Baggage: Technology Choice

Trudeau airport chose equipment at the entry point to its baggage handling system that separates every piece of baggage from others, and saves floor space. (ADM)

Trudeau airport chose equipment at the entry point to its baggage handling system that separates every piece of baggage from others, and saves floor space. (ADM)

With 6.1 million passengers in 2009, Edmonton International Airport (EIA) is operating 20% (one million passengers a year) above capacity.  To handle the demand more comfortably, EIA launched Expansion 2012, a $1-billion programme consisting of an apron expansion scheduled for completion this year; a new central utilities plant, due to come on line in 2011; and a terminal expansion and combined air traffic control and office tower, scheduled to open in 2012.
To handle passenger baggage, in effect, to match the airport’s transformation from a small to a medium-sized airport, the old baggage handling system (BHS) is being substantially replaced.  Netherlands-based Vanderlande Industries won the contract to install 4,037ft (1,230m) of its GREENVEYOR baggage conveyors and a 722ft (220m) 124-tray BAXORTER baggage sorting loop.  Although Vanderlande’s systems are running elsewhere in North American airports, EIA will be its debut North American airport for its GREENVEYOR and BAXORTER products.
The new BHS will be able to serve 12 million passengers a year, and can be expanded
beyond that.
Vanderlande promotes GREENVEYOR as consuming from 25-45% less energy than conventional conveyors.  Field data collected from a GREENVEYOR installed in the BHS in Heathrow’s T5 show 30% energy savings.  “We use more efficient motors.  We optimised the operation between the belt and conveyor bed to reduce the coefficient of friction as much as possible.  There is a belt tensioner inside the GREENVEYOR that makes sure there is not too much tension.  We use a helical gearbox, which is about 10% more energy efficient than a worm gearbox,” explains Antonie Vos, Vanderlande’s manager of research & development, baggage handling.
The conveyors support EIA’s core value of sustainability and will contribute to the airport’s goal of having the new office tower and terminal certified to Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standards; energy efficiency is one of many factors that are considered in obtaining LEED certification.
Edmonton airport chose a Vanderlande Industries BAXORTER sorter for reliability and low maintenance. (Vanderlande)

The airport sole-sourced Vanderlande for several reasons: “We looked at the capital cost and maintenance.  Because of the extent of the expansion we did not want a piecemeal system.  We also did not want to carry two types of conveyor parts,” explains Steve Rumley, Director, Projects, EIA.
Unlike tilt trays, BAXORTER moves bags off the trays with diverter blades, which brush baggage off the trays.  Rumley explains why EIA chose this technology: “It came down to lessons learned with tilt trays.  One thing that sold us is the ease of maintenance and the reliability of the system.  The mechanical components are simple.  There are very few moving parts.  You can also run the loop with a non-functioning tray.  Cost was also a factor.”
Expansion 2012 brings with it a substantial restructuring of the domestic and international BHS systems.  Currently WestJet and Air Canada have separate check-in counters, baggage conveyors and bag room.  In the renovated Central Terminal, Rumley explains: “In general terms, we are looking at a flow-through arrangement: CUSSK, self-tagging agent, flow-through check-in counters, baggage drop.”
Beyond the baggage drop, conveyors will lead to a single, 25,080 sq-ft (2,330m2) integrated bag room.  Bags from the old North and South end of the terminal will go to the new sorting loop.  “With the integrated BHS we will be able to process more bags, and it will be more reliable,” Rumley explains.  Also, he adds: “The BAXORTER allows us to go common-use, although that will not be implemented till sometime in the future.”
The domestic/international BHS throughput will be 2,400 bags per hour.
EIA is still in the design and approval phase for the BHS, and has not concluded yet whether bags will pass through the Explosives Detection System (EDS) machines before or after reaching the loop.  “We will potentially have both screened and unscreened baggage on the BAXORTER.  We need Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) approval for the set-up EIA has chosen,” Rumley says.
The terminal expansion will add up to 13 gates and substantially increase the size of the transborder sector.  “The conveyor system that is used in the transborder sector will be totally revamped and new conveyor systems installed.  The transborder bag room will be expanded to 59,525 sq ft (5,530m2).  The replacement is substantial,” Rumley says.
Details on the layout of the transborder BHS are in flux but Rumley notes that it will comply with new United States Customs regulations: “In all new facilities Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has mandated that CATSA screen bags first before they reach US Customs.”
There will be some changes to the inbound BHS, including a third carousel and protected space for a fourth.  There will also be a new, linear arrangement for incoming baggage carts, to speed operations.
Key to the rapid retrieval of baggage in the Trudeau airport baggage handling system for secondary screening are destination coded vehicles.. (Vanderlande)

