5 ways to reduce costs and improve operational efficiency in baggage handling

Millions of baggage items will pass through an airport on any one day. Given that the airport has to deal with baggage as part of its service, how does it then handle this operation in an efficient and cost-effective way?

A baggage handling system is an integral feature of an airport’s logistics. An optimised and streamlined baggage handling system will create greater passenger satisfaction as well as increased operational efficiency.

There are numerous technologies and system designs behind an effective baggage handling system that can really help an airport achieve operational excellence and efficiency in handling its baggage volumes.

1. Optimise baggage screening

BEUMER Group in-tote screening

A crucial component of the BHS is its security screening of the baggage that passes through it.

There has been an increase in security screening standards and aviation safety regulations require airports to upgrade their systems to meet these standards. Of course, aviation safety regulations can be a costly obligation that airports must adhere to. Equally, though, they can present a unique chance for airports to optimise their baggage handling system (BHS) and screening infrastructure if the design is right.

The benefits of new screening technology

There are a number of ways the benefits of these regulations can outweigh the costs. 

Airports comply with high security levels when conforming to the regulations. New screening technology is more advanced and able to screen baggage faster and more efficiently. Its handling rates are greater than the traditional x-ray machines, for example. 

If the BHS is designed well, fewer screening units are needed, entailing less manual operation. 

The importance of the right BHS design

In order to optimise the updated security screening system, it must be designed to operate with the highest efficiency while being cost effective. It needs to be able to balance loads between redundant routes and to minimise baggage delays. Overall, its implementation should see a reduction of both CAPEX and OPEX.  

A well-thought system will make for an uncomplicated BHS design. San Francisco Airport's Terminal 1, for example, consolidated five independent baggage handling systems and 15 baggage screening machines into one centralised solution servicing multiple airlines.

ECAC 3 Baggage Security Screening

Key takeaways

  • The benefits: Aviation regulations entail a simpler system that is faster and requires fewer screening units, creating extra space
  • Systems design: It’s important to get the design right to optimise modernised hold baggage screening systems 

Read more: "How to modernise hold baggage screening systems".

2. Adopt batch building

Batch building 4

Airports are often forced to cope with too little space in their baggage make up areas. Much can be taken from the warehouse practice of batch building which can save on this precious space, while giving operators more control over the baggage flow. Batch building does not require a complete transformation of the entire baggage hall and can be implemented in phases.

What is batch building?

The principle of batch building comes from warehouse practices, where goods are stored and retrieved in batches. The practice saves both space and resources. 

Batch building is easily applied to the baggage process through the early baggage storage (EBS) systems. EBS systems can be turned into multi-purposed storage to cater for the airport's specific operational needs to drive more efficiency into the make-up process.

Batches of baggage are automatically pre-sorted in the EBS storage according to pre-determined factors (baggage type, departure slots and so on). Operators then pull batches when the control system alerts them a batch is ready for loading.

Batch building explained_BEUMER

Batch building’s benefits

The benefits of batch building include:

  • Speed loading - all bags for one departure are handled at one time
  • Efficiency - while a first batch is loading, a second batch can be built in a second line
  • Space saving - reduces make up area needed
  • Optimising resources - resources can be minimised and optimised
  • Health and safety - reduces physical work and allows for social distancing
  • Operator controlled - the operator determines when to pull the batch
  • Flexible - the operator can control batch building in different ways

Putting batch building into place

Airports with EBS systems in place can fairly easily implement batch building. It really depends on the airport’s operations, its existing make up and working out how to reconfigure it. It could be as simple as adding further conveyor lanes and adding further racks, replacing carousels with conveyor lanes or changing some software.

Learn more about why the best approach to implementing batch building is to start in one area first.

Key takeaways

  • Space as a premium: Airports struggle with the lack of adequate space for make-up.
  • The principle: Batch building comes from the sorting and storage systems of warehouses and is applicable to airport BHS.
  • The benefits: Batch building offers various benefits for the efficiency of a BHS.  
  • Implementation: Can be achieved in phases - start with one area first. 

