High-performance equipment and IT drives Air Canada Cargo's giant automated handling facility at the Pearson International Airport, writes Carroll McCormick
By Michelle Garetson/p>
By Carroll McCormick
From a second-story vantage, an enormous matrix of green storage racks holding 1,900 bright yellow freight roll carts almost disappears as the eye follows it to a distant wall. Hidden behind another wall is a second storage area, large enough to swallow 650 unit loading devices (ULD) on their way to and from aircraft bellies. Guided by a computer-controlled Inventory Control System (ICS) that tracks the location of all the facility's freight with way bills and bar codes, a fleet of automated vehicles store and retrieve loose freight, ULDs and pallets while their human colleagues build up and break down containers, serve customers and fill in the gaps in transport, like running containers to the passenger terminal apron and unloading cookie sheets from roller trucks.
Air Canada began planning the automated facility several years ago when the Greater Toronto Airport Authority's expansion plans called for demolishing its old cargo building.
"We came to an agreement to build our [new] facility smack in the middle of the infield," says Claude Morin, Air Canada's Vice President - Cargo. "We have a world class facility."
Air Canada Cargo moved into the facility in February, 2002 and switched from manual to automatic control in July.
"We took into account Air Canada's growth over the next 10 years," says Project Manager Mike Roy. After acquiring Canadian Airlines in 2000, Air Canada modified the original design to accommodate the extra staff and cargo. As currently configured, it has a 300,000 tonne/year throughput capacity. There is room, however, to double the number of storage racks and roll carts to boost the capacity to a half-million tonnes annually.
Muratec (Murata Machinery Limited) and cdg, now owned by Logan, manufactured the equipment for the physical distribution system. Katlyn International Inc. provided the project management and the IT solutions (the computer control systems).
The combination of Muratec and Katlyn's technology was superior for the Air Canada facility, according to Roy. Too, Katlyn is a local company in Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario.
"We knew we would get premier support from them," says Roy. Katlyn has worked on other large facilities; e.g., the Japan Airlines facility at New York's JFK Airport. Katlyn also has the service contracts for the facility and a 24/7 presence.
"The automated terminal allows us as management to determine what is going to happen in the building, when we want it to happen," explains Lise-Marie Turpin, General Manager, Cargo Operations - North America. "We are really controlling the pace [at which] we want the work done and what work should be done first."
Statistics and Logistics