In addition, Frankfurt Airport has now also adopted a fully automated tub inspection line, which robotically cleans and examines the airport’s 20,000 baggage carriers, largely using optical measurements to pick up on any faults, and thus plays an important part in ensuring the baggage system runs reliably.
Automated solutions are increasingly featured at the other end of the journey, too, with the arrival of the likes of MUM (Mechanical Unloading Module) at Schiphol as part of the 70MB program – a system described by some commentators as marking a huge leap forward in baggage handling technology.
Another world first, at its heart lies a mechanized system capable of lifting, tipping and emptying containers onto a conveyor for processing and sorting – and equipped with state-of-the-art video cameras to enable adjustments to be made as required.
Designed to improve worker safety and improve efficiency, MUM has already demonstrated a 10 percent increase in hourly productivity, and that is expected to increase further as the rest of the planned connecting systems and infrastructure come online in the future.
It is not just behind the scenes, however, that the benefits of the improvement program can be seen; having pioneered a self-service approach to baggage drop-off in 2008, Schiphol has recently extended the idea in response to good reports from its users.
The self-service approach has also started to gain traction in other ways, too; in 2012, Swissport International, in collaboration with partner Sky Assist, linked the concept with e-services and introduced the first-ever self-reporting facility for lost baggage at Geneva International Airport.
Now, passengers missing bags on arrival can choose to enter the details online at a dedicated PC terminal, scanning their boarding pass to simplify much of the data entry, and adding the rest via a touch-screen – and so avoid the hassle and delay of conventional “Lost & Found” desks.
With all the necessary information given, the passenger receives a printout giving the appropriate contact details, an initial status report on the search, and when to expect the missing item to be returned.
The concept – now installed in dedicated kiosks in three other airports and scheduled to be added to more – seems to have gone over well with the travelers, as Roland Khnelt, Swissport’s Head of Performance Management & Innovation, explains.
Bringing the self-service approach to lost baggage is the logical extension of the wider use of self-check ins and baggage drop-offs, and sits well with the general move within the industry to automate airport processes, and simplify the overall passenger experience.
“For our low-cost customer close to 90 percent of lost and found cases are handled via the online AHL declaration, for other customers the percentage is lower,” says Roland Khnelt, Swissport’s head of performance management and innovation. “Feedback from passengers is generally positive, but we are always seeking to improve the service and make the declaration easier for them.”
Swissport plans to extend this service to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport and in Spanish stations in due course.
Despite the huge advances over recent years, still more upgrades are planned and new developments are in the pipeline.
Grenzebach, for example, is working on integrating fully automated container transport in their solution, as well as adding further container types to their portfolio of supported loading units.
“We are also working on designing multi-destination loading cells – a loading cell which can support several containers for different destination simultaneously,” Dhner says. “Beyond that, we continue to monitor evolution of 3D sensory technologies, which may help us to further enhance 3D resolution and implicitly positioning accuracy and loading quality.”
For Swissport, in the near future Khnelt says it will be focusing on improving its existing solutions – working on the likes of providing “web-to-mobile” boarding passes from its own Web check-in application, to be sent either via email or SMS. Home-printed luggage tags are another idea that the company is investigating, looking at how they can adapt their applications to produce them, while also keeping a close watch on the development of possible alternatives, such as permanent bag tags.