3. Make baggage storage multi-purpose

EBS 1

The fact that many flights depart at the same peak times puts pressure on the confined spaces of baggage make-up areas. This means airports have to work out how to make their storage systems more efficient. 

Many airports have a readily available asset in their early baggage storage (EBS) systems. In combination with batch building, airports can turn these systems into multi-use storage systems. These systems will significantly boost the baggage handling processes and improve the use of valuable airport building space.

How to batch build and store

Batch building means an operator pulls batches of bags when alerted that a batch is ready for loading. 

This means a few things: the operator is handling all bags for one departure at one time; bags are not randomly ‘pushed’ through the system; and one chute does not need to be open to service every destination for two hours.

Rather than storing luggage in storage lanes or dynamic loops, the more efficient system is proving to be racking systems. They consume less physical space and work well with end-to-end tote-based systems using individual carriers. 

Download whitepaper: The Ultimate Baggage Handling System

How does multi-purpose storage look?

Norway’s Bergen Airport has introduced rack-based storage, using BEUMER Group’s CrisStore® system. It includes a racking configured for the airport's capacity, a flexible pull system and speed loading.  Single bags or batches can be tracked and retrieved for specific flights and bags can be checked-in a full day before a flight.  

Bergen’s storage system can be expanded to cope with increasing capacities due to its modular design and integrates easily with its current systems.

See more details about BEUMER Group's CrisStore® for early baggage storage.

Benefits of multi-purpose storage

Airports that transform their standard storage systems into multi-purpose storage systems can optimise their baggage hall floor space and prevent the unnecessary circulation of bags.

They can even use the storage space for other purposes such as retail merchandise and Reclaim on Demand bags.

Key takeaways:

  • Need for change: Increasing pressures for space and operational efficiency mean airports have to change their storage systems to be more efficient.
  • A bag factory: Airports can store baggage in the same way goods are stored in a warehouse. 
  • The pluses of multi purpose storage: More efficient use of floor space and use of area for more besides baggage.

Read more: "Improve baggage handling efficiency with multi-purpose storage"

4. Encode bag tags with video coding

Manned encoding station

While the industry has made great strides in reducing the rates of mishandled bags, there’s room for improvement of internal baggage handling processes to reduce the numbers. 

Unreadable bag tags can often be at the root of delayed baggage. By using video coding technology, however, airports are able to improve their encoding process, reducing the bottlenecks and slower manual processes.

Airports can put video coding technology into effect simply and quickly.  

Unreadable bag tags are bad for business

Unreadable bag tags make up around 2-3% of overall tags. Conventional baggage handling systems deal with these unreadables by redirecting them to manual operators , who must enter missing necessary information. The bags must then be reintroduced onto the BHS, which impacts on capacity, workflow and resources. 

Minimising these unreadable bag tags makes good business sense. Video coding technology can take a BHS system a long way in achieving this. 

Video coding technology and how it works

Video coding technology is a remote encoding software that allows bag source information to be encoded while the bag remains in motion within the main BHS. It relies on cameras installed in the BHS and sends images to an operator who can encode the missing information of an unreadable bag tag from any location.

The positives of video coding

Encoding bag tags with video coding can be very advantageous for an airport’s baggage handling operation performance. 

It can mean bags no longer need to be redirected to a manual operator, minimising both the physical work for operators and bottlenecks during peak times. 

The technology also saves the  processing time of no-read tags, which is especially invaluable for transfer baggage. On top of that, it's cost-effective, saving short-shipment costs by reducing the no-read tag rate and boosting passenger satisfaction. 

Download whitepaper Video Coding as Remote Encoding in Baggage Handling

Key takeaways

The business case: Unreadable bag tags are bad for business and can be reduced significantly through video coding technology. 

The ins and outs: Video coding technology incorporates cameras and remote encoding which can be done from any location. 

