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A logistical dream

Posted: 6 February 2007 | Shaun Cowlam, Logistics Director, BAA Heathrow | No comments yet

Restricted to the north and south by two of the world’s most heavily utilised runways, to the east by existing terminals and to the west by Europe’s busiest motorway interchange, space is at a premium at Heathrow’s new Terminal 5 site. There’s little room and a large logistical challenge: how to complete one of Europe’s largest and most complex infrastructure projects at one of the world’s busiest airports.

Restricted to the north and south by two of the world’s most heavily utilised runways, to the east by existing terminals and to the west by Europe’s busiest motorway interchange, space is at a premium at Heathrow’s new Terminal 5 site. There’s little room and a large logistical challenge: how to complete one of Europe’s largest and most complex infrastructure projects at one of the world’s busiest airports.

The opening of Terminal 5 (T5) in March 2008 is widely anticipated to be one of the aviation industry’s most exciting events. T5 will be the first terminal to open at Heathrow for over 20 years and is expected to transform terminal design and passenger experience.

To date, the construction of Terminal 5 has enjoyed unprecedented success, remaining on time and on budget with an outstanding safety record. This is no small feat given the scale and complexity of the construction programme – 16 major projects including rail extensions; an M25 spur road; a new control tower and two satellite buildings – and 134 sub projects. Added to this is T5’s location adjacent to the world’s busiest international airport and the numerous constraints and planning requirements imposed by the T5 Public Inquiry.

For Terminal 5 to be successfully completed it was recognised that an entirely new approach was needed for construction. Central to this was the development of a logistics strategy that drew heavily on learning and techniques from the manufacturing industry. Through this new approach, constraints have been turned into opportunities, delivering benefits which will no doubt be enjoyed across the UK’s construction industry.

BAA was given permission to construct the £4.3 billion Terminal 5 project in November 2001 following the longest public inquiry in British planning history. The inquiry laid down over 700 conditions including limits on the time and frequency of deliveries to site, the mandatory use of rail for bulk deliveries, and limits on noise, parking and transport. The T5 project also meets strict environmental targets around noise, dust and the recycling of waste.

In addition to the public inquiry, the challenging location of the T5 site has been a major factor governing the terminal’s construction. T5 is situated between Heathrow’s two runways with Terminals 1, 2 and 3 lying to the east and the M25, Europe’s busiest motorway, to the west. The airport’s radar system also imposed height limits restricting the size of cranes and other tall structures. Finally, although equivalent in size to London’s Hyde Park, the 260ha site has a limited amount of storage space for materials and equipment.

Given the complex nature of these constraints, an effective logistics programme has been vital to the success of the project. The logistics strategy for Terminal 5 includes planning, people logistic support, materials logistic support and site logistic support.

Logistics planning

This involves working with project teams and suppliers to ensure that there are sufficient resources in the right place and at the right time to meet the demand. Through this planning, BAA has been able to develop an intelligent customer capability that aims to improve supplier management and the formation of integrated planning teams.

Given that the overall logistic cost of T5 will exceed £300 million over the 5 year build phase, a complete financial and commercial team has been required to manage the budget and drive efficiency.

People logistics

The importance of people logistic support is best seen within the context of a peak, on-site population of 8,000 individuals daily. As a result, a high standard of welfare facilities is required along with the associated management of those facilities. This includes the provision of worker accommodation; car parking with a cap of 3,500 spaces; a 56-vehicle bus company; 3,000 office spaces in eight temporary offices; ten canteens and welfare compounds that also provide lockers and showers.

Material logistics

In addition to the number of people on site, at peak, the T5 project received 250 deliveries per hour. During the main construction phase over 3000 tons of aggregate, 650 tonnes of Portland cement and 300 tons of rebar were delivered to site each week. To manage this vast supply of materials, a control system of demand fulfilment that facilitates the ‘pull’ of materials onto site, just in time, has been employed. Deliveries are pre-booked by project teams over the internet and marshalled to their off load point and onwards to the work face.

Conversely, waste is collected, segregated and compressed before removal. Over 60 per cent of all waste is recycled. There is also a dedicated laboratory to test material samples and to monitor the environment.

The ever-changing nature of the Terminal 5 site means that temporary facilities such as road networks and office compounds are routinely moved to make room for permanent infrastructure. In addition, the logistics team operates up to 3 concrete batchers and, during the early civils phase, ran a dedicated rebar (the cutting and bending of steel reinforcement for concrete) factory to support the site.

This factory, based near to the site at Colnbrook, used state-of-the-art technology to prefabricate and pre-assemble reinforcement cages ready for their use on site; the advantage being that it was much safer and more efficient to manufacture rebar in this controlled environment, which saw a peak production of 500 tonnes of rebar per day.

Also at Colnbrook is one of T5’s two logistic centres – the second is the Heathrow South Logistic Centre. Given the space constraints imposed by T5’s location it was decided at an early stage to create external logistic centres to support the construction programme. At the Heathrow South Logistics Centre, materials are stored and managed; the centre also provides a remote maintenance base for the suppliers. At Colnbrook there is rail head and materials management centre. It also acts as a marshalling area before deliveries are made to site. A limited amount of logistic consolidation is also carried out.

The fit out phase of the Terminal 5 project presents the logistics team with new challenges as materials required on site increase both in terms of number and complexity. As a result, the team are in the process of developing AIRBUILD; an information systems project to control deliveries to site. Future plans will see a link with project material demand software such as Project FLOW, AIRBUILD and a warehouse management system, therefore providing a single end-to-end material management information system.

With T5’s March 2008 opening date still some way off and almost ten per cent of the construction programme yet to be completed, it is too early to describe T5 as finished. However, it is early enough to say that significant construction logistic lessons have been learnt that will certainly provide benefit for the airport over the coming years.

Looking towards the future, BAA recently submitted a planning application for Heathrow East – a project that will see the replacement of Terminal 2 with a modern terminal similar in quality to T5. Given that the construction of Heathrow East would take place in the middle of the central terminal area, BAA is unlikely to enjoy the luxury of space. Success on T5, however, has demonstrated the strength of the logistical capabilities at Heathrow and that even in the most challenging of locations, construction projects can be undertaken on time and on budget.

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