Covid-19, and its derived volatility in traffic schedules and impact on the airport operation, has highlighted the need to have a strong link between forecasting, planning and operations to quickly adapt to changing circumstances and optimize the operation accordingly. Today, many airports still rely heavily on in-house developed Excel tools or disparate legacy systems, limiting their ability to quickly turn new information and data into tangible recommendations. This reliability also blocks the synergies that can be obtained by bringing forecasters, planners, and operators to the same solution.
While many airports were starting to realize this situation pre-Covid-19, the pandemic only emphasized with greater urgency than before, that the consolidation of operational planning systems is a key driver for efficient planning of airports and a necessity for a robust and adaptable operation in the future.
We are currently witnessing the restart of aviation and as traffic resumes, we will see new traffic patterns and a much higher volatility in traffic schedules. This makes it harder to drive value from historic data and highlights the need to break down silos and create synergies between forecasting, planning and operations through automated and streamlined processes.
Non-consolidated systems exemplified
Let us look at a standard process for doing security checkpoint planning in most airports: you will often see one department doing the forecasting in one solution and another department using that forecast to do the security lane planning in a separate solution. The lane opening plan is a key input parameter to the staffing plan, which will be handled by yet another team in their separate solution. As there will often be little or no integration between systems, the process will be long, cumbersome and highly manual, and hence very time consuming. Add to this the likelihood that parts of the process will be handled in Excel and the challenge only increases. Also, this way of working reinforces the silo structure of many airport organizations and makes data-sharing difficult.
Before Covid-19 hit, the planning process ran in more predictable cycles with a lower planning frequency compared with the current need. This resulted in a false sense of security in terms of the capabilities needed to ensure efficient operations. For this reason, we did not necessarily see the same burning platform for rapid updating of forecasts and plans, but today with the high volatility in traffic, it is crucial for plans to be updated much more frequently making the highly manual processes a non-feasible solution.
Why are airports having non-consolidated solutions, and what is the impact?
Historically, the organizational silo structure of airports has centered the focus on individual departments or functions. Also, solutions may not have been available in the market or the business case to invest in one integrated solution has not been feasible.
The impact of these non-consolidated systems is an overload of unnecessary processes which requires a large manual effort, while hindering cooperation and communication across departments and functions. This can also lead to inaccurate and non-transparent results, but the most severe impact is the lost opportunities for improvements as they are simply not detected.
The road to system consolidation – four tangible, high-level steps:
- Current State: Understand your processes. Which solutions are you using for what? What are they delivering? This assessment will make you capable of defining options for improvement.
- Organizational Alignment: The key elements are internal ownership of the process, alignment between departments, and a solid change management effort.
- Requirements: Start by defining the scope and your business needs, and then prioritize. Use an outcome-based approach when searching the market, focusing on what you want to be able to achieve rather than mirroring what you can do today.
- Procurement: For the procurement process we suggest asking for a short-term trial on your short-listed systems to demonstrate requirements and give you certainty in your decision-making process.
Why should you invest time and effort in consolidating your systems now?
By introducing a consolidated solution, your airport will be capable of creating and updating plans with a much higher frequency. You will also see an increased quality in your planning as the consolidated solution will give more users access to input parameters and analytics, creating a natural process of validation hence, resulting in more and better analysis. By introducing a single platform for communications, you will open for the synergies that can be obtained by bringing forecasters, planners and operators to the same solution.
- Improved airport operation through better planning.
- Streamlined processes.
- Organizational silos will disintegrate.
- Enhanced communication across departments and areas.
These are our thoughts on why and how you should be focusing on consolidating your airport planning systems. If you want to know more, we have a webinar-on-demand with more examples and in-depth explanations. Click here to watch.
About the author:
Kasper Hounsgaard is CEO at Copenhagen Optimization and co-founded the company in 2014. Kasper holds an MSc in economics and has for years been the main driver in business development in Maersk, Copenhagen Airport and Copenhagen Optimization. Kasper is driven by his relentless search for new ways and opportunities to improve and he is a firm believer that any airport has significant potential for improving their current operations. A key motivator for Kasper is making a tangible difference for airports, airlines, staff and passengers in the airport environment.