Integrated Drive Systems – a Cutting Edge Solution for the Airport Industry

by John Inskip, Siemens Process Industries & Drives

UK air travel is continuing to expand.  Within the UK there are a number of both potential and planned expansions to airport infrastructure, but for the UK to compete on a global scale within this Industry both expansion and modernisation are needed.

Recent announcements regarding investment into Manchester airport totalling in the region of £800 million, and news of potential expansion plans in the South have indicated that more International travel is to be expected for both the North and South of the UK, and is seen as critical to the UK’s requirement to compete on a global scale and help rebalance the economy.

Increasing pressure is also being placed on the air travel Industry to provide high productivity and reliability, whilst ensuring that energy efficiency is paramount.  Increasing international travel will mean higher passenger numbers and require quicker aircraft turnaround times. These pressures require cutting-edge solutions that provide higher productivity, reliability and energy efficiency.

Time critical

If we use the example of baggage handling, this is an area of any airport that is critical in terms of time and reliability.  It is also a high energy user and is now very much the focus of improvement strategies to ensure the maximum potential from this equipment is achieved.

Using technology solutions such as Siemens’ new philosophy on drive technology, integrated drive systems (IDS), can provide real solutions to the needs of a modern, intelligent baggage handling system. 

At Heathrow’s Terminal 2 building (Queen’s Terminal), Siemens integrated technology is capable of processing up to 4,800 bags every hour.  Passengers see very little of the baggage sorting equipment, hoists, collectors and 5 km of conveyors, apart from at check-in and at the arrival carousels.  The fully integrated system has centralised controls, manual handling aids and highly resilient operational capabilities.  It was also designed into the terminal to take up as little space as possible.

All 23 world airlines that are part of the Star Alliance are able to tailor the system to their own individual needs, via the common use, multi-check-in system, giving maximum flexibility for passenger baggage drop at any assigned desk.  

How does IDS work?

IDS is not a product.  It is a solution and a philosophy.  Siemens IDS is based on three key principles of integration:

  1. 1.    Horizontal Integration.  Horizontal integration is concerned with the drive train itself by looking at and specifying components that are perfectly matched to the application.  For example, variable speed drives, motors, gearboxes and couplings.  Correct specification leads to a drive train that is perfectly matched to the loading requirements and it also ensures efficiency and reliability throughout the lifecycle.  By sourcing and specifying from a single source a customer or user can align their engineering and business needs directly to the supplier, working in partnership to ensure applications such as baggage handling equipment achieve their maximum potential.

Fig.1: horizontal integration of drive train components

  1. 2.    Vertical Integration.  Most modern machinery – regardless of whether it is installed into an airport, a postal system or a car plant – will have some form of communication to either a higher level system or controller.  This is used for control but also for data acquisition.  The ability to predict a problem is now a reality with IDS; drive systems on machines can supply up-to-date information regarding their condition and any variables, ‘breakdown’ situations can be avoided and routine maintenance can be planned, thus enabling a vast reduction in unplanned delays within a busy airport environment.  The vertical Integration path can be used to monitor performance and energy usage, and whether the baggage handling equipment is being utilised to its full potential; not just local monitoring but remote monitoring, too.  This philosophy is an all-encompassing approach adopted by Siemens and known as Totally Integrated Automation (TIA).  TIA allows the seamless integration of technology and the ability to connect, diagnose and monitor all aspects of equipment.

Fig.2: vertical integration incorporating control systems and totally integrated automation

  1. 3.    Lifecycle integration.  All machinery at some point will need to be upgraded or components replaced.  The lifecycle dimension complements the other two dimensions of IDS, ensuring that a drive system is always working at its maximum potential, but also providing support and advice throughout the entire lifecycle of the machine.  Lifecycle support is unique in that the support – just like the airport industry – is provided on a global scale, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Fig.3: lifecycle integration, ensuring drive systems are always working to full potential

In summary the airport Industry is a time critical arena that requires the highest possible uptime.  IDS is an effective method by which the customer’s plant and electrically driven equipment can reach its maximum potential, in terms of productivity, energy efficiency and reliability, even in areas of limited space, such as at Heathrow.  It is a method of addressing the holistic needs of each individual customer, and provides a real term value whereby technology and solutions become a clear benefit and payback mechanism.

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Siemens is a global technology powerhouse that stands for engineering excellence, innovation, quality, reliability and internationality. The company is active in more than 200 countries, focusing on the areas of electrification, automation and digitalisation. One of the world’s largest producers of energy-efficient, resource-saving technologies, Siemens is No. 1 in offshore wind turbine construction, a leading supplier of combined cycle turbines for power generation, a leading provider of power transmission solutions and a pioneer in infrastructure solutions and automation and software solutions for industry. The company is also a leading supplier of medical imaging equipment – such as computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging systems – and a leader in laboratory diagnostics as well as clinical IT. In fiscal 2013, which ended on September 30, 2013, revenue from continuing operations totalled €75.9 billion and income from continuing operations €4.2 billion. Siemens has around 362,000 employees worldwide on the basis of continuing operations. Further information is available on the Internet at