Bae Automated Systems Analysis

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The Denver International Airport Automated Baggage Handling System
MIS 611 Group Project

Winter 2005

Justin Bainum, Hong Ji and Priyanka Kheny

Executive Summary
Baggage handling is at the heart of an airport. The automated baggage handling system at the Denver International Airport (DIA) was a huge undertaking. Not only would it be the largest system of its kind in the world but also the most expensive. Originally designed for only one airline, United Airlines, it grew to encompass all terminals within the airport. This enormous project had its inherent risks and uncertainties, and encountered many emerging problems. As a result, the project caused massive delays of the airport opening and budget overruns. It was regarded as a huge failure and a textbook example of how an IT project could go wrong. When the airport was finally opened, it had one automated system, a conventional system and a backup system for the automated one. In this report, we examined the original rationales for an automated baggage handling system at DIA, its advantages over conventional systems, many problems encountered during the project and some solutions to salvage the project. We also explored the causes for the failure, economic impacts and lessons that can be learned for future IT projects. A) Introduction

The Denver International airport was the first undertaking of such magnitude in the last 20 years in the US. At 53 square miles, this airport was designed to be the largest in the United States. During the construction period beginning in November 1989, 110 million cubic yards of earth was removed. Besides its massive size it involved state, federal, and local agencies and various airlines. Denver International Airport planners originally anticipated a $1.7 billion dollar price tag. The final cost more than tripled to $5.2 billion. When it was finally opened to the public 16 months late on February 1995, it had 5 runways, 88 gates and in many ways represented a model of the airport of the future. (Ayres Jr, 1995) Airports are judged by passengers on their ability to handle their baggage systems. Baggage handling is at the heart of an airport. The baggage handling systems at DIA connects gates in three concourses where baggage are loaded on and off the plane with two main terminals where passengers check and claim their luggage. United Airlines in the early planning stages insisted on an automated baggage system, like the one it operated in San Francisco. United Airlines did not want to operate on the conventional baggage system because it was time consuming and labor intensive. Denver officials decided that an automated baggage handling system, most closely resembling the one at Frank Joseph Strauss Airport in Munich, would be designed at the Denver International Airport. Denver, after some consideration concluded that all the concourses at the airport would operate on the automated high speed baggage handling system, not limiting it only to United Airlines. Boeing Airport Equipment (later becoming BAE Automatic Systems) was known worldwide for being a superior baggage system builder. Denver approached BAE systems and asked them to design an automated baggage system that would serve all the carriers in the various concourses. BAE came up with a proposal for the Denver International Airport; this system design was not only the most ambitious and biggest but also the most complex automated system ever designed. There were numerous benefits of the system •Reducing the manpower required to distribute the baggage as required •Bags arriving at a particular concourse would be barely even touched by human hands once they were unloaded from an aircraft. •Efficiency in terms of reliability, maintainability, and future flexibility •Effective in delivering bags, skies, golf clubs and suitcases of all shapes and sizes to and from passengers. • Capability of delivering bags right from the main terminals through a tunnel into...
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