PCL Construction Management Inc, which is also the construction manager for the terminal expansion, will install the BHS.  EllisDon Corporation is the construction manager for the BAXORTER North and South bag room component.
A noteworthy feature of the expansion and BHS work is that Vanderlande is working hand in hand with the architects to make sure that the building fits the BHS, and not the other way around.  “We have a design-build arrangement with Vanderlande,” Rumley explains.  “We needed the experts in the field designing the BHS.  Vanderlande is the design/integrator.  It is working directly with EIA and is integrated into the design team.”
Stantec is the architect for the terminal expansion and Cohos-Evamy is the architect for the air traffic control and office tower.
“We wanted the baggage manufacturer on board early in the process,” Rumley continues.  “Instead of designing the building and fitting the BHS into it, the placement of columns is designed around the BHS.  We want to have as many long straight runs of conveyor as possible.  This is especially so in the transborder system, where we have long stretches of conveyors with few turns.  Wherever you have turns or changes in elevation you have failure points.  Vanderlande said simplicity was key to the design.  When I saw the first BHS layout I thought the design was very simple.”
Long before the Montreal-Trudeau International Airport officially opened its new transborder departures sector and BHS on August 19, 2009, Aéroports de Montréal (ADM), the airport authority for the Trudeau and Mirabel airports, knew that any BHS it chose had to meet new US customs and airline requirements.
“We were limited by two major issues: The first was the need for a cut off time of around 45 minutes for the system to manage the baggage from the drop-off zone, through the security system and out to the aircraft.  The second was the need for a 100% automated machine that would locate baggage and bring it up when required for the US CBP secondary search,” explains ADM.
The solution was to design a barcode-driven BHS, within which baggage paces the process of passengers, and both are tracked in real time, as they work their way through CATSA and Canadian Border Patrol (CBP) check points.  Before passengers reach the CATSA checkpoints their bags will already have been weighed, photographed, run through EDS machines, the data recorded and most bags sent to a 467-position baggage storage area.  Some randomly selected bags and those flagged by the EDS go to a computerized tomography screening area.
Layout of the Edmonton baggage handling system: blue represents the BAXORTER loop sorter and orange the GREENVEYOR conveyors. (EIA)

When CATSA, and later, CBP scans passengers’ boarding passes, each see these data for their bags.  With a few taps on their touch screens, Customs agents can direct the BHS to retrieve any bags from storage and send them to secondary inspection area.  Far more commonly, they direct the BHS to send the bags onward to the baggage delivery area, where they are collected for transport to waiting planes.
The cost, reliability, speed and maintenance of the BHS were also important factors for ADM.  It investigated five vendor systems and then short-listed two destination coded vehicle (DVC) systems.  Finally, it chose a 2,954ft (900m) belt conveyor system manufactured by Orleans, France-based Alstef Automation SA, and 1.24 mile (2km) static track and 105 DCVs manufactured by the Germany’s Beumer Corporation.  “In our mind, Beumer DCV was the best available on the market,” ADM says.
“The quality/price ratio was obviously a factor in the decision.  The final decision was made with the full participation of the major carriers at Trudeau airport, knowing that the costs were in line with the performance necessities of the very special features required in the new inspection facilities,” ADM explains.
ADM also had a couple of performance requirements of its own: All projects at ADM’s two airports fall under its global energy-management process.  “This is a new approach to improving energy efficiency in our buildings,” ADM explains.  It specifically asked for energy savings features for the BHS.  A notable example is that each of the 767 belt conveyor sections independently senses the presence of bags and only rolls when there are bags on it.  After about six seconds of not sensing baggage, a conveyor will stop, reducing wear and electrical consumption.
The DCV track has no moving parts and is very low maintenance.  Each DCV has an on-board self-diagnosis system.  They deliver themselves on a scheduled or as-needed basis to the maintenance area.  “If we have a problem with a DCV, we can quickly move it to the maintenance zone where it can be inspected, without impact on the operations.  To avoid corrective maintenance, we have put in place a simple preventive maintenance schedule (once every three months) for each DCV.  It includes cleaning, changing the oil and checking and adjusting the different mechanisms and sensors,” ADM explains.
Edmonton chose a conveyor system that consumes far less energy than conventional conveyors. (Vanderlande)

