The Baggage Handling System

DIA's $200 million baggage handling system was designed to be state-of-the-art. Conventional baggage handling systems are manual. Each airline operates its own system. DIA opted to buy a single system and lease it back to the airlines. In effect, it would be a one-baggage-system-fits-all configuration.

The system would contain 100 computers, 56 laser scanners, conveyor belts, and thousands of motors. As designed, the system would contain 400 fiberglass carts, each carrying a single suitcase through 22 miles of steel tracks. Operating at 20 miles per hour, the system could deliver 60,000 bags per hour from dozens of gates. United was worried that passengers would have to wait for luggage since several of their gates were more than a mile from the main terminal. The system design was for the luggage to go from the plane to the carousel in 8-10 minutes. The luggage would reach the carousel before the passengers.

The baggage handling system would be centered on track-mounted cars propelled by linear induction motors. The cars slow down, but don't stop, as a conveyor ejects bags onto their platform. During the induction process, a scanner reads the bar-coded label and transmits the data through a programmable logic controller to a radio frequency identification tag on a passing car. At this point, the car knows the destination of the bag it is carrying, as does the computer software that routes the car to its destination. To illustrate the complexity of the situation, consider 4000 taxicabs in a major city, all without drivers, being controlled by a computer through the streets of a city.

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Project Management Made Easy

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