BHS maintenance: How to prepare your baggage handling system for reopening

Over the past year and a half, the baggage handling systems (BHS) of many airports have been set in snooze mode as global air traffic dropped and numerous airports were left empty during the pandemic. Now as vaccines begin to do their job and people are venturing out to travel again, airports need to ramp up their BHS operations to deal with resumed baggage volumes.

Here are the top tips from our team of Hotline and remote access experts on how best to reactivate your BHS for a smooth operation and optimal performance.

Clean, reboot, test

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In our experience, a BHS that has been dormant for some time can encounter electrical, mechanical or software issues when operations resume. To avoid potential issues when commencing your operations again, these are the top three things we recommend you do before reactivating your baggage handling:

  1. Clean and check all sensors in the system, including the photoelectric cells, as dust is one of the major disruptors for photocell performance and if a cell has been bumped and out of focus, the system will create an alarm which is time consuming to remedy once the system is in operation;
  2. Conduct a controlled reboot of all the computer hardware in your system; and
  3. Run test routes (to exercise the system after the snooze) or run physical items through the system to ensure the hardware is performing well and then check the system performance through e.g. alarms and scanner read rates.

These measures are fundamental to ensuring smooth operations and is the advice we offer all systems operators when commissioning a system on site or providing our regular on-site advisory service.

Recommended routines

To really ensure your BHS is up and running smoothly after a period of inactivity, there are a number of further routine tests that you can perform:
 
  • Test run 100 barcodes over each IATA scanner. Check the read rate and if there are problems, contact the scanner service.
  • If your system has been without power, power up all parts of the system, checking for any parts that potentially need to be replaced. This means, of course, that you ought to ensure you can source the necessary spare parts on time.
  • If your system has been with power during COVID-19’s downtime, it’s still advisable to power cycle all main control and power panels to ensure that all your system’s power supply units, frequency inverters and so on are performing well.
  • If your computer hardware has been turned off during the downtime, make sure to check the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) function is still performing well. 

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Extra steps to take if you are using modern ICS technology

In addition to the above, we also have some special advice for the airport that is equipped with a modern individual carrier system (ICS) such as the CrisBag® system, the tote-based ICS:

  • Run service routes on the system and check the performance of the system alarms afterwards.
  • Run a complete service on your tilting devices that convey the baggage in a linear direction.
  • Run a complete service on the miniloader in the baggage storage system.
  • If using the CrisBag® system, run a one-hour virtual test plan on the system, in cooperation with your Hotline engineer, and obtain a report on the system status.

Use data analytics to focus maintenance efforts

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And our final word of advice for all airports: during production, the system’s alarms will pop up from time to time. It’s therefore always important to conduct daily checks of your alarms after production to identify those areas with the most alarm activity in order to troubleshoot and remedy the problem areas.

This is where data analytics tools can be so helpful for the BHS professional. With data analytics, you will get an overview of patterns and problem areas within the system, providing you with an accurate picture of where to dedicate your maintenance efforts. Being able to identify specific elements of the system requiring immediate attention will not only save time, it will prevent many unwanted stops and ensure the system is stable. Maintenance staff can focus on the ‘real’ issues, while operations can get on top of their system performance, without being caught off guard. 

Conclusion

As airports seek to recover revenue while progressing their operations generally, it will be essential that their baggage handling systems are up to the levels of usual operations. By following our recommended steps, airports will be well on the way to ensuring their dormant systems are reactivated for smooth and efficient baggage handling.

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