The BHS can handle 1,400 bags/hour, and has a peak capacity of 1,800 bag/hour for five minutes.  The DCVs can find and deliver a bag to a CBP2 inspection area in seconds.  A trip from the bag drop area in the lobby to its delivery area can be done in as little as four minutes.
Since last August, typical throughput has varied between 650 and 800 bags/hour, and the accuracy rate has been 99.99%.  ADM reports: “The average baggage trip time through the system is about 34 minutes: 2.4 minutes for travelling and 31.6 minutes to await the passenger status.  CBP has been calling back 0.9% of the bags, about 30 bags/day, for the secondary search.  We’re satisfied with the system since it meets all security requirements.”
ADM also reports that CBP appreciates the fact that their personnel are no longer in the presence of potentially dangerous bags, as any they do recall have already gone through all the different security levels.
A huge improvement for passengers, the real customers in this security exercise, is that in the new transborder sector they no longer have to heave and haul their bags through the security areas.  From the time they enter the sector there is no reason to ever lift their bags.  Once passengers check in, either at the Common Use Check in Kiosks, of which there are 48, or any of the 36 common-use double check-in desks, they proceed a short distance to the baggage deposit area.  Here, attendants use hand-held scanners to scan the bar codes on the boarding pass and the baggage tags of each passenger.  This enters them into the BHS computer.  The bags are then put into vertical transfer units (VTU), which move them straight down into the BHS.
ADM is very satisfied with the space-saving VTUs, which also serve to keep each piece of baggage separate.  “Following in depth and regular training of personnel, the operation at the drop-off points continues smoothly without passenger delays.  The VTU equipment has operated satisfactorily from the start of the operation but if there were to be a fault then we have built in redundant capacity throughout.”
Having dropped off their bags, passengers can enter the security areas immediately, or spend any spare time they have in the Terminal first.  This is the last time they touch them until they pluck them off carousels in US airports.
A lot has changed in the baggage handling business since Jim Goertz started G&S Airport Conveyor in 1982.  The biggest single change came after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, before which there was little sorting and tracking of baggage.  “Now we can track bags continually at up to 400ft (122m) per minute and we can know within two inches (5.1cm) on the belts where the bags are,” Goertz says.
G&S has its United States corporate office in Wichita, Kansas, and recently opened a new manufacturing facility in Phoenix to better serve its American and Latin American markets.  Its Canadian corporate office and manufacturing facilities are in Strathmore, Alberta.
Over the years the cost of baggage control systems has come down, Goertz says.  “Take shaft encoders.  They used to be very expensive and systems used to have photo eyes for tracking.  But shaft encoders have really become prevalent in the past three years and are on all conveyors in the tracking zone to track the bags.
“Some mechanical components have come a long way in the past few years.  One of our suppliers was showing us a way to get rid of lagging [rubber on rollers that helps increase the coefficient of friction between rollers and belts].  There is a whole new technology of tungsten carbide that is sprayed on the roller.
“Gearboxes have changed tremendously.  Some consultants still want the Dodge TXT reducers, but they are an older technology and prone to leaking.  Now products are leak-free.  The new SEW-Eurodrive is maintenance free. This is what we prefer to use.”

As load on the GREENVEYOR conveyors increases, the power required remains nearly flat. (Vanderlande)

In the past decade alone G&S has been involved in the design, manufacture and installation of more than 114 projects, as well as handling maintenance contracts.  As head of an integrated manufacturer, Goertz believes the traditional role of consultants has been changing.  “Airports and carriers are finding out for themselves what they want.  [Consequently] the customer gets better product at less cost.  The new model has the consultant, the end user and the baggage handling equipment manufacturers working as a team.  Design-build is a big trend and teamwork is the way things are going.  It is more and more a case of manufacturers, architects and building designers working together.”

Chad Buffam, Sales Manager, G&S, has seen a recent trend towards airports awarding multi-prime contracts, as opposed to an airport selecting a single prime through a sealed bid process, which then hires the sub primes.  “We have bid a lot more multi-prime contracts of late, which may explain why we are getting more work in the door.  Multi-primes allow the owner to have a direct influence on who is manufacturing and installing the conveyor in their airport.  Also, it eliminates bid shopping.”  Bid shopping is when a prime will obtain a quote from a potential sub prime, then find another company willing to undercut that bid; the result can be substandard workmanship.
Goertz notes a trend toward wider belts and layouts with fewer failure points.  “Calgary, for example, decided years ago to swap its almost 90-degree power curves for 45-degree ones.”  He also noticed a move toward more common-use systems.  “A key to the puzzle was the bar code readers to sort to different carousels.”