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Airport Management Systems



Introduction

For seasoned airport stakeholders, the world of airport management is far more than just a means of getting from point A to point B. It’s a complex, interconnected network where every decision and operation must align perfectly to ensure safe, efficient, and economically viable air travel. It’s about enhancing the traveller’s experience, optimising resources, meeting ever-evolving industry standards, and driving innovation. In this niche world, one vital component sits at the heart of things, the AODB or Airport Operational Database.


The AODB (also known as the Airport Management System – AMS) is often regarded as the single view of the truth (in terms of data), receiving information from a number of different sources including flight schedules, IATA messaging, Air Traffic Control information to name a few, which enables the airport to forecast, plan and manage the day-to-day operations at the airport. It is also central for providing data to a large number of other downstream airport systems and, over recent years, external consumers such as airlines, ground handlers and security services.


But is your AODB enabling the efficient operation of your airport and providing you with the innovation and efficiencies needed in this ever-changing landscape of aviation – sustainable practices and cost-effective solutions, and compliance with national and international regulations?


When and why to upgrade or replace

It is likely that your AODB and Fixed Resource Management System has been in place for a number of years, probably due to the complexity, cost and effort needed to upgrade or replace it. Another barrier to replacing these systems is creating the business case, normally accelerated by end of life and out of support infrastructure or the number of system failures you are having, which impacts your operation.


You might consider that not much has changed in the way airports operate: you still need to plan the schedule, build your stand plan, manage aircraft movements, and provide flight information to passengers and other airport stakeholders (amongst other things), but there are some good reasons to take a closer look at the benefits of implementing a new AODB, including more recent developments:


  • User Interface Simplification: Providing the user with the information they need to make the decisions and complete actions, based on business rules, rather than having to hunt for it in columns of data.

  • Cloud-Based Solutions: There is a gradual shift towards cloud-based AODB systems, which allows for greater scalability, flexibility, and provides the ability for improved data access and sharing among stakeholders. This option requires careful thought in terms of availability and business continuity.

  • Improved Integration with other systems such as sensors and beacons, to provide real-time information on assets, equipment, and passenger flow.

  • Enhanced Data Analytics: A focus on advanced data analytics and predictive modelling to enable improved operational efficiency, and position airports to better anticipate and respond to challenges.

  • Mobile Accessibility: Providing access for users and airport stakeholders to mobile apps or responsive web interfaces, providing the airport staff and other stakeholders access to time critical information to make decisions on the move.

  • Improved Security and Compliance: Cyber security is a constant challenge, so with an increased emphasis on security and data protection, implementing an up-to-date AODB should enhance your security measures to safeguard sensitive information and ensure compliance with regulations.

  • Interoperability and Standardisation: A push for greater interoperability and adherence to industry standards, such as AIDX, or Open APIs provides a more seamless data exchange between different systems and airports, potentially through the use of an ESB (Enterprise Service Bus)

  • AI and Machine Learning: the integration of AI and machine learning into AODB systems will likely become the next area of step change for airports. The AODB is only part of the this, but could improve decision-making processes, resource allocation, scheduling, and predictive maintenance.

  • Enhancing Passenger Experience: AODB systems provide data to support improvements in the passenger experience through better flight information displays (FID’s), providing data to airline apps, queue management, and passenger flow optimisation.

  • Sustainability Initiatives: With an increasing focus on sustainability, optimising business rules and embedding automation to improve efficiency can be achieved allowing more monitoring and the ability to manage energy consumption, carbon emissions, and resource usage.


What is involved?

When it comes to replacing your core airport management systems, there is a lot to think about, and this starts with the procurement process. We have developed a four-step process to make this as a seamless as possible and provides the framework to ensure that you end up with the system that will deliver for you:


Four-Step Procurement Process


  • Step 1 – Initiation / Business Appraisal: a series of workshops to understand the business needs and objectives, identify current business issues and challenges.  It is sometimes useful to conduct a pre-market engagement to gain an insight into the suppliers on the market and their current offering.

  • Step 2 – Requirements Development: we typically start with a standard set of common requirements which we have developed over the years, using them as a starting point to support the airport teams in developing their own requirements, building in any innovation objectives through the process.

  • Step 3 – Request for Proposal (RFP) Development: preparing all the RFP documentation, which would include functional and non-functional requirements along with RFP questionnaires, pricing forms and evaluation criteria.

  • Step 4 – RFP Issue, Response and Evaluation: issuing of the RFP, managing supplier questions and evaluating and scoring responses and supporting the airport teams to negotiate contracts with the preferred bidder.


Implementation

Having selected your provider(s), the next step is to kick off the implementation.  How you approach this will depend on how many systems and suppliers are involved; if there are a significant number, there will be a focus on effective collaboration and strong project management from the airport.  Having been involved in a number of AMS implementations over the years, we have refined our approach to de-risk the plan and provide a platform for timely delivery with cost certainty and no operational impacts. 


The process follows as reasonably standard implementation methodology, covering the following:


  1. Mobilise

  2. Design

  3. Build

  4. Test

  5. Training

  6. Implementation

  7. Hypercare

While this is a typical “waterfall” approach, we have refined the process to incorporate a more Agile methodology within the phases to drive efficiency but retaining strong controls to ensure the highest quality.


The key to success starts with the initial engagement with all the key stakeholders, including the system vender, airport stakeholders and the wider airport community, along with establishing a robust Project Management Framework, including project governance, reporting and a jointly agreed plan.


Key challenges

If you are planning on embarking on the journey to upgrade or replace your AODB or AMS, then there are a few key areas that you should consider to ensure your project is a success. (or you could always drop us a line, we would be delighted to help!)


  • Airport Management Systems are used by a large number of different stakeholders, so good communication and stakeholder engagement is critical to success.

  • As with most projects, you need your best people involved as they will be designing your new solution for years to come. Make sure you ring fence these team members on the project and work out how you will continue to manage the day-to-day airport operations.

  • Collaboration between suppliers: be clear on how you expect everyone to work together, a “we are all in this together” mentality goes a long way when things get tough.

  • Get your key teams engaged early and get them access to the new systems at the earliest opportunity, as this will pay dividends later when you get to the testing.

  • Instil an open mindset in your team, get away from adapting the new system to work the same way the old one does. Re-define your process to take advantage of automation.

  • Testing will take longer than you think!

  • Depending on the size of your airport, training can be quite a challenge to organise, so start thinking about this early, and communicate and engage with the wider airport stakeholders about what you will need from them.

  • Testing will take longer than you think!

  • Think about developing a “Change Management” plan.

  • Did I mention, Testing will take longer than you think!


Lion & Gazelle can help you plan, procure and implement your upgraded or replacement AODB. We have considerable experience in the Airport sector and understand the processes, technologies and systems that underpin the successful operation of an airport. In the UK, our airport clients include Aberdeen, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heathrow, Luton and Southampton.

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