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Facilitating growth

Posted: 6 February 2007 | Michael Zaddach, Vice President for IT and Communication Systems, Flughafen München GmbH | No comments yet

Munich Airport’s impressive, recent growth shows no sign of slowing. Over 30 million passengers were recorded in 2006, the first time that the airport has broken the barrier in a single operating year, and expansion plans are already in place to accommodate future demand. However, as Michael Zaddach explains, success can’t be achieved or sustained through construction alone. IT underpins Munich’s growth, invisibly smoothing operations and the processing of ever greater numbers of passengers and volumes of baggage.

Munich Airport’s impressive, recent growth shows no sign of slowing. Over 30 million passengers were recorded in 2006, the first time that the airport has broken the barrier in a single operating year, and expansion plans are already in place to accommodate future demand. However, as Michael Zaddach explains, success can’t be achieved or sustained through construction alone. IT underpins Munich’s growth, invisibly smoothing operations and the processing of ever greater numbers of passengers and volumes of baggage.

Just days before Christmas 2006, Munich Airport welcomed its 30 millionth passenger for the year, cementing its claim to a permanent spot among Europe’s major air transport hubs. This milestone marked the start of the latest chapter in Munich Airport’s success story, which saw its most recent high point with the opening of Terminal 2 in 2003. Airport planners are already at work on new infrastructure projects, responding to the unabated growth in passenger numbers, take-offs and landings, and cargo volume at Munich Airport. In 2007, construction will start on a new freight facility, and an additional hotel is in the planning stage.

The planning process for the construction of a third runway has been underway since 2005, with the regional planning process slated to be finalised by spring 2007. Flughafen München GmbH (FMG), the airport’s operating company, expects the new runway to go into operation in 2011 if the planning and approval process goes according to schedule. Munich Airport will then have three 4000-meter runways, which will put it in a position to handle dynamic growth as hub operations continue to expand. By 2020, Munich Airport is forecast to handle around 56 million passengers annually.

Solutions

A major factor contributing to the success of Germany’s second busiest airport and Europe’s 7th busiest hub is the tight intermeshing of core airport processes through supporting IT solutions.

For example, efficient IT applications in Terminal 2 guarantee a minimum connecting time (MCT) of 30 minutes. To achieve this standard, streams of passengers and baggage and the transfer data of passengers and crews are continually monitored and managed. In addition, the HCC (Hub Control Center), an interdisciplinary cross-company control centre, was jointly established with the home carrier Lufthansa. All information relevant to handling and clearance comes together in the HCC and is displayed and handled through the systems designed to support the various processes. This permits a rapid response to any hitches in the hub processes. Delays in aircraft turnaround due to hub coordination problems are thus kept to a minimum.

Inevitably, a high level of IT integration creates a strong reliance on the implemented IT systems. To allow – if necessary – round-the-clock coordination of core airport processes, the IT Services division utilises state-of-the-art technology. Redundant server cluster systems are in place wherever needed. Through intelligent switching processes, these systems can rapidly compensate for individual component malfunctions, thus ensuring airport operations with zero downtime. Naturally, Munich Airport does not rely only on technological processes. The majority of the implemented systems were designed and launched by employees of the IT Services division. There is little dependency on external system providers, and the outflow of know-how is kept to a minimum.

To be in a position to offer consistently high service levels at low cost, the IT Services division has implemented numerous process optimisation measures in recent years, including a transition from a purely system-oriented to a process-oriented structure. This has generated synergies in operations and field services through the utilisation of common platforms. In this way, system convergence has been carried over into the organisational structure. In the past, the four areas – display systems, networking, video monitoring and telecommunications – maintained their own order handling structures. Today, a central order handling function receives all orders and handles processing from beginning to end. A central service desk is also responsible for handling incoming malfunction reports and tracking the steps taken to eliminate the problem. Any failure to correct a malfunction within the time specified in the service level agreements triggers an automated escalation mechanism.

Certification

An indispensable requirement for smooth operations is the existence of documented and clearly communicated processes. For this purpose the IT Services division obtained certification last year through independent auditors under the international ISO 20000 standard, which adheres closely to the ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) process model, a collection of best practices originally documented in the UK.

Although half of all German IT companies are already working under ITIL, the actual standard is still quite new and gained international status only in December 2005 at the instigation of itSMF (the IT Service Management Forum).

Munich Airport is the only airport in the world and also one of the few German IT organisations to operate IT service processes certified under this standard.

Uniformly documented processes that can be retrieved via the Intranet portal comprise the basis for a common understanding of the agreed processes among all employees. The selected modelling language, EPC (Event-driven Process Chains), is familiar from ARIS.

In addition to the service support and service delivery processes specified in the ITIL process model, the model also covers other more far-reaching processes defined only in the ISO 20000 standard.

These include sales and product management processes, as well as high-level management processes: the ISO 20000 standard requires a strategic planning process for IT service management. Regular quarterly reviews take place to set targets and review performance in terms of target achievement. Whenever results deviate from these targets, the management responds without delay and implements measures within the framework of the continual improvement process. For this purpose, the IT Services division has set up a special quality management unit that reports directly to the divisional management team.

For the derivation of operational goals in line with the corporate strategy and the evaluation of the quality of the IT service processes, the decisive tool is comprised of key ratios and other numerical benchmarks. These include throughput and provisioning times, as well as the time required for preparing offers and the total number of offers successfully submitted.

FMG’s IT Services division is putting its focus firmly on the customer. Within the framework of the Group reorganisation, a clear definition was developed for the customer/supplier interface. FMG’s IT activities are now clearly positioned as a stand-alone service division. The newly formed key account management structure serves IT customers within the Group, thus providing a designated point of contact for all IT concerns – as has always been taken for granted in dealings with external IT customers on the airport campus. As a result, there is now exactly one entry point for ordering individual services: the responsible sales manager.

By contrast, standard services in the Office environment are procured centrally through the service desk, which is staffed for 12 hours on weekdays.

Following the completion of the reorganisation, the realignment in terms of the ITIL process model and the ISO certification, the focus of the IT Services division of FMG has again returned to technological innovation. The IT division can face the upcoming challenges without increasing its staffing levels.

Despite the continual growth in sales and many new customer projects, the division is keeping production costs low.

In addition to providing Munich Airport’s IT infrastructure, the FMG IT Services division is also active in the field of airport consulting. Many renowned airports in Germany and abroad depend on the expertise of the IT specialists from Munich.

At its home base, the IT Services division is currently implementing an extensive project for the launch of a new FIDS system (Flight Information and Display System). The advantage of the new solution, referred to internally as the Universal Display System, lies in its versatility. It can be utilised as a conventional display system, for the publication of flight information or to carry advertising. The new system is based entirely on standard components and uses the existing LAN infrastructure. This eliminates the need for expensive special wiring as seen in the past.

Other systems will also benefit from this platform consolidation. The areas of telephony and video monitoring are undergoing a gradual migration to Voice over IP and Video over IP solutions.

As another example, the optimisation of useful life and increased system capacity utilisation as provided by cross-platform storage systems are indispensable benefits from a business standpoint and will remain a key issue in the coming years.

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