Taking flight into the future
A GEC Alsthom case study

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Page 3: Objectives and strategy

Early in 1994, British Airways World Cargo appointed WS Atkins as Design Consultants for the New World Cargocentre at London Heathrow. The strategic brief established the design mission as:

  • The objective. To provide the built infrastructure and physical tools to support the most successful air freight carrier in the world.
  • The means. To create a pattern making design which will set a new benchmark for the industry.

Gec Alsthom 3 Image 3The underlying philosophy behind the Cargocentre was that British Airways World Cargo would provide a seamless link in the supply chain for manufacturers, distributors and producers with the Cargocentre benchmarking its processes against the best, not only in air cargo, but in areas of high tech manufacturing. The Concept Design report was completed in July 1994 with a final design for the Cargo Freight Centre for a building 300m long x 95m wide x 37m high. The Scheme Design for the Materials Handling System was started in July 1994 with Lödige Industries of Germany as designers and WS Atkins Consultants acting as the design coordinator. A good logistics system aims to provide the best possible service at the lowest possible cost. To fulfil British Airway’s corporate objectives, the New World Cargocentre needed to:

  • provide a seamless service to the customer
  • fulfil customer service targets for the different cargo products
  • support maximum revenue for British Airways
  • minimise costs at each stage of the handling process.

The basis for design, in terms of the cargo to be handled, was a minimum capacity of 800,000 tonnes per annum with a maximum capacity of 1,000,000 tonnes per annum. There were many other key requirements for the Materials Handling System. For example, it was important to have an improved and safe working environment for staff. There was to be no physical differentiation between import and export goods, although a logical separation should remain for Customs’ purposes. Maximum usage should be made of the building volume with the holding of cargo on the floor minimised and the system control needed to interact with other British Airways systems.

The Materials Handling System needed to provide a cost effective solution to British Airways World Cargo requirements in which it would be possible to identify the location of every item of cargo in the system. The design was completed by late 1994 and during early 1995, British Airways World Cargo was ready to issue the tender for the provision of this system.

Setting up a pan European project

Before the issue of the Materials Handling System tender, GEC ALSTHOM held discussions with Lödige Industries, on the basis that the products and experience of the respective companies were complementary.

GEC ALSTHOM is a world leader in Power Generation, Transmission & Distribution and Rail Transport. It has a significant presence in Industrial Automation. GEC ALSTHOM's Engineering Systems business specialises in baggage handling and automated warehousing systems and therefore possessed the necessary expertise relating to the handling and storage of consignments to and from the Unit Load Devices. (Unit Load Devices - ULDs is the general term for the special cargo and baggage carrying devices which fit into aircraft, ranging from flat pallet boards to shaped containers.)

Lödige Industries has a world-wide reputation for the design and implementation of large fully automated air cargo handling systems, including Unit Load Device handling. The company has maintained a leading edge by investing in product development and dedicating its engineering team to the task of meeting the future needs of the industry.

The potential existed for these two leading organisations to combine their efforts to secure the British Airways contract. During the first half of 1995, a Consortium was formed with GEC ALSTHOM as the Lead Contractor and in August of that year, the contract for the Materials Handling System was won at a value of £87 million. The project has now become truly international with subcontract projects granted to companies in Denmark, Holland and France, as well as many components coming from other European sources. The New World Cargocentre is due to be completed by January 1999. It is British Airways’ largest non aircraft investment.

GEC Alsthom | Taking flight into the future