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How condition monitoring increases reliability at airports

There’s nothing quite as chaotic as a service disruption at an airport. Stressed-out parents trying to keep bored children entertained, business people frantically trying to reorganize meetings, and newlyweds desperately trying to keep their honeymoon on track. As well as the mental (and sometimes emotional) consequences of service disruptions at an airport, the financial costs are also enormous—both in terms of short-term disruption, as well as long-term reputational damage.

Frequent disruption can also greatly affect the operational capacity of the airport. This is especially relevant for airports that wish to increase passenger volume, but cannot expand the physical capacity of the airport.

A great number of the critical processes that operate in airports are powered by electric motors—think baggage conveyor belts, escalators/travelators and lifts. Many of these processes are so critical that if a motor unexpectedly breaks, then large parts of the airport cannot function. This is where condition monitoring plays an important role.

Condition monitoring is used to detect developing faults in electric motors and rotating assets, so that they can be fixed before the fault causes a failure.

Below are a number of high-criticality processes found in most airports, together with a short explanation of how condition monitoring makes that process more reliable.

Luggage conveyor belt

Luggage conveyor belts transport luggage from the check-in desk to the airplane, and from the airplane to the baggage belt. The motors that power these conveyors are electric, and are highly critical to the operation of the airport. A luggage belt breakdown can cause huge disruption, including:

  • Chaos at check-in desks because baggage can’t be transported to the plane.
  • Passengers traveling without their baggage, which can result in large compensation claims against the airline.
  • Baggage that’s simply lost when a breakdown leaves baggage stranded in an unknown part of the airport.
  • Congestion in the baggage hall because reclaim belts aren’t functioning.
  • Departure delays due to checked baggage security screening taking longer.

And luggage belt breakdowns are a frequent occurrence. Google “(airport name) baggage belt breakdown” and more often than not, there will be news articles detailing the ensuing chaos.

Condition monitoring can be used to eliminate unplanned baggage belt breakdowns. For example, our SAM4 can detect a developing fault in a conveyor motor or conveyor belt well in advance, so the maintenance team can fix the fault while the conveyor belt is not in use.

The issue with monitoring every conveyor in an airport is that they’re everywhere. This can make attaching condition monitoring sensors directly to each conveyor motor very inconvenient and complex. SAM4 by Semiotic Labs monitors the condition of a motor from within the motor control cabinet, and so doesn’t require sensors to be attached to the conveyor belt itself. This makes monitoring the condition of your conveyors simple and scalable.

Pumping stations

Heavy rain can wreak havoc on airport operations, from flooded basements to flooded runways. That’s why rainwater pumping stations at airports are so crucial.

Rainwater pumps are run by electric motors. If those motors break down during a period of high rainfall, the airport is in big trouble.

SAM4 condition monitoring can be used to detect developing pump faults up to 5 months in advance, so that they can be fixed in a period of low rainfall, when they are less likely to be needed.

Escalators and travelators

Take a large airport in the height of summer, and add a few late gate changes, some passengers rushing to make a connection, and lots and lots of luggage.

This is precisely why an effective escalator and travelator (or moving walkway) system is a crucial part of any airport. If passengers can’t get to where they need to be, then flights will be missed and chaos will reign.

If one motor in a travelator or an escalator breaks, the whole machine needs to be stopped to fix that one motor. This can be hugely inconvenient, especially in a large and busy airport.

SAM4 can be used to monitor the condition of the motors that drive your escalators and travelators, and will detect developing faults well in advance of an escalator failure. This means that if a fault is detected, the motor can be fixed when the airport isn’t as busy (for example, during the night).

To find out more about how SAM4 condition monitoring can make critical airport processes more reliable, click here to request a demo.


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