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AIRPORT BAGGAGE HANDLING SYSTEMS:

A Discrete-Event Simulation Study



By Vitalis Okafor and Maxwell Bl
Contents
Figures & Tables ........................................................................................................................................ 2
Model Construction ...................................................................................................................................... 3
Data Input ..................................................................................................................................................... 6
Exponential distribution ........................................................................................................................ 6
Gamma distribution .............................................................................................................................. 6
Loglogistic distribution .......................................................................................................................... 6
Uniform distribution ............................................................................................................................. 7
Weibull distribution .............................................................................................................................. 7
Model Verification & Validation ................................................................................................................... 8
Results ........................................................................................................................................................... 9
Case 1 ........................................................................................................................................................ 9
Case 2 ...................................................................................................................................................... 10
Conclusions ................................................................................................................................................. 12
Works Cited ................................................................................................................................................. 13
Appendices .................................................................................................................................................. 14
Appendix 1: Relevant Formulas from ExpertFit Manual [4] ................................................................... 14
Appendix 2: Java code used to compute the formulae of the different distributions ........................... 16


Figures & Tables

Figure 1: Conceptual Model of Airport Baggage Handling System ............................................................... 4
Figure 2: Specification Model of Airport Baggage Handling System ............................................................ 5
Figure 3: Processes Average Total Baggage Seized..................................................................................... 11
Figure 4: Processes Scheduled Utilization .................................................................................................. 11

Table 1: Results for Case 1 ............................................................................................................................ 9
Table 2: Results for Case 2 .......................................................................................................................... 10


Model Construction
The baggage handling system simulated in this model was constructed on Arena Simulation
Software Student Edition mostly using information from the baggage handling systems at Denver
International Airport [1] and Rockford Internal Airport [2]. The model begins with passengers
arriving at the check-in counter where their baggage is tagged and checked in. In this model, we
simulate the baggage check-in process with three check-in counters represented by a Process
module that has a Check-In Counter resource with a capacity of three. After the bags are checked in,
they are scanned by an automated barcode scanner; which is actually an arrangement of multiple
barcode scanners, scanning from all angles of the baggage in order to find the randomly placed tag.
This automated barcode scanner can usually scan the barcode tags on about ninety percent (90%)
of the bags that go through it [1]. Any baggage that was not scanned by the automated barcode
scanner is routed to another station to be manually scanned by personnel. In the simulation model,
the manual and automated barcode scanners are represented by Process modules while the ninety
percent scan completion rate is simulated by a Decide module with a 2-way by Chance type and a
value of 90 for the Percent True.
Once the bags are scanned, they are routed by a network of conveyors to their appropriate
destination. During this process, the bags are taken through x-ray machines and security devices
such as the Explosive Detection System (EDS), where baggage is checked for explosive material. The
routing conveyors are represented by a single process with resources EDS and Conveyor Belt to
signify the two main parts of the conveyor network. In order to get to their appropriate
destinations, the baggage have to be loaded onto the Destination Coded Vehicle (DCV), which takes
them to their respective terminals and the off-ramp at the gate. The DCV consists of a plastic tub
sitting on a metal cart with wheels that rides on a track using linear induction motors that are
mounted to the track. DCVs possess a passive radio-frequency circuit which broadcasts a unique
number by which individual cars are identified [1]. In the simulation model, it was assumed that the
DCV was a continuation path for the conveyors and as such, could be modeled as a process module
using the same Conveyor Belt resource mentioned above.
At the off-ramp at the gate, there is usually a sorting station at which baggage handlers sort the
bags and load them onto the plane based on whether they belong to transferring (connecting)
passengers passengers who will be boarding another flight at the current flights destination or
terminating passengers passengers whose journey ends at the current flights destination. This is
simulated in the model by a Decide module with a 2-way by Chance type and a value of 80 for the
Percent True signifying that eighty percent of the travelers will be terminating passengers; an
assumption based on an average of various similar statistics on the subject.
When the plane lands, the baggage follows two separate paths depending on whether it is a
transferring bag or a terminating bag. If it is a transferring bag, it is taken through another series of
routing conveyors where they go through security scans (EDS); and onto another DCV track which
takes them to their appropriate destination. For simplicity, this was modeled by adding a Re-routing
Conveyor process, which is a replica of the Routing Conveyor process, and a loop that goes back to
the previously mentioned DCV process. If it is a terminating bag, it is taken through a conveyor to
the baggage carousel where the bags reunite with their owners at Baggage Claim. This was modeled
by adding a Conveyor to Carousel process which had a resource of Conveyor Belt and went to the
Dispose module Baggage Claim. An algorithm summarizing the simulation process (Conceptual
model) is shown below:
















