Batch building: unlocking smart baggage handling at airports

In recent years, labour shortages and limited space have posed significant challenges to airports, resulting in congestion, extended waiting times and increased burdens on baggage handlers. In this context, the implementation of a batch build process for baggage loading has emerged as a highly optimised solution.

“Batching at airports offers a range of interconnected benefits that significantly contribute to overall operational efficiency. “
Gijs Bartelet
System Concepting Director

Batching refers to the process of sorting and storing items in groups (or batches) based on specific criteria. Bags are organised and prioritised according to departure times, flight schedules, class allocation and other relevant factors. Instead of individually handling each bag, they are consolidated into batches before being loaded into containers or carts.

Improving airport operations

The adoption and implementation of batching can vary, as the decision to utilise the process largely depends on the specific context and operational requirements of each airport. By carefully assessing the situation, airports can make informed decisions regarding the implementation of batching techniques to improve their overall operations.

Unlike the traditional “push” approach, where bags are continuously moved forward, batching operates on a “pull” approach. Operators have the ability to decide when to initiate the process, allowing all the baggage for a particular flight – and class – to be pulled from a bag store and prepared for makeup whenever handling resources are available. This enables a smoother and more efficient flow.

Manageable and predictable workloads

Batching at airports offers a range of interconnected benefits that significantly contribute to overall operational efficiency. One notable advantage is its capacity to enhance speed loading. Retrieving bags gradually whenever there is enough to build a batch enables shorter loading times, thereby optimising productivity. Additionally, this streamlined process translates into space saving, reducing the need for numerous makeup areas to accommodate the high volume of flights and tight departure schedules. With batch building, fewer devices – carousels, laterals or chutes – are needed.

There are instances when workload demands are particularly high during specific periods of time. By using batch building as a peak shaving tool, handlers can strategically manage and optimise their loading process to effectively smooth and balance their operations. This approach helps to avoid overwhelming surges and ensures a more consistent workflow throughout the day. It not only enables the efficient use of resources, but also reduces the number of staff required to handle the bags. As a result, the workload becomes more manageable and predictable, requiring fewer individuals to physically lift and handle the bags.

A flexible approach to implementation

Batching can be achieved in different ways and with varied levels of infrastructure and complexity. It can be performed with simple lane-based storage, where luggage for different flights is sorted into separate channels. These are then released to initiate the makeup process.

However, in order to fully harness the maximum benefits of batching, storage with an individual bag retrieval system should be considered. This would grant the operator greater control over the process and achieve a higher filling rate for container loading. For example, with lane storage, it is not possible to retrieve bags in a specific order within the batch. Therefore it is not feasible to strategically dispatch bags based on weight and sturdiness, prioritising heavy hardcase bags first and placing soft, light bags at the end.

To further enhance efficiency and ergonomic handling, automating the loading process through robotic solutions – or other methods that minimise physical tasks – can be implemented. This is leveraged by the strategic selection and retrieval of bags.

Although batching is not a new concept, we strongly believe that harnessing its potential can provide airports with an efficient solution to accommodate future growth in a sustainable way, through better use of resources. With over ten years of experience in implementing batch build processes across a range of airports, from the world’s largest to mid-sized hubs, Vanderlande is excited to work with you on unlocking smart baggage handling at your own airport.