Airside Winter 2019

Vanderlande offers end-to-end baggage handling system

Netherlands-based baggage handling system specialist Vanderlande was at inter airport to promote its latest offerings. In particular, it was marketing its new end-to-end luggage logistics approach called BAGFLOW

BAGFLOW is a scalable and modular system designed to seamlessly integrate all the various elements of the journey of any piece of airport luggage from check-in to its delivery at an aircraft stand.

Sven Platschorre, commercial solution manager airports at Vanderlande, explains that part of the beauty of BAGFLOW is that it connects both landside and airside aspects of any individual piece of baggage’s movement through an airport. At most gateways, of course, the landside journey of luggage is pretty much automated, while airside it remains a manual process in the main. But, today, many more airports are looking to automate the entire process.

Likewise, the location of any particular piece of baggage can usually be tracked in an airport departures terminal by the airport nowadays, while handlers would be aware of the location of the luggage of any particular flight airside. Airport authorities are now looking to ensure that they can track baggage along its entire journey through the gateway – and, as a corollary, tell the luggage’s owner where it is, should that be necessary.

Vanderlande’s efforts to automate the whole process take in a number of different capabilities. Its robotic Bag-runners (which transport bags) and ULD-runners (which transport ULDs) can take luggage from a bag drop/check-in area and move it without any manual input through the departures terminal. Such autonomous transport is by no means uncommon in the logistics and materials handling sectors – consider the prevalence of similar robotic equipment in Amazon warehouses, for instance.

Vanderlande has tested this capability landside at a number of airports, including at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport in the US and at Lelystad Airport in the Netherlands.

Moreover, the runners have already been introduced in operational format at another Dutch gateway – at Rotterdam The Hague Airport (a gateway that comes under the ownership of the Schiphol Group, which also operates Amsterdam Schiphol Airport).

Vanderlande’s robotic Dolly-runners will be expected to perform a similar job airside.

Put together, BAGFLOW represents a modular system that can be customised to fully automate an airport’s baggage handling process, says Platschorre. Implementation of such a system across gateways around the world is likely to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, he readily admits. But, because of BAGFLOW’s modularity, airport operators will be able to introduce the capability incrementally as testing phases are completed and full confidence in the automation of the baggage handling process grows.

The biggest obstacle to implementation may be the aversion of some operators to risk taking on robotic technology like this, even though are there advantages to be gained in terms of both efficiency and tracking capability. Moreover, robots do not mishandle baggage and they certainly don’t pilfer from it.

BAGFLOW would also allow for the prioritisation of bag flows; ULDs with ‘hot’ bags could be moved immediately, while those containers that are less urgent could wait until a quieter time in the airport operating schedule. Plus, because the whole system can be fully automated and all movements tracked, accurate predictions of future flows can be made, enabling accurate future resource allocation.

BAGFLOW encompasses Vanderlande’s FLEET brand, which takes in FLEET Bag (for single item movements), FLEET Batch (for indoor applications involving cargo and containers) and FLEET Apron (for airside operations).

The intention is not to replace the fixed infrastructure of luggage belts that are ideal for large volume luggage movement along limited routes, but to offer both mobile (autonomous) and fixed infrastructure options for end-to-end baggage handling, Platschorre insists.

Vanderlande’s BAGFLOW was recognised in the inter airport Excellence Awards this year, winning in the interFUTURE Special Award category. Vanderlande board member and executive vice president airports Andrew Manship commented: “Winning in this category is confirmation that we not only understand the challenges facing the aviation industry, but are able to define solutions that help it surpass them.”