The benefits: Adding video coding technology to a BHS can increase productivity and optimise resources.

Read more: "Take baggage tag encoding to another level with video coding".

5. Rely on data analytics

Data analytics - featured image

Data analytics has become an essential component of most business operations and baggage handling systems are no different. A data-driven approach to baggage handling systems has huge potential for operational expenditure (OPEX) savings by providing greater visibility into the operations.

What’s the big deal with data analytics?

If analysed to reveal trends and better understand the baggage handling process at an airport, this data can be costs saving.

The sensors and devices in BHS equipment can provide much data, for example, to help predict maintenance issues. Data analytics can also help refine operational decisions or even facilitate the automatic execution of decisions. Real-time data can also be used to assist management in its forecasting, planning and reporting functions, such as staff forecasts based on passenger data. 

Data analytics and OPEX reduction

One of the big advantages of using data analytics in BHS, is that it can help reduce baggage handling OPEX. For example, operations can be optimised by analysing recirculation rates. Maintenance costs can also be reduced through predictive maintenance practices.

Data analytics can uncover trends to reveal ineffectual operational or planning practices. Airports can then adjust their operational and planning approaches accordingly. Data analytics also enable oversight in real time so that operators can forecast and optimise every aspect of the baggage handling operations (such as baggage volumes, peak season numbers and maintenance requirements). 

With data analytics, airports stand to gain detailed and accurate assessments of prior production to be able to make better future predictions. 

Download whitepaper: The Ultimate Baggage Handling System

Key takeaways

A goldmine of data: Enormous amounts of data can be gathered from BHS, analysed and used to help airports run their BHS more effectively. 

Data analytics’ contribution: Data analytics can assist performance at the maintenance, operations and management levels. 

OPEX reduction: Data analytics will help reduce baggage handling OPEX in multiple ways. 

Read more: "How to reduce baggage handling system OPEX with data analytics".

How to enhance BHS with ICS technology

These above mentioned ways of reducing costs and improving operational efficiency in BHS are all facilitated by the modern individual carrier system (ICS).

The ICS is a form of baggage handling system that can really enhance an airport’s baggage handling operations, giving it the comfort of being both security tight and flexible for future needs. 

ICS baggage handling system explained

The hallmark of the ICS-based baggage handling system is its uniform carriers to convey baggage. In an ICS, each bag is loaded individually into a carrier and stays within the carrier, from check in to the final destination. Carriers come in the form of carts or totes (often referred to as trays).

A tote system is best suited to airports with one or more terminals. It’s appropriate for medium and high capacity sorting where medium-speed carriage and a limited number of discharges are needed.

A cart system fits well with small and midsize terminals and systems, including inter-terminal connections. It’s best suited to high speed transport and lower capacity with a high sortation complexity. It handles numerous discharges on long distances well.

Read more: “How ICS baggage handling systems help solve missing bag problems at airports".

The importance of ICS technology to airports

ICS technology is fundamental for airports because its individual carriers can ensure complete track and trace and unobstructed security screening required by aviation standards. ICS technology is faster than conventional belt systems, able to cope with swift transfer connection times, energy efficient and experiences fewer system jams.  

The modular design of ICS is also important for airports, as it gives airports the possibility to modify their systems to new changes that international regulations and standards, or Covid-19, may demand.

As ICS-based systems are fully automated, they will interface smoothly with Reclaim on Demand which is an automated system designed to make the whereabouts of bags transparent to passengers upon their arrival through in-app messaging. 

Key takeaways

ICS technology is based on an individual carrier for an individual bag and can be tote-based or cart-based.

Tote vs cart: Tote-based systems are suitable for large airports with more than one terminal; cart-based systems fit well with smaller terminals needing high-speed transport.

The importance of ICS technology: ICS technology can attain 100% track and trace, meeting international regulations, while preventing inefficient jams.

Download the whitepaper Modern Individual Carrier Systems

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