The model was run for twenty-four (24) hours and three hundred and sixty-five (365) days to
simulate the year-round daily operations of an airport. It was also run for 10 replications to reduce
variability in the simulation values. The specification model can be found in the figure below.

Figure 1: Conceptual Model of Airport Baggage Handling System

Figure 2: Specification Model of Airport Baggage Handling System
Data Input
In order to obtain necessary distributions to represent process delay times in our model, various
assumptions had to be made. It was assumed that the data acquired from Khadgi [2] was relevant
to our model; and if our model was well constructed, would yield similar (not necessarily the same)
results. This data was collected from the Chicago-Rockford International Airport and was used to
develop appropriate data distributions. However, these distributions were developed using Input
Analyzer and ExpertFit the data analysis tool used in conjunction with FlexSim simulation software
and had different formatting and parameter assignments than Arena. Hence, it was necessary to
convert them to values that were suitable for Arena based on some calculations and formulas
obtained from the ExpertFit Manual [4]. The relevant distributions from ExpertFit include:
Passenger Inter-Arrival Times: Gamma (2.907407, 38.700486, 1.303549)
Baggage Check-in Times: Expo (44, 86, 1)
Baggage automated scan time: Loglogistic (34.698113, 8.120486, 2.348135)
Baggage load in time (assumed to be Plane Loading Time): Weibull (3.933333, 3.199017,
0.744261)
Baggage load out time (assumed to be Sorting Time): Gamma (0.000000, 0.906343,
13.653779)
Manual scan time: Uniform (235, 313)
For each distribution type, the following formulas from [4] were then used to generate Arena-
acceptable parameters:
Exponential distribution
ExpertFit: expo (,)
Parameters: Location (shift) parameter (-, ), scale parameter > 0
Mean = +
Arena: Expo (Mean) = Expo ( + )
Gamma distribution
ExpertFit: gamma (, , )
Parameters: Location (shift) parameter (-, ), scale parameter > 0, shape parameter, > 0
Arena: Gamma (BETA, ALPHA) = Gamma (, )
Loglogistic distribution
ExpertFit: LL (, , )
Parameters: Location (shift) parameter (-, ), scale parameter > 0, shape parameter, > 0
Mean = +cosecant () for > 1, where = (/)
Variance =
2
{2cosecant (2) [cosecant ()]
2
} for > 2, where = (/)
Standard deviation = Variance
Arena: *LOGN (LogMean, LogStd)
*Assuming Lognormal (LOGN) Loglogistic (LL)
Uniform distribution
ExpertFit: U(a,b)
Parameters: a and b are real numbers with a <b; a is a location parameter, b a is a scale parameter
Range = (a,b) = (min, max)
Arena: UNIF (Min, Max) = UNIF (a, b)
Weibull distribution
ExpertFit: Weibull (, , )
Parameters: Location (shift) parameter (-, ), scale parameter > 0, shape parameter, > 0
Arena: WEIB (Beta, Alpha) = WEIB (, )
In order to determine the input parameter values for the conveyor and DCV processes, we assumed
security screening and bag wait times in the conveyor from Hafizogullari et al [3]. In this case study,
wait and process time statistics for baggage screening were developed by TransSolutions LLC for the
baggage handling system at Lambert St. Louis International Airport. It was determined that the Bag
Wait + Process Time for Screening includes the time the bag waits while the ID is checked; the
wait time on the EDS belt; the wait time in front of the primary and secondary Explosive Trace
Detection (ETD) agent; the processing time on the EDS and ETD machines, and the secondary ETD
processing time. This parameter was found to have a maximum value of 22.7 minutes; an 85
th

percentile value of 3.3 minutes, and a 95
th
percentile value of 7.2 minutes.

