Follow the Barcode

Most bags spend a few minutes in a two-story, 467-space storage area. (Pellemon)

Carroll McCormick explains how baggage and passenger processing at Trudeau Airport’s new transborder departures sector will be barcode-driven.

Most bags spend a few minutes in a two-story, 467-space storage area. (Pellemon)

Expected to open in August 2009, the transborder departures sector has been designed from scratch for a smooth, automated and coordinated transition of passengers and baggage from kerb to aircraft. 
At every step, from baggage drop to reconciliation, the movement of passengers and baggage will be coordinated by repeated scanning of the barcodes on their boarding passes, which match their bag tags.  According to the Baggage Handling System (BHS) designers at Pellemon, a member of Montreal-based SNC-LAVALIN group, this barcode-driven process is the first in the world.  Pellemon is responsible for the engineering, design and management of the BHS.  It can handle 1,400 bags/hour, and has a peak capacity of 1,800 bag/hr for five minutes.
The BHS is located underneath the transborder departure sector that occupies the kerb-level floor of the new Aéroports de Montréal head office and Marriott Hotel.  A smooth passage through check-in, baggage drop, Canadian and US security areas and then to their assigned departure gates will be a welcome improvement to the passenger experience.
While the transborder departure sector and BHS have been under construction (the BHS took ten months to design and two years to build) passengers have had to take a long and circuitous route from the airport’s main lobby to the transborder jetty, completed several years ago: they first had to check-in in the main airport lobby and then haul their luggage to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) area.  There they had to hoist their bags onto counters for inspection, and then deposit them into a BHS, before proceeding to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) checkpoints.  Finally, they faced a long walk to the transborder jetty.
With the opening of the transborder departures sector, outbound passengers now step onto a 984ft (300m) long kerb and pass through any of five revolving doors into a 591ft (180m) long lobby.  They can check in at Common Use Check in Kiosks (CUSSK), if they have not already done so remotely, and obtain their bag tags.  There are 48 CUSSK – three times the number available in the main terminal.
Baggage moves quietly on two kilometres of static track. (Pellemon)

Just beyond the CUSSK is a lobby-long row of 36 common-use double check-in desks, including five for charter flights and five rework desks for passengers who encounter problems during CUSSK check-in.
The baggage deposit area is just a couple of steps beyond the desks.  There, arranged along the length of the rear of the lobby are six elevators with back-to-back conveyors that take baggage below into the BHS, located on the two basement levels.  These Vertical Transfer Units (VTU), are manufactured by Mecatriel Canada Inc.  Five belt conveyor baggage drop off points are also directly linked to the Destination Coded Vehicle (DCV) system (see sidebar); there is one oversize baggage belt conveyor drop off point.  One of several new technologies in the BHS, the VTUs replace the belt conveyor systems found behind traditional check-in counters.
These VTUs occupy little floor space.  More significantly, they accept luggage one piece at a time, which defines how the BHS works: each bag and its bar-coded bag tag is uniquely identified and tracked by repeated reference to an identical bar code on its owner’s boarding pass.  Keeping the bags separate – the only place they ever touch each other is in the chutes in the baggage delivery area – allows them to be automatically retrieved, if necessary, during the baggage and passenger security process, and ultimately moved to the bag delivery area.  It also greatly reduces the likelihood of bags becoming lost or misdirected.
At the VTUs, attendants use hand-held scanners to scan the bar codes on the boarding pass and the baggage tags of each passenger (currently self-tagging is limited to Air Canada flights).  This information is sent by wi-fi to the BHS computer.  Once each bag tag is matched with a passenger’s boarding information, a belt conveyor moves it into the VTU and down a floor.  Passengers can then either proceed directly to the CATSA security area or if they prefer, stay landside until closer to their boarding time.
Downstairs, the baggage is transported via two systems: belt conveyors and in ‘little cars’ on a static track, part of the DCV system.  While on the belt conveyors and without having to stop, scales weigh the bags, digital cameras photograph them, and the data and images are entered into the BHS computer.
Bags then pass through Explosives Detection System (EDS) machines, with high throughput capacity.  Randomly selected bags and those flagged by the EDS go to the computerized tomography (CT) screening area.  If they pass CT screening, DCVs take them to a storage area.  If they don’t, DCVs deliver them to any of six VTUs that take them up to a secondary inspection area.  Bags that pass scrutiny here go to the storage area; those that do not are rejected.
Bags may also be recalled from the storage area and automatically routed via DCV and VTU to a CBP2 inspection area; the trip is designed to take under a minute.  From here they will either be cleared and sent to the baggage delivery area, or rejected.
From baggage drop to baggage delivery area, the entire trip through the BHS takes as little as four minutes and an average of 14 minutes.
Baggage elevators save floor space and ensure the initial separation of every piece of baggage. (McCormick)

