Michael Kuhn, Managing Director of Interroll Kronau GmbH
Michael Kuhn, Managing Director of Interroll Kronau GmbH, reports on trends, growth drivers and challenges in baggage handling at airports.

Driven by the increasing number of air travel, the global market for baggage handling solutions is expected to grow by 7.5 percent annually until 2021. An interview with Michael Kuhn, Managing Director of Interroll Kronau GmbH, about trends, growth drivers and challenges in baggage handling logistics.

How is the market for material handling solutions developing in the airport environment?

Kuhn: This is an attractive growth market for us: In addition to flourishing e-commerce and automated production, air traffic is also one of the most important growth areas of intralogistics - for air travel and air freight. Experts estimate that the annual number of air travel worldwide is expected to double from currently more than 7 billion in less than fourteen years. In Asia in particular, this will lead to the construction of a large number of new airports. At the same time, existing airports in industrialized countries must be expanded and modernized to cope with the rapidly growing number of passengers and goods. For suppliers of material flow solutions, this development offers interesting opportunities in the coming years.

Modernizations, expansions, even new airports: will it be primarily a question of coping with higher volumes in the future?

Kuhn: No. In addition to capacity requirements, greater efficiency, safety and comfort also play a central role. Take as an example the handling of checked baggage, which has to be transported over ever longer distances at larger airports. Corresponding conveyor and distribution systems have been one of the classic infrastructures of an airport for decades. However, the increasing volumes, increasingly stringent safety standards and higher comfort requirements can only be met in the future with intelligent conveyor systems that use the most economical drive technology. This is especially true for airports with a hub function that have to cope with high transit traffic. Here, the luggage must be transported particularly quickly, efficiently and reliably to the respective connecting flights.

In addition to flourishing e-commerce and automated production, air traffic is also one of the important growth areas of intralogistics - in both air travel and air freight.

How does these systems stand out from the crowd?

Kuhn: One driver of the technical development is stricter safety regulations, both nationally and internationally. This for example leads to the integration of ever more powerful scanner technologies into the conveyor systems. On one hand, this applies to the security check of hand luggage, when you want to take your notebook with you. On the other hand, the trend in checked baggage is towards integrated complete systems that include both conveyor and scanning technologies. Airfreight, which according to IATA is currently growing by around 11 percent, is developing accordingly.

And how do comfort requirements influence the design of the systems?

Kuhn: Fierce competition among airlines and airports is bringing customers even more into focus. Until now, RFID or barcode systems, which we are particularly familiar with from e-commerce, were seen primarily as part of automation solutions that improve the performance and efficiency of the systems. In the future, users will also increasingly use the data generated to improve customer service and thus differentiate themselves from the competition. Some airlines already offer their passengers the possibility to track the journey of their baggage online, from handover to arrival at their destination. In addition, the speed with which the suitcase lies on the luggage conveyor belt after arrival is increasingly part of the suppliers' customer promise.

Baggage handling is now one of the business-critical infrastructures of an airport and must offer maximum availability….

Kuhn: Exactly. The trend in this market is also towards fully automated solutions that can handle very high volumes at high speed. This, of course, increases the demands on the quality of the systems and components used, which practically have to run non-stop. In addition, a trend towards smaller, heavy goods can be observed in air freight due to the higher pricing of the freight size. This will meet the needs of providers who offer particularly high-quality solutions and corresponding experience.

The trend in baggage logistics is also moving towards fully automated solutions that can handle very high volumes at high speeds.

How can a manufacturer keep pace with this development? 

Kuhn: On the one hand, we have a company-wide quality system that consistently covers all areas from research and development to production, sales and service. An example: Quality and customer proximity were important reasons for us to set up our own production site for belt curves in Europe as well. On the other hand, they have to integrate quality into the design principle of their respective products. For example, one of our belt curves has been running for over 55 years without unscheduled interruptions at Los Angeles International Airport in California. This is mainly due to its unique design principle: Unlike traditional friction-driven solutions, the form-fit drive results in only a low belt tension and no belt slippage even under overload. With this principle, they achieve maximum reliability and an extremely long service life - even in the most demanding environments.

Info: Solutions from Interroll for airport logistics

Airports and the air freight centers of the major courier, express and parcel service providers are among the most important users of key products of the international Interroll Group. Between baggage check-in and check-in, Interroll drum motors, conveyor rollers and conveyors are used to move baggage in airports around the world. In addition, over 80 percent of all conveyor belts and taxiways on airport scanners are driven by Interroll drum motors.
With the founding of Interroll Kronau GmbH in German Baden-Württemberg at the end of 2016, the listed Swiss company opened a European plant and at the same time a regional competence center for belt curves. In addition to the American and Asian production facilities in Cañon City/USA and Shenzhen/China, the European market is now also supplied via its own production facility.

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