Model Verification & Validation
In order to verify our model, we tried to determine that the model operates as intended by viewing
the animation at slow speeds. It was observed that as the time increased in the simulation, the
passenger inter-arrival rate caused some queues at the Baggage check-in and Automated barcode
scanner processes as expected. Also, the Decide modules were operating correctly based on the
intended logic and percentages wanted. Lastly, the feedback loop from the Re-routing conveyor also
followed the intended logic, sending transferring bags back to the DCV to go through the system
again.
In order to validate the model, the simulation was run according to some cases and scenarios from
the Rockford Airport Case Study [2]. Due to differences in model construction methods and
simulation software, it was not expected that the results will be the same as in Khadgi [2]; however,
it was anticipated that both models will possess similar responses and the results will follow
comparable trends if the model was correct.
For the first case, the simulation was run in three different scenarios to observe the models
response to changes in baggage screening methods. This was also done to show the effect of
automation to the baggage handling system by comparing the old system of manual baggage
scanning/screening; with the current system of 90% automated scan completion and 10% manual
scanning; and a 100% automated scanning system. As in Khadgi [2], it was noted that the model
showed reduced wait time and increased baggage throughput with the use of more automatic
baggage screening. However, it was also noted that there was an error when 100% of the baggages
had to go through the manual scanner as the number of entities in queue were too large to run in
the Arena Student Edition software. This signifies that the old system of manual scanning was
inefficient and would experience bottlenecks with the current resources; and probably required
more manpower to meet up with passenger inter-arrival demands.
The second case was set up to observe the sensitivity of the model to passenger arrival with varying
numbers of available check-in counters (or agents). The first scenario was run as the current system
with 3 available check-in counters; while the second and third scenarios were run with 4 and 5
available check-in counters, respectively. As in Khadgi [2], the model also followed the trend of
reduced wait times with additional check-in counters.


Results
Case 1
As was noted in the Verification and Validation section above, the model experienced greater
baggage throughput and improved wait times with the introduction of more automation. It is
also noted that there was an improvement in processing as there were less bags in queue with
the increase of automation. The table below lists the results for the scenarios in Case 1:
Current System Automatic scanner
only
Manual scanner only
Number out 628625 bags 628496 bags N/A
Number of bags auto
scanned
565738 bags 628496 bags N/A
Number of bags
manual scanned
62887 bags 0 N/A
Average Wait Time 485.59 seconds 470.47 seconds N/A
Average Total Time 748.05 seconds 705.46 seconds N/A
Max # in baggage
queue
103 bags
(Average 15 bags)
82 bags
(Average 14 bags)
N/A
Check-in counter
utilization
0.865 0.8644 N/A
Table 1: Results for Case 1
The manual scanner only scenario was unable to be simulated due to entity constraints in the
student edition of Arena. However, it can still be deduced that the wait times would have been
significantly higher and the throughput would have been less than the automated scenarios.
This is because a bottleneck would be experienced at the manual barcode scanner which will
create a backlog in the system and would temporarily bring the system to a halt until the
bottleneck is cleared. Such bottlenecks are the cause for flight and baggage delays and the
undesirable baggage mishandlings that were a common occurrence in the past.

