Interview: Baggage handling solutions to boost efficiency and sustainability

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Michael Schneider, CEO of Siemens Logistics, explains how the company’s latest baggage handling solutions boost operational efficiency and sustainability

What did you show at 2023’s Passenger Terminal Expo? 

This year, we took our visitors on a journey into the future of automation and digitalization. Delegates from airports and airlines had the chance to interactively experience how our solutions can improve operations and make baggage handling systems – existing and new – even smarter, more efficient and more sustainable. As sustainability and the economical use of resources are high on everyone’s agenda, this resonated well with visitors.

How is Siemens Logistics engaging itself in the field of sustainability? 

Siemens Logistics is a proactive enabler of airports, airlines and ground handlers in their transformational journey to an efficient and eco-friendly economy. We offer an enhanced hardware, software and service portfolio that supports our customers to attain their sustainability goals. One example is our Aviation Data Hub with the Baggage 360 application. With this app, users can achieve the highest-possible transparency on required future baggage volumes, arrival times and connections with as much as 24 hours’ notice, allowing them to plan operations most efficiently. One of our customers in Asia reduced the number of dolly tours by one-third within a few months, significantly lowering fuel consumption and CO2 emissions and optimizing staff planning. 

What other challenges do airports and airlines face when it comes to baggage handling? 

As witnessed last summer, lack of personnel and rising labor costs throughout various areas of the airport environment pose a major challenge for the aviation industry’s resiliency and efficiency – making the topic of automation more relevant than ever. 

Siemens Logistics is pushing the boundaries of automated processes in airports with its latest product, VarioTip, which reliably unloads baggage from unit load devices (ULDs). Compared with manual operations, the powerful device can achieve significantly higher continuous baggage throughput within a shorter timeframe. Supporting the growing demand for automation, VarioTip notably reduces manual intervention, thereby increasing ground-handling ergonomics. As well as being cost-efficient, this optimizes the use of existing resources and enhances transfer times. Another challenge airports need to overcome is internal flow optimization within a BHS.

Can you give an example? 

Our high-level control, BagIQ, regulates the baggage handling processes – such as allocation planning, baggage screening and system visualization – through dedicated software components. Beyond the controlling function, BagIQ supports the efficiency of a BHS. Even third-party conveyor systems can benefit from BagIQ. We recently worked with a customer to optimize its existing BHS. Without converting any hardware, the installed system can now handle almost twice as many pieces of luggage per hour as before. That’s impressive and shows how powerful software can make existing equipment even better.

What other innovative approaches does Siemens Logistics use to support airports and airlines? 

Our advanced SmartService solutions use predictive analytics to ensure the most dependable and secure operation possible. With the help of AI, customers can predict potential damage and failures in good time, determine the ideal moment for maintenance and avoid unplanned downtimes. The result is higher system availability and reliability that can unlock capacity reserves. Our SmartService portfolio also extends the service life of components and enables the sustainable use of operating resources. Numerous customers around the world already benefit from this highly innovative maintenance approach and express their appreciation.

What projects are you currently working on? 

In the past few months, we have been awarded several interesting international projects. We won large comprehensive service contracts at Madrid-Barajas Airport in Spain and Munich Airport in Germany, for example. We are also very proud that we will modernize the T1 BHS at KL International Airport in Malaysia, and in India we will install the BHS for the Noida International Airport greenfield project. The new Terminal 2 at Hefei Xinqiao Airport in China will also be equipped with our baggage handling and sorting technology.

This interview was originally published in the April 2023 issue of Passenger Terminal World magazine.

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