage system for Atlanta weren’t actually put on paper until two months ago, the initial concept and existing Telecar rail system was built by Eastern Airlines more than 25 years ago. “They loaded all the baggage in an aluminum cart and shot it through the tunnel out to the concourse,” Wix says. “We are simply updating that and going to a conveyor system.” More than 24,000 linear feet of conveyor will be installed, nine claim device units will be replaced, and 15 makeup carousels will be added on Concourse B. Twenty-three double-stacked piers for nearly 100 gates and 1,050 flights a day will also be in operation.

The new baggage handling system will yield:

  • 75% reduction in baggage jams
  • 25% reduction in mishandled bags
  • 15 % reduction in fuel costs
  • 7% reduction in transfer/terminating drivers
  • Reduction in baggage claim area wait times by an average of 15 minutes
  • Reduced ramp traffic
  • Customer satisfaction – priceless!

According to the GSE management group and as recently evidenced by the DOT report, Delta Air Lines is already improving its baggage performance. With Atlanta’s aggressive project and an August 2008 completion schedule, they hope to continue that record. As Foster explains, “With the corporate-wide baggage initiative and [the GSE management group’s] desire to expand Atlanta, the timing was right…so we just decided to ‘bite the bullet’ and go for it.”

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