Case 2
In the second case, the model was analyzed to observe how additional check-in counters would
improve the performance outputs. The system showed significant improvements in baggage
throughput and reduced total and wait times with increased available check-in counters. Also,
the maximum and average numbers of baggage in queue reduced with the addition of more
check-in counters as a result of the improved processing capacity. Lastly, the check-in counter
utilization reduced to acceptable levels with more check-in counters available. The results for
the scenarios of case 2 are shown below:
Current System (3
check-in counters)
4 check-in counters 5 check-in counters
Number out 628625 bags 628764 bags 628599 bags
Number of bags auto
scanned
565738 bags 565956 bags 565716 bags
Number of bags
manual scanned
62887 bags 62809 bags 62885 bags
Average Wait Time 485.59 seconds 285.87 seconds 259.11 seconds
Average Total Time 748.05 seconds 548.18 seconds 521.5 seconds
Max # in baggage
queue
103 bags
(Average 15 bags)
68 bags
(Average 11 bags)
68 bags
(Average 10 bags)
Check-in counter
utilization
0.865 0.6484 0.5187
Table 2: Results for Case 2
Based on the results from the table above, it can be seen that the 4 check-in counter scenario is
the most favorable. In this scenario, the baggage throughput is maximized and the maximum
number in baggage queue is at its minimum (68 bags). Although the wait and total times are
lesser in the 5 check-in counter scenario; they are only minimally so compared to the huge
reduction between the current system and the 4 check-in counter scenario (259.11 seconds <
285.87 seconds <<< 485.59seconds). Also, the check-in counter utilization, at approximately
65%, is in a moderate position where the counters are neither being under- or over-utilized.





Figure 3: Processes Average Total Baggage Seized
Using the 4 check-in counter scenario as our optimal solution and case study, we can compare
the operation of the various processes through their scheduled utilization and total baggage
seized.









Based on the average total baggage seized, the Baggage Handler resource and the Conveyor
Belt resource get the most baggage throughput; while the manual scanner gets the least. Based
on the scheduled utilization, the Automatic scanner gets the most utilization while the EDS and
Vehicle (DCV) get the least. This comparison will help determine areas for improvement and
those that will require additional resources to meet the passenger arrival loads.

Figure 4: Processes Scheduled Utilization
Conclusions
Based on the discrete-event simulation of the baggage handling system and the ensuing
analysis of results, it was proved that an increase in automation in baggage screening/scanning
will lead to better performance outputs while utilizing fewer resources; as seen in the first case.
It was also observed that the manual scanner only system was incapable of meeting the
passenger arrival loads and will create a bottleneck in the system; which is an undesirable
outcome. It would involve a significant amount of additional resources or manpower to meet
the current loading requirements with the old system. However, it was ascertained that the
current system of 90% automatic scanning and 10% manual scanning is indeed optimal for the
current passenger arrival loads.
It was also proved that an increase in the number of available check-in counters will lead to
better performance outputs: reduced baggage in queue and lower wait times; as was seen in
case 2. There was a significant improvement in wait times and total times with the addition of
more check-in counters; while there was a corresponding reduction in number of bags in
queue. Lastly, it was determined that the 4 check-in counter system was the most favorable as
it had the highest baggage throughput and maintained comparable performance outputs to the
5 check-in counter system.


Works Cited
[1]Nice, Karim. "How Baggage Handling Works" 13 June 2001. HowStuffWorks.com.
<http://science.howstuffworks.com/transport/flight/modern/baggage-handling.htm> 25 October
2013.
[2] Khadgi, P., "Simulation Analysis of Passenger Check in and Baggage Screening Area at Chicago-
Rockford International Airport," NIU Engineering Review, .
[3] Hafizogullari, S., Bender, G., and Tunasar, C., 2003, "Simulation's Role in Baggage Screening at
the Airports: A Case Study," Proceedings of the 2003 Winter Simulation Conference, pp. 1833.
[4] Law, A., 2006, "ExpertFit Version 7 User's Guide," Averill M. Law & Associates, Inc., Tucson, AZ,
pp. 131.



Appendices
Appendix 1: Relevant Formulas from ExpertFit Manual [4]
















Appendix 2: Java code used to compute the formulae of the different distributions