The movement of the baggage in the BHS is largely determined by the movement of the passengers through security.  In general terms, this is how the two are choreographed: after dropping off their baggage, passengers go to the CATSA security area for primary screening.  This is a spacious hall with 12 booths and room for 360 passengers.  CATSA staff scan passengers’ bar codes again to time the travellers’ movement.
Those who clear CATSA scrutiny go to the CBP1 security area, which has 28 customs booths and room for 450 people.  This is a more spacious arrangement than that at the main terminal, according to Sébastien Lambert, an automation specialist with Pellemon who designed the BHS.
Passengers who do not clear primary CATSA screening or whose bags did not clear CT screening go to a secondary inspection area.  Because the BHS is automated and bar-code driven, baggage moves to the inspection stations with no human intervention beyond security personnel noting on their touch screens whether a passenger proceeds or must go to the secondary inspection area.  There, passengers’ bar codes are scanned again and their travel information and bag information appear on CATSA monitors.  If passengers and bags pass secondary inspection, CBP staff send their luggage to the storage area with a tap of their touch screens and the passengers rejoin those headed to CBP1.  If they do not, both are escorted out of the building.
At CBP1 staff scan passengers’ boarding passes again and make another inspection.  Passengers may continue to their jetties, and staff tap their touch screen, which instructs the DCV to send their luggage to the baggage delivery area.  Alternatively, passengers may be required to undergo secondary screening at CBP2.  There, the baggage, having been recalled from the storage area with a tap of a screen at CBP1, will be waiting for them.  If passengers pass this inspection, they head to the jetties and their bags head to the baggage delivery area.  If not, they do not fly.
All the while, BHS control room staff watch a flow diagram of the BHS on a big wall-mounted screen that displays every DCV car.  They monitor and query sub-systems on desktop screens.
Nearing completion: The transborder departure section has a 300-metre long kerb. (McCormick)

Without slowing, DCVs deliver bags to the proper chutes (there are 45) in the baggage delivery area, silently and with eerie speed.  “The process is very gentle.  There is no baggage pusher,” Lambert comments.
The baggage delivery area is ICAO-compliant: in front of the chutes, each of which can hold at least 12 bags, is a work area protected by bollards.  There is a lane for parked bag carts and a second lane for bag carts on the move.
As passengers clear the boarding desks at the gates, this information is entered in to the Baggage Reconciliation System (BRS) and sent by wi-fi to the baggage handlers’ hand-held scanners.  They scan the bags for loading onto the aircraft, thereby completing the baggage reconciliation process.
Beside the baggage delivery area are two large makeup carousels.  Airlines requested them, but they can also be used as an overflow storage area.  “It is a fallback area. It gives us more room,” Lambert explains.  Bags may also be brought here and reintroduced to the BHS via a manual encoding station.
Sidebar – Bags in motion
Throughout the BHS are 767 belt conveyors, totalling 2,954ft (900m) in length.  Based in Orleans, France, Alstef Automation SA manufactured the belt conveyors, and was the integrator and supplier of the belted conveyor system.  Montreal-based installer Gastier MP Inc was its joint venture partner in the BHS installation.
At all drop-off areas the belt conveyors are, at 2.95 ft (900 mm), extra wide so that the bags can be positioned wheels-up.  In the airport’s other BHS, bags have to stand up on narrow belts, and sometimes their little wheels can get caught in the conveyors.  “To me this is a big improvement,” says system designer Sébastien Lambert, an automation specialist with Pellemon, an SNC-LAVALIN company.
Far Right: Bollards and two lanes for baggage carts ensure safety for workers in the baggage delivery area. (McCormick)

Each belt conveyor section independently senses the presence of bags. Each only rolls when there is baggage on it.  After about six seconds of not sensing baggage a conveyor will stop, reducing wear and electrical consumption.
In the two-story, 467-position baggage storage area there is a feature that simplifies the BHS and saves space: instead of having a separate control box at each section of belt conveyor, each section is connected to the control room computer.  Technicians use bar code readers to scan each section and communicate with the computer via wi-fi, which in turn communicates with the sections of belt conveyor.
The BHS also includes a 1.24-mile (2km) static track manufactured by the Beckum, Germany-based Beumer Corporation.  Called a Destination Coded Vehicle (DCV) Autover system, it includes 105 DCVs (think amusement ride cars for baggage) for moving baggage – one piece per DCV.  The DCVs move baggage individually, automatically and independently to and from the storage area, to and from inspection areas and to the baggage delivery area chutes.
The static track has no moving parts, sensors or mechanical drives to break down, as the DVCs move using electric motor with traction wheels.  Each DCV has a built-in belt conveyor capable of accepting and delivering its load from either of its left or right sides.  The DCVs communicate with the BHS via wi-fi, in particular, to receive their travel orders.  They communicate with each other via wi-fi to maintain safe following distances and to make smooth entries into the traffic flow.
Said to be very low-maintenance, each DCV has an on-board self-diagnosis system and they deliver themselves on a scheduled or as-needed basis to the maintenance area.  Able to travel up to five metres per second, their speed varies according to whether the track is straight, curved or crosses a junction. Their passage along the static track is smooth and silent, except for clicking sounds.
Each baggage storage position has its own little conveyor belt to transfer bags to and from the DCVs.  Rows of 14 storage positions are arranged back-to-back so that DCVs passing between them can deliver bags left or right.  This ‘parallel circuit’ layout allows DCVs to retrieve and deliver bags to secondary CBP2 or the chutes in seconds.