Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is one of the largest European airport hubs. Currently, it handles more than 450,000 flights a year, transporting over 58 million passengers and 1.6 million tons of freight. The airport foresees a further increase in traffic and prepares itself to be able to deal with a yearly amount of over 70 million passengers and their baggage, within 8 years.

This growth results in more, intense use of the available airport infrastructure. For evaluation of the capacity requirements and to perform bottleneck analysis Schiphol Airport is applying simulation technology for over 15 years already. The simulation software Enterprise Dynamics®  is being used in several fields, which includes passenger handling, baggage services, airside operations, and cargo services.

One of the important elements in the airport infrastructure concerns the baggage handling system. This system transports, screens, stores, scans and sorts all these millions of bags. As approximately 60% of the hold baggage belongs to transfer passengers, who have limited time in order to be in time for the onward flight, there is considerable pressure on the performance of the baggage handling facilities and processes. And due to the traffic increase and the introduction of new baggage screening regulations, the baggage handling system needs to be expanded and updated frequently.

ISM: Integral baggage handling simulation model

For performing bottleneck analysis in baggage handling and testing design alternatives, simulation is used. Each of the baggage handling facilities has been captured in a model. All these simulation models are modules of the overall baggage handling simulation model of Schiphol:  Integral Simulation Model (ISM).In the simulation model, every module can be replaced by others, representing future situations or presenting the system at another level of detail. This way it is easy to adapt the model to the desired system representation, for example, to analyze the overall transport times in future scenario’s or focus on optimizing processes in a specific element.

The complete model contains 2 high-speed individual carrier systems, over 35 kilometers of conveyor tracks, dozens of screening machines and scanning devices, many self-service units for check-in and bag drop, baggage makeup laterals, sorting systems, and 3 automated early baggage storage buffers with a total capacity of almost 9,000 bags. The model also includes automated container unloading devices and robots for loading baggage containers.

The simulation model is applied by employees of Schiphol airport to gain insight in capacity and utilization of the systems at strategic, tactical and operational level. Simulation is used to find alternative routings during disturbances or maintenance, to determine the overall performance of the system for the upcoming season and for evaluation of future investments in infrastructure expansion.

Future Expansions
An important contribution of the simulation model is that it is used as a design support tool. When one develops costly and complex systems, it is important to be able to validate and improve the design in an early stage, so that the airport management can be convinced that the system will meet its requirements. Simulation is used as a risk reducer.

In order to test the new expansions at Schiphol Airport, new modules were created and at first tested separately to show its isolated performance. In the next phase, the models were integrated into the simulation model, to be able to investigate the interaction and the overall performance of the system.

It is not only possible to evaluate the final stage, but also every transition phase between the current and future situation, which is of equal importance. A user-friendly interface of the simulation model has been designed to allow the user to select any of the predefined stages per module.

Performance indicators
Conclusions about the system performance are drawn based on performance indicators. All bags contain their own characteristics and information is logged when they pass specific locations. In this way system performances can be collected about:

  • Flow rates
  • Transportation times on routes for specific groups
  • Lateness
  • Buffer occupancy
  • Totals over the day
  • Utilization of routes

Simulation with Enterprise Dynamics® has proven to be very successful. It has resulted in a better performing baggage handling system by decreasing in-system times due to reducing bottlenecks, optimizing the available capacity and improvement of the system redundancy. The simulation model allows the capacity managers at Schiphol airport to anticipate on future situations and has even learned them a lot about how the system behaves. Simulation has become part of Baggage operations: “No structural modifications without confirmation by simulation.”

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