Streamlining: DTW's solution for logistics management

Feb. 8, 2004


By Jodi Richards, Associate Editor

DTW's solution for logistics management

When Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) opened its Edward H. McNamara Terminal in early 2002, materials handling for airport tenants began being handled in an innovative manner. Instead of every separate vendor making several trips in and out of the airport delivering material to concessionaires and tenants, all logistics is handled by Bradford Airport Logistics. The solution is designed to save time, resources, and provide an extra layer of security for the airport.
The decade old, Houston-based Bradford Airport Logistics manages logistic and inventory management functions in some 80 North American markets. Benjamin Richter, CEO, says it entered the airport market when DTW officials were looking for a new and innovative method for managing logistics for air terminals. "Detroit may only be the ninth largest airport by passenger enplanement in North America, but it's the second largest by area of concessions presence," says Richter. "There was a lot of latitude to define a model that met some basic requirements," Richter explains. "They (the airport) wanted to have centralized management of logistics, a method for tracking material in the terminal, and scheduled deliveries to and from the terminal." The planning process began approximately one year before the terminal opened, with Bradford Airport Logistics's in-house consulting group designing a plan for developing the custom hardware and software solution. "We have married all of the major ideologies associated with known freight and known shipper, coupled with physical and electronic means of both investigating and inspecting freight, as well as tracking freight as it migrates through the terminal to its ultimate destination," says Richter. Because the terminal was not yet operational, Bradford had to predict all of the volumes, the material paths, number of vendors, as well as types of products in order to design the system for the facility, says Richter. This involved meetings with airport operators, along with every tenant and its suppliers. Some 900 interviews were conducted for this process. "We were able to statistically predict with great accuracy, exactly what the volume [would be] in the airport by material type months before the facility opened," he adds. Even though the DTW installation was what Richter calls a "green field environment," meaning a newly constructed facility, he stresses that the solution is scalable to any size facility at any stage - new or existing. "There are pluses and minuses" to working in a green field environment, Richter adds. "The minuses: You have no actual inventories to measure, so you're guessing based on theoretical estimates of other facilities. In a current or live environment, our estimates get even better because we're actually able to measure real throughputs." The deployment at DTW uses wireless handheld technologies with integrated scanners to record and track all the material that arrives in the terminal. Deliveries come to the non-secure side of the airport, and Bradford's team handles the material from there. "We handle all the functions from the point of receiving the material, all the way through the delivering and execution end" says Richter. "And we do this invisibly to the traveling passenger.

Richter describes the savings to airports and tenants in this manner: "Most of the tenants within an airport, especially on the concessions side, for them logistics and material handling is not a profit center, nor is it for the airlines or the airport. For everyone it's a cost center activity. Their best talent, their best dollars, the discretionary dollars they have to spend on projects, end up being spent on people and planning and equipment, all directed at the profit centers. So you end up with very fractionalized, redundant, and inefficient logistics processes. And every organization has its own process, so you end up with an airport with hundreds of access points, with hundreds of independent entities operating independent processes with no real consolidated means of tracking information or managing material."

He adds that a vendor, who might spend three to five full days delivering in a typical airport environment, is now only spending an hour each day for two days. "[There is savings] just from removing the redundant operations, limiting airfield access, and streamlining operations into a single refined process and using technology to do the hard work of measuring, tracking, and evaluating data associated with logistics," Richter says.

Bradford also sees security benefits with its solution. The centralized command and control center allows for real-time tracking and monitoring of the material flow.

Additionally, as Richter explains, it also enables high data visibility. "Let's assume that for whatever reason, through our secure interface, both operations and law enforcement have a way to link and monitor exactly what material is going through the airport. We may not have the need to know about a potential security threat, but law enforcement might. They can actually go onto this secure site and do their own data research to determine if they need to isolate an item. They know exactly who touched it, when, and where its exact location is. It's real-time access. The product can be held, quarantined, and isolated."

This tracking system also benefits vendors who have products with a sensitive shelf-life. Bruce Class, VP of sales and marketing, explains, "We can monitor the temperatures as well as ensuring that everything is being put away into a refrigerator and freezer in a compliant manner."

When the material is scanned, a time threshold can be set on it so that if it's not put away in a compliant manner within that specified time, the autonotification system would notify supervisors of the problem. "We strictly comply will all standards and have the ability to immediately report on exactly our performance of every aspect of the business," Richter says. "In essence, if you want to know how we're doing, it's as simple as looking at the database."

Bradford has worked with the Transportation Security Administra-tion to meet current security requirements, Richter says. "We follow the TSA's directions both planned and current. We try to model things like where they've gone with cargo security. We've paid close attention to assure that we are traveling in the same direction."
The installation at DTW encompasses two million square feet of terminal space. Bradford installed its own highly secure wireless network for its operations.