The Future Begins Now: The Transparent Vehicle Fleet
Fraport introduces TWS, a new telemetry data-optimized maintenance control system
The vehicle fleet at Frankfurt Airport numbers more than 1,500 ground handling vehicles, from on-board power units to airport tugs. They are accompanied by almost 10,000 pieces of towed equipment, like the many types of trailers and freight wagons that speed around the apron. This makes up a huge fleet that has to be controlled, maintained and managed. To help achieve this, Fraport Fleet Management can now call upon an innovative system that transmits telemetry data from the vehicles and equipment to the control center in real time. This means that the current location of a piece of equipment can be established digitally and at glance, together with information on whether all of its key functions are working or whether maintenance will soon be required.
The new system is called TWS, which stands for “Telemetriedaten optimiertes Wartungssteuerungssystem” – telemetry data-optimized maintenance system – and it will catapult Fraport into the future of technology. “We are well ahead of our time. By 2030, systems like this will be optimizing processes at all airports as an integral element of ground handling,” explains Bernhard Scholz, Head of Fleet Management at Ground Services. Today, though, he and his team can count themselves as pioneers. TWS is nothing less than a technical and logistical revolution in fleet management – and the first system of its kind in the world. Scholz: “The road from our first attempts at GPS-based location in 2001 to where we are now has been a long one. Building on the usual GPS to localize location-related data, we added several special features, such as new algorithms, to the software that runs and controls TWS now.”
But a worthwhile one, too. It used to be the case that looking for a certain vehicle was a game of fishing in the dark, while the need for repairs would often come as a surprise or important maintenance would be skipped. TWS brings light into this darkness. So that the system can work, the fleet vehicles first have to be fitted with transponders, which measure and send information on operating hours, the working order of the vehicles and their maintenance status to operations control by GPS. The collected information and geodata for the entire fleet is shown on a digital map of the airport.
“This means that we know about imminent defects long before the loading crew notices that anything is wrong and can respond accordingly with our taskforce. This allows us to proactively initiate regular mainte‧nance in cooperation with the workshops, meaning that TWS also forms the basis of our repair shop control tool,” explains Scholz. Another advantage: All of the vehicles and equipment are kept behind a virtual “geofence.” If a ground power unit leaves the apron area without authorization, this is automatically reported by the system. This allows third-party use to be identified and calculated at all times – which was not previously the case.
All in all, a whole range of plus points with tangible economic benefits. 200 units from the Fraport vehicle fleet have been fitted with transponders to date. All 1,500 pieces of motorized handling equipment used by Ground Services will be successively fitted and connected to TWS. And the system is set to be linked to data from the flight information service before the year is out. The new system offers extensive options for evaluation, meaning it is not only being used by Fleet Management, but is also already proving popular among customers when performing quality assurance as part of airline audits.
New Special Purpose Vehicles for Temperature-controlled Shipments
With new temperature-controlled special transporters, Frankfurt Airport is expanding its vehicle fleet for temperature-sensitive freight. Around 18 of the vehicles with state-of-the-art technology will be in operation by July, ensuring that the cold chain remains uninterrupted even over longer apron distances, such as between CCS and CCN. This new service will be of particular benefit to the pharmaceutical industry, whose new provisions on the transport of drugs and medicines have been strictly observed in the development of the new refrigerated trailers.
The trailers are suitable for both controlled cooling (to minus 30 degrees Celsius) and controlled heating (to plus 30 degrees Celsius). Temperatures are managed using digital monitoring and a multi-level fail-safe system. This includes three SMS warning messages, a warning siren and a warning light to alert users to fluctuations in the interior temperature. Alongside electronic management, the doors of the rear section have viewing windows to allow sensitive freight to be monitored from outside.
A maximum of around 5,000 kg of sensitive materials can be transported in each of the refrigerated containers with integrated temperature control. One particular advantage for pharma companies like Sanofi, Merck and BASF: Digital freight documents are generated for the entire transportation process, which is particularly important for drugs and medicines. With the new temperature-controlled transporters, Frankfurt Airport is unquestionably positioning itself as the first-choice “pharma airport”.
Frankfurt is a worldwide leader in digital loading technology
There is hardly anything less practical than having to handle a lot of paperwork when loading an aircraft on the apron. As soon as the loading schedule details have changed, the loading master has to update documents by hand. All this must be done whilst he is simultaneously maintaining telephone contact with the weight-and-balance agents of the relevant airline. In Frankfurt the loading masters from Fraport Ground Services therefore already introduced the digital revolution many years ago.
“In the meantime all 620 loading masters use a mobile with a touchscreen, which makes the job much faster and at the same time reduces the risk of communication errors to a minimum”, says Corinne Schwinn, who was the project manager responsible for the conversion. The shock- and waterproof device called MobIS-L was developed by Fraport and made compatible with other ground handling software from the IT company Inform. MoblS-L has made Fraport the market leader in digital loading technology. At Inform’s “User Conference” in September there was consequently considerable interest in a presentation by Schwinn. The audience discovered that weight-and-balance agents can follow the loading in real time thanks to MobIS-L and the latter’s software can in principle be connected to every airline system.
What equipment is available?
New technical developments in Frankfurt, which support the airlines, were also presented by Bernhard Scholz at the conference. The Senior Executive Manager of Fraport Ground Services is responsible for all 15,000 motorized and non-motorized vehicles and equipment, which are required on the apron to handle the aircraft.
“We have now installed a real time system here. It shows the maintenance status of a vehicle and whether it is currently being used or is unused. In addition, thanks to GPS sensors the precise location at the airport is always known”, says Scholz. Airline representatives find the design of this monitoring system to be excellent during audits because it promises a maximum level of equipment safety and transparency. “The fleet could already be reduced by six GPUs and two high loaders as the vehicles are now used more efficiently. Maintenance costs have also fallen by EUR 70,000 per annum because we now discover small defects immediately, before more extensive damage occurs”, reports Scholz. These advantages have also convinced the Fraport winter service. Their equipment is now also to be monitored. The monitoring so¬lution provided by Ground Services will be used as the basis for this.
Bacteria-free drinking water - from the tank to the aircraft
Water is life – and at the same time a medium, in which bacteria and other micro-organisms that are a hazard to health can multiply quickly. All the water, which is filled by airport staff into the aircraft tanks, must therefore comply with the most stringent requirements. The quantity is considerable: for example in Frankfurt the team from Fraport Ground Services (BVD) fills about 500 planes with approximately 140,000 liters of water every day.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) as the airlines’ umbrella organiza¬tion established the “Drinking Water Quality Pool” for this procedure. Its purpose is to guarantee internationally consistent standards and exchange experiences on training courses on how to ensure that a bacteria-free supply chain is created from the tank to the plane. Such a training course took place at the end of September at Frankfurt Airport. It was organized by Peter Klein, Operation Manager at Fraport Ground Services (BVD) and his colleague Florian Trapp.
Complementing theory and practice
Under the guidance of Peter Westphal (Lufthansa) and Ana Matos (TAP), the eleven airline representatives first learned in the theoretical part what makes filling a tank with perfectly hygienic drinking water more difficult. Subsequently they practiced taking water samples including keeping the correct documentation. The practical part also involved inspecting Fraport’s water hall and a tank procedure on an A380 belonging to Singapore Airlines. All the participants were impressed by the equally comprehensive and smooth-running procedures at Fraport Ground Services. The latter’s faultless work has also been supported by the regular IATA audits on drinking water quality.