E=MC2. It is the formula that defined the 20th century.
Now over 100 years old, it is still the base of much of the 20th century disruption – and the way we view the universe. The formula tied mass and speed to produce energy. Energy is then used to produce everything else, and although there are times when it seems limitless, we know that it has an end.
To be effective, we need to focus that energy, be resourceful, EFFICIENT. Only then are we able to produce useful results within the boundaries given to us.
Let’s view the world of airports within that framework.
There are two distinct yet interwoven environments at the airport – operational and commercial. The operational part is the Airport Factory, the assembly line that processes passengers, their baggage, cargo, airplanes and much more. Commercial processes are behind the work that goes into increasing the company’s revenues per passenger, per square foot, per any unit of investment or inventory. It’s the Shopping Mall, the public face of the airports.
For that reason, most of the investment and much of the innovation in airports goes into the commercial processes – increasing the up-sell, cross-sell and trying to improve the yield per passenger; driving revenues up.
In comparison, the operations – the factory part of the airport – is the poor cousin for the investment dollar, in terms of investment in new tools, innovation and change. There are many reasons for this:
- The complexity of the process.
- The impact on airport stakeholders – particularly passengers.
- Fear of potential disruption.
- Amount of investment required for a significant change.
Minor delays impact revenue
As a result of studies in the airport space, we have known for years that “minor” delays, not major, publicized disruptions, can send your revenues plummeting. In one study at a European hub, researchers found that a 10-minute reduction in passenger wait time could improve revenues by more than 20%.
So, with such a major impact on commerce, should we be considering operational processes at airports as a stand-alone venture? Probably not, but what we know is – running your factory efficiently has a materially positive impact on the shopping mall.
At Elenium, we spend all our time enabling and improving the operational process at airports.
Energy is a limited resource and we focus our energy – and that of our clients – on making sure that the factory runs efficiently.
What do we mean by that? Well, let’s look at the end to end journey of designing, manufacturing, installing, operating and, as a result, reducing the passenger’s stress as they delight themselves in the airport experience. For us, it is a holistic process, where all the stages of the journey above are interlinked, resulting in a positive experience.
So, what depletes energy and reduces efficiency at airports, and how does Elenium fight it?
When we design our products, we look at the physical footprint of the equipment, ease of installation and operation, power consumption, efficiency in the use of data and of course, the user experience. How long does it take the passenger to go through the process? How can we make it more efficient?
Start with the end-user
For the passenger to fully enjoy the beautiful multi-million-dollar airport facilities, she should arrive airside as stress free as possible. The steps she takes and the time she spends on the journey, from the time she gets through the airport doors to the time that she is airside, are key. At Elenium, we start with the basics, going back to the beginnings of the management efficiency movement that started in the late 19th century, when Frederik Winslow Taylor started breaking down tasks on the factory floor and measuring the time that it took to perform them.
We look at each choke point, review the process step by step, investigate how it impacts the people and, only then, how technology will ameliorate the journey. We time how long it takes the passenger to check in, to bagdrop, to board, and we propose how AI can predict where the passenger will go next, and, therefore, what data should be provided to the next step to too make sure it is waiting for the passenger at the next touch point and eliminate any latency.
At the bagdrop, we use high resolution, high speed cameras and Elenium proprietary technology to make sure that the bag tag is read correctly almost every time. Our read rates are 97% for the first scan and, combining that with the fact that our bagdrop can read, dimension, stabilize the scale and ingest a bag in just under 3 seconds, we are starting to get close to the efficiency expected on the factory floor. At the same time, we minimize the complexity for the passenger and practically eliminate the need for rework.
Taking another step back, our kiosks can be portable and fixed, dependent on your needs and requirements. Wayne Gretzky, a famous Canadian hockey player once said, “I do not skate to where the puck is, I skate to where it is going to be”. With our kiosks, there is no need to move the passenger flow towards the kiosks, the kiosks can go to where the passengers will be. At the same time, in under a minute, our kiosks can toggle between self-service and agent assisted modes. The airports can now really plan their operational capacity and serve both the business passengers and charter flights at different times during the day. This means that one portable Elenium kiosk replaces at least 3 fixed kiosks and one fixed Elenium kiosk can replace a kiosk and a manual check in.
You will struggle to find a solution that conserves real estate and staff in a more efficient way.
Looking inside the kiosks, and in order to efficiently use the 20 hours of battery life of an average kiosk (much longer than a Tesla), we made sure that all our electrical components have the lowest power consumption rates. This reduces the number of changes of the battery packs as well as electricity consumption. And although the actual battery replacement process is a simple event, your teams can be busy adding value elsewhere at the airport.
We have designed our Operational real-time dashboard, FlightDeck, with efficiency in mind. It enables the maintenance crew to see potential interruptions well before they occur. FlightDeck allows every member of the team to see the status of each self-service unit as a fleet or you can focus on an individual units on any type of device (PC, Android, iOS) This ensures that kiosk outages are eliminated; you are extracting the maximum time that the kiosks are online, and nothing impedes the journey of your passengers.
Marble-clad Airport real estate tends to be some of the most expensive floor space in a city.
Therefore, it is also an area where we focus our attention. We have seen cases where 4 manual check in stations were removed in order to make way for 3 oversized bagdrops. This is a waste of energy, space and resources. Self-service bagdrop allows you to process more passengers than a manual bagdrop, but that’s not a reason to waste expensive space. We approach our bagdrop with attention to detail in reducing its footprint, while increasing throughput, making sure that our bagdrop uses a limited resource with care.
Finally, all of the above are put together in the design stage. We start with passengers and then focus on operations:
- What’s the best way to improve their flow?
- Increase their satisfaction?
- Reduce the amount of time spent on operating and managing equipment?
- What needs to be accessible?
- Where do we put our equipment?
- How do we minimize the space it takes?
- How do we make it fast to deploy?
We also review both the inner and outer look of the device – what doesn’t need to be there?
Then, we look at the process itself. What are the minimum steps required for an efficient process flow, and which parts of the highly regulated process can be bypassed due to technology and availability of data?
We also review the different technological options that are available to us to facilitate the passenger journey. That’s why we have a team that includes mechanical engineers, roboticists, data scientists and aviation process experts.
We do all of this to keep your factory purring along – and your shopping mall ready for the holidays.
Author: Ilya Gutlin, Chief Commercial Officer