The world is becoming increasingly digitized, moving away from physical stockpiles of information in favor of compact, environmentally friendly, and easily accessible data. Binders and cabinets with documents in silos, spread across an airport can now be accessed easily in one place from any device – off or on the airport.
The time is ripe for airports to consider the benefits of transitioning to an automated system. Inaction can cost an airport more than the price of an automated system, even if the upfront cost seems higher. This concept is important for any business or government entity but especially applies to the complex operations at airports. If airport operations are unable to access critical data in real time, on top of the obvious losses are hidden losses. Even when operations appear to be working as intended, there are always explicit and implicit costs that should be considered.
Airports track explicit costs – which are easily quantified – like the upfront cost of a FIDS system. The hidden or implicit costs are usually more difficult to track but are still an expense nonetheless. Implicit costs are the time that could have been spent elsewhere, potential hours lost, possibilities missed, and dangerous situations left unchecked.
Digitization and automation of timely manual processes are the keys to eliminating an immediate source of implicit losses through real-time interactions. Filing paperwork takes a lot of time and searching through the documents can be even more time consuming. Not having access to these documents when decisions need to be made can further complicate the process by duplication of efforts, such as multiple work orders filed for the same discrepancy. Bringing these to an online system makes all aspects of operations easier, organized, and cost effective – and environmentally friendly as well.
Digitizing information makes it significantly easier to access and organize critical information as well. Airfield inspections can be done from a smartphone out on the tarmac; maintenance can be aware of an airside work order as soon as operations inspector notes the discrepancy; and management efforts can be recorded from the site and read in the office simultaneously. Efficiency is reached when multiple people can access the same records on the same portal, from various devices and locations in the airport.
While digitization helps reduce time and resources by streamlining records, automation helps reduce duplication of efforts. At many airports, the lack of real-time access to relevant data causes airport staff to re-issue a work order or attend to a matter that was already addressed in a prior shift. Automation also aids in communication within and between airport departments. Automated emails have replaced calls to other departments to notify them of an issue, such as a work order. This is not only a time-saving tool but also a valuable communication medium. It keeps all relevant parties constantly on top of critical issues at the airport.
Processes currently done manually will become much more efficient and cost-effective when automated, and allow staff to focus on critical issues affecting the airport. Different airports will have different needs and budgets – but for any airport considering a system to automate their processes, the cost of inaction may very well far exceed the upfront cost of procuring a system.