Dublin Airport

Future-proofing Dublin Airport with a new automated BHS

Operator daa (Dublin Airport Authority) and Vanderlande completed the installation of a new automated baggage handling system (BHS) at Dublin Airport’s Terminal 1 in time for the 2023 holiday season. The new system will help to manage passenger growth, bring security up to the latest standards and improve levels of efficiency across the airport’s entire baggage operation. Vanderlande had to harness all of its experience and expertise to carry out complex work in a busy live environment.

Dublin Airport is the busiest in Ireland and handled around 28 million passengers in 2022, a 231% increase on 2021 and 85% of the 2019 level. Located 7km north of the Irish capital, the airport has an extensive short- and medium-haul network, serviced by several airlines. It also provides significant long-haul operations, especially to the Middle East and North America. In addition, the airport serves as the main hub for the country’s national airline, Aer Lingus, and is the main operating base for Ryanair, Europe’s largest low-cost carrier.

Meeting complex challenges

There were a number of reasons that the airport needed a new BHS. Terminal 1’s existing system was more than 24 years old and coming towards the end of its working life. There was a pressing need to improve the resilience of baggage operations, bearing in mind the old system offered little scope to keep bags moving in the event of a breakdown.

In addition, the airport was obliged by law to install ECAC Standard 3 compliant baggage security equipment. It also wanted to find a way to smoothly connect Terminal 1’s BHS with the system in Terminal 2. (Terminal 2 was built in 2010, complete with a modern BHS, which was totally separate from the old Terminal 1 system.)

The overall goal was to develop a robust and reliable baggage handling operation that would help the airport to manage growth and cater for up to 40 million passengers every year.

Construction of the new system took place in a building which, in certain parts, was 50 years old. This resulted in a complex situation for both the design – in terms of how to make the system accessible and maintainable in a confined space – and execution.

“We created a space in order to facilitate the works in what was a live environment,” explains Billy Ennis, daa’s Baggage Systems Manager. “Vanderlande built a standalone ‘mini BHS’ in order to take away baggage from the existing system, which allowed us to use the space on a phased basis, and keep our operations up and running.”

In the first two years of the project, the partners also had to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which required some creative solutions to keep work on track. For instance, daa had to witness the factory acceptance testing remotely through a number of livestreams in February 2021, concluding with a remote integrated factory acceptance test three months later.

“With the new technology, we now have an efficient way of tracking bags throughout the system, both mechanically and from a controls perspective”
Billy Ennis
Baggage Systems Manager | Dublin Airport Authority

Delivering great results

Throughout the project implementation, about 95% of the old equipment was replaced. Conveyor belt length has increased from around 10 to 14km across the two terminals, and Vanderlande’s experts integrated the advanced screening and detection technology into the new BHS. An extended sensor and camera network enables operators to spot and remove bag jams quickly to keep things moving and avoid recirculation.

“With the new technology, we now have an efficient way of tracking bags throughout the system, both mechanically and from a controls perspective,” says Billy. “This has greatly reduced the number of lost bags, and we now meet all bag tracking requirements.”

Furthermore, the ECAC compliant security processes are also increasing efficiency in the baggage process. The new equipment enables the airport to refer far fewer bags to manual inspection, which helps speed up processing times.

In addition, the requirement for inter-terminal connectivity has been successfully achieved. “Between terminals 1 and 2, we’ve added a new baggage control building and basically turned two separate systems into one whole BHS,” adds Billy. “This improves efficiency throughout the airport’s entire baggage operation.”

A sustainable solution

Vanderlande has delivered a BHS, which is both safer and easier to maintain. “They’ve put a big effort into access and egress throughout the system by installing automated gates, as well as over and underpasses, for the transport of tools and equipment,” explains Billy. “There’s also a strong emphasis on health and safety, which has reduced manual handling tasks for our technicians.”

The new BHS has also been built with sustainability in mind. The run time of each conveyor motor has been reduced to an absolute minimum to provide a more energy-efficient operation.

Providing great service

daa is happy that reliability issues have been resolved with the new BHS. “We have so much redundancy built into the system for the auto-routing of baggage that we can maintain all bag delivery targets when it comes to delivering bags to handling companies and the airlines,” says Billy.

According to this satisfied customer, the partnership has delivered one of the most complex projects ever undertaken at Dublin Airport. The roots of this success began with the initial contract negotiations.

“Ultimately, when we undertook this challenging project, we needed to know that we’d have a powerhouse from the baggage industry to help us deliver it – and really, Vanderlande brought a huge amount of experience to the table,” says Rónán Dillon Murphy, daa’s Senior Project Manager for Infrastructure. “Many of their team have previously worked with major airports, and their knowledge helped us to come up with some extremely clever solutions.”

Vanderlande personnel were also flexible in their approach as the project moved through its installation phase, which also impressed daa.

“We faced challenging situations at multiple locations, and sometimes we asked for work to be carried out that was not necessarily within the scope of the contract,” explains Billy. “In the end, the working relationship between Vanderlande and our engineering department has been very fruitful – and continues to be so.”

“Ultimately, when we undertook this challenging project, we needed to know that we’d have a powerhouse from the baggage industry to help us deliver it”
Rónán Dillon Murphy
Senior Project Manager for Infrastructure | Dublin Airport Authority

A complete success

Rónán notes that the project has received a positive reception from a number of parties. “I can’t understate how big of a success it seems. At executive level, they see the project as a massive success – it was brought in on time, on budget, and hits everything that an airport would want to do,” he says. “Our users are really happy with it – we have had really good feedback from the airlines and the handlers.”

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