Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lean Airport with Clear Measurement at London Heathrow

The London Heathrow Terminal 5, which cost 4.3 billion pounds to construct, was described to be a "national embarrassment" for the UK due to its chaotic and "mayhem"-like opening on March 27th, 2008. Blames were put on the problematic computer system behind the luggage belts. On the opening day, 34 flights were cancelled, passenger check-in's were suspended, 20,000+ bags were stranded due to the inefficient system, and passengers waited for hours because of it.

Less than one year later, the London Heathrow Terminal 5 is doing very well. Going through the London Heathrow airport recently, I noticed the following sign just past the Terminal 5's security check point, which screamed "lean operations" to me. It measures and reports on the terminal's various wait time, service availability, overall ease and accuracy, as well as cleanliness.


In particular, the measurement of "Flight information" in the following photo is related to the last article on Maximizing airport runway & boarding gates utilization at London Heathrow, where I talked about the flight information board of gate assignment. It seems like all targets were achieved and some were exceeded. Well done.

Also, the reporting on "Security waiting time for transfer passengers" reminded me of a project done in 2003 by the Centre for Operations Excellence at the Sauder School of Business in the University of British Columbia with the Vancouver International Airport (YVR). The project team created a simulation model to form optimal staffing requirement for the security check point to meet the target of "90% of customers pass through the security check point in 10 minutes or less".

I guess when people pay attention, things can be done properly. "The general consensus at the moment is that Terminal Five has put its initial problems firmly behind it. British Airways believes that the terminal now provides the 'best customer experience Heathrow has known' for several years. Furthermore, the airline holds frequent meetings with BAA in order to review the airport’s performance." (source: Heathrow Airport Guide)

1 comment:

Mats said...

Hi Dawen,
Great to hear you are in London.Just got back from a conference there a few weeks ago. Actually the initial problems with T5 were people related. The system performed in an excellent way. Baggage handlers did not know where to park, and therefore did not arrive on time and did not know where to work and what "buttons" to push. With a baggage handling systems performing at 12,000 bags per hour, a few hours without removing bags caused what the systems was supposed to do, shut down. Considering the many years of simulation that went into the design, this system was very well designed and is now one of the world's best performing systems. The marvel of OR in simulation of Baggage handling is quite incredible and Vanderlande Industries are doing a terrific job in designing these systems. The fact that they are also now responsible for the service and maintenance, has just added to the excellence and the drive for continuous improvement.
Thanks for the reference to our COE project and have a great time in London.
Best Regards
Mats Gerschman