Complete integration in a baggage handling project takes an airport's disparate systems, such as flight scheduling and passenger information systems, and neatly joins them to one another, yielding a system that not only sorts and conveys baggage, but also provides tracking, tracing and detailed system performance information. This information is invaluable in helping airport crews correctly route passenger baggage and in ensuring maximum uptime for baggage handling equipment. Integrating technologies so that baggage handling operating systems match existing airport infrastructure also improves the speed with which a system can be installed and the ease of maintenance and repairs.
Tote-based baggage handling systems like the FKI Logistex CrisBag™ offer an integrated solution that puts every piece of baggage in a dedicated RFID-coded tote. In a CrisBag™ system, the baggage travels in the tote until it is loaded on the plane. CrisBag™ can also be used in an early bag storage system that stores and retrieves baggage according to flight schedules.
At check-in, key advances in baggage handling include weighing and conveying systems that feature ergonomic designs for the convenience of ticket counter personnel and passengers. These systems streamline the check-in process, minimize passenger wait times and improve check-in counter efficiency, speed and accuracy.
Adding RFID baggage tags or RFID tag printers to the check-in process takes conventional bar code systems one step further. Making systems RFID-enabled starting at the baggage entry point provides near-100 percent sort-track-and-trace capability. Advanced check-in counter systems also feature the automatic association of weight and baggage tag information, including RFID data.
In European-style check-in systems, baggage is weighed on the conveyor that moves the bags to screening and sortation stations. With the passenger volumes that busy airports and airlines achieve, this translates to processing more passengers on time.
Systems Design and Layout
To make certain that a baggage handling system will operate at peak efficiency, a lot of time should be spent looking at how best to optimize system performance and reliability. Part of that process is understanding where the critical points are and designing a system and layout that reduces downtime. Maximizing the ability of ground maintenance personnel to respond to failures is a key goal when designing any baggage handling project.
Another important way to meet the needs of ground support teams is to minimize the time and energy spent by ground personnel compensating for and fixing system failures, such as equipment needing repair. The best way to accomplish this is to build redundancy into a system by providing alternate routes for baggage and baggage handling information during system failures. Designing redundant controls, conveying, sorting and screening paths helps airport and ground crews avoid the cascading, costly and sometimes disastrous effect of delayed baggage missing connecting flights.
The Many Facets of Project Support
When designing projects, baggage handling providers strive to build systems with components that are known to be reliable and dependable, and that match as closely as possible with existing parts inventory. Another imperative is installing easy-to-understand diagnostics tools that give maintenance staff ongoing data on system reliability. When parts do fail, providing easy access to all of the common components and spare parts that maintenance staff need is critical.
Ongoing service, support and training also play key roles. For mission-critical systems like baggage handling, it is important to have full 24/7 service and support available, as well as a variety of training options, including web-based training. Service, support and training are as crucial after the sale as they are before it.
Getting "buy-in" from ground support personnel is also a vital part of the baggage handling systems design process. Inviting ground support crews to be part of the commissioning team helps during the training process and in the installation, implementation and maintenance of a project.
Adapting to Change
Like any system, an automated baggage handling system must be flexible and scalable to maintain its relevance and vitality. For instance, using variable frequency drives and motors allows a system to work at today's throughput speeds while also being ready to work at tomorrow's increased speeds. Building intelligence into a baggage handling system, such as smart controls and upgradeable software, gives it the flexibility to meet longer term needs.