It's a New Bag, Man

The onslaught of checked baggage and changing requirements put the focus on logistics.

The more challenging aspect for airports and airlines is the increase in checked baggage. "Increasing checked bags by 20 percent is really a very large increase through the airport infrastructure for both the baggage handling system as well as the airline staffing," says Bender. Airports that are in the midst of planning for installation of inline baggage screening systems or other upgrades can return to their plans and make necessary changes for the future. Security changes that require immediate implementation present more of a challenge particularly when the industry doesn't know which Transportation Security Administration guidelines will remain.

Current baggage screening systems at most airports were not designed for the kind of demand that was caused when, for a period, every bag had to go through the baggage sort system, says Bloch.

Transport & Logistics Consultancy worked at airports during both the Syndey and the Athens Olympics. "In both cases," Bloch says, "we were able to handle many more bags than the system was designed to handle." But in both instances, he adds, the airports had time to plan for the influx, unlike with the recent response to terrorist activity. "I guess if I was an airport operator today, I'd be planning against the worstcase scenarios. Whatever the worstcase scenario I'd plan against, someone's going to dream up something worse and I can't imagine anyone would have planned in the U.K. [for] no carryon baggage. If BAA had some problems with their baggage capacity, it's not surprising."

Computer Modeling

TransSolutions uses computer simulation modeling to help its clients determine the best layout for security processing, including passenger and baggage screening. Bender says that some airport clients report checked baggage increases of 2030 percent since TSA implemented new carryon rules. "So clients have come back to us and asked us to rerun some of our models with the increased baggage demand to see if, number one, their current plans for expansion are still good; or number two, what changes they need to make in their operation to improve things."

While not all changes can be anticipated, including screening technology, Bender says the use of sensitivity analyses in the simulation process can be helpful. Bender uses sensitivity analyses to work with the model to see what will happen if processing time gets longer or screening equipment gets faster, slower, smaller, or larger. "With the ability to do sensitivity analyses, we're helping our clients build security operations that will be robust to changes in the future," she says. And with space always at a premium in airport terminals, modeling different layouts and scenarios can save an airport time as well as money.

Bloch says applying "basic production techniques" can be just as effective as computer modeling. "Ford [Motor Company] was applying production concepts to their factories in the early 1900s and they didn't use computers," says Bloch.

"If you understand your demand, the makeup of demand, the makeup of your capacity, and you're working in an engineered and controlled world, then when you have to make a change you have a thorough and controlled way of making that change."

No one can anticipate what the needs of airports and security will be in five to ten years, says Bloch. He suggests airports build out space based on today's best concepts and, "if you're in control, you can deal with changes reasonably."

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