Unlocking the Potential of IT in Ground Handling

Aug. 8, 2018
Digitization allows greater transparency in all ground handling processes and is crucial for a better, proactive control of the business.

With passenger and flight numbers steadily increasing, it is a huge concern for the whole aviation industry that capacity maximums will soon be reached. This may lead to greater infrastructure problems with a serious impact on all related businesses. Ground handlers are already struggling with shorter turnaround times and the future prospects are not looking any brighter. With higher flight numbers, there usually are also a number of other constraints along the chain of operations, for example an increased number of flight plan discrepancies. Another great concern is the shortage of qualified ground handling personnel and the following difficulties with shift and holiday planning.

These and other daily struggles put a great strain on the ground handling industry, therefore an optimization of operations and operating capacities are of the essence.

One of the explanations for these problems rest on pure market forces. Ground handlers are subjected to intense competition. As a result, they are in a constant search for the efficiencies needed to make a more compelling price offering to their airline customers. The airlines on the other hand, are making more and more quality demands and are requesting even shorter turnaround times. These strains mainly result from changes in the process chain and new airline concepts, such as low cost and ultra low cost carriers.

As the ground handling industry changes, so too are the workflows in day-to-day operations subject to rapid developments. A sustainable technological structure is only possible if all processes along the chain of operations are taken into account and optimized. For example, a fully digitalized, paperless workflow will lead to a better on-time performance, billing accuracy of provided services and greater error reduction rate. Furthermore, efficient resource planning and allocation is key for revenue optimization and, of course, employee satisfaction. The focal point of all operations is naturally always the on-time performance, which drives revenues and defines the success of any business in the industry.

It is already evident, that data-driven business intelligence and digitization of work processes are transforming the aviation industry. Digitization allows greater transparency in all ground handling processes and is crucial for a better, proactive control of the business. It all comes down to capturing and analyzing data, correct invoicing and planning. Multiple captures of the same data and the following errors along the invoice chain can, for example, be avoided with an efficient billing tool, part of a smoothly running information technology (IT) structure.

Furthermore, by allocating resources more efficiently and updating existing IT structures, one of the most valued goods in ground handling today – time – can be saved. Next to revenue and resource planning, better quality management through fuller data capture and analysis is possible. Data volumes can be enormous and at times almost impossible to handle, but a good business intelligence (BI) solution manages these volumes and produces important information regarding quality, efficiency and revenues in an almost fully automated manner. Predictive analysis for example, allows ground handlers to better monitor day-to-day workloads and builds a stable basis for future operational decision-making.  

Mobile apps for front-end process management are no longer only a “nice to have” functionality, but have become a central part of digital process optimization. Paperless service registration applications help personnel go about their daily workflow more efficiently, with less data capture errors and, what’s more, exchange real-time data with the back-end at all times. This means, better concentration, less room for error and greater billing accuracy. Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, on the other hand, allow businesses the much-needed flexibility and are less of a strain on budgets.

These are only a few of several IT solutions, that can help ground handlers to ensure their operations become more efficient and turnaround times achievable. Sustainable planning and investments in innovative technologies are therefore of the essence. Flexible software architecture, which adapts to changing processes, is also key to managing the growing demands in the ground handling sector. Web-based, cloud-hosted and multi-station software, for example, can be deployed in different locations and managed centrally. This allows for better control and transparency of ground handling processes as well as for increased standardization of operations for companies with various subsidiaries. Topsystem has long been a frontrunner in this respect. With all our products, the customer can rely on a comprehensive, 24/7 supported solution, which is web-based and multi-station capable. With the powerful IT backbone of an extensive database, ground handlers can implement a truly innovative, future-oriented solution.

For this IT structure to work, however, all processes along the chain must be comprehensively incorporated. An intensive process analysis at the very beginning of the implementation will identify any optimization possibilities and will create a basis for more transparent functioning in the future. Due to the increasing complexity and the high dynamics in ground handling, an agile development and implementation methodology would best fit the needs of businesses in this sector. As a rule, a long-term partnership with a specialized IT system house provides the perfect basis for developing and implementing the solutions, which best suit the needs of the customer.

Topsystem has worked with numerous ground handling companies of different sizes over the past 20 years and has built stabile partnerships, based on trust and excellent service. From our experience, a clear definition of goals and expectations in connection to implementing the right solution, are crucial for a mutually beneficial business relationship. A competent and experienced operations manager from the customer side and a devoted project manager from the supplier side can best coordinate this kind of project. Combining IT expertise and operations insights allows for the best possible outcome when implementing a new IT solution or structure. At the end, the tool does not determine the scope of work, but the process chain and customer needs define the tool.

So what are the benefits of a better IT infrastructure and future prospects for the ground handling industry? Companies are empowered with a new sense of market competitiveness. The increased efficiencies, that digitized processes allow, result in cost and error reductions throughout the whole chain of operations. Resources are allocated more effectively, resulting in faster turnaround-times and higher profits. Revenue optimization is achieved through consistent service registration on mobile devices and paperless invoicing. What’s more, ground handlers can finally concentrate on their core business and reduce their own IT resources and maintenance costs by investing in a SaaS or cloud-based solution and partnering up with an experienced software provider.

In a dynamic, ever growing environment, it is extremely challenging for ground handlers to find the best practices to cope with those developments. It’s therefore vital for the sector to utilize the potential of digital, paperless solutions and invest in a sustainable, stable business growth. That is the way to a more certain and bright future for the whole ground handling industry.


Ingo Richter studied electrical engineering at Chemnitz University of Technology. In 1992, he first came in contact with the aviation business. As a project engineer for airport equipment, he soon specialized in passenger information systems (FIDS) at Daimler Benz Airport Systems. He moved to CONRAC GmbH (later Data Modul AG) in the year 2000 and initially took over sales management at the Weikersheim site, where he later took over the overall technical responsibility (CTO) for Data Modul AG. In August 2017, he was appointed CEO for the aviation department of the company topsystem, located in Wuerselen, Germany.