How to transform your airport’s baggage make-up process

Airports are often scrambling for more space for their baggage make-up operations. High concentrations of departing flights and the fact that make-up areas open only two hours before departure means airports have to find more physical space or their operators are forced to utilise one make-up area for several flights. But there are new technologies and practices that are transforming the handling process in baggage make-up.

New solutions to old problems in baggage make-up

The storage and retrieval of baggage in the airport baggage hall is an essential component of baggage handling but one which can cause airports problems.

The usual solutions of finding extra space and manpower are costly and inefficient, calling for ways to rationalise the process.

Fortunately, there are solutions to these problems that are positively impacting the efficiency of baggage make-up, including:

  • Applying the principle of batch building
  • Using rack-based baggage storage
  • Semi-automating the loading of bags

We take a look at each in turn.

Applying the concept of batch building

Batch building is a principle adopted in the warehousing and distribution industry that can be applied just as successfully to baggage make-up. It transforms the conventional ‘push’ approach to baggage flow into an efficient ‘pull’ process.

In essence, baggage is pre-sorted in batches according to departure time slots, specific flights or different categories of baggage in order to streamline and expedite the baggage loading process.

This is how it works: After a screened bag has reached the storage, an operator can start ‘pulling’ batches of bags destined for the same flight. Once the control system alerts the operator that it is ready for loading, the operator releases the batch of bags built from the storage and loads it within minutes.

In applying the batch building concept, one chute no longer must be open for the standard two-hour departure time, nor does an operator need to walk back and forth to move the occasional bag over to the dolly to make space for the next bags being pushed through. The operator simply handles all the bags for one departure at the one time.

Batch-building supports just-in-time make-up efficiency, saving significant time, freeing up space in the baggage hall and saving resources.

Rack-based baggage storage

Another way of optimising baggage make-up – which works well with the batch-building practice – is rack-based dynamic early baggage storage (EBS).

In the past, baggage was typically stored in the airport baggage hall in storage lanes or dynamic loops. Today, however, racking-based systems are proving to be more efficient than the conventional EBS.

These systems consist of high-bay racks in which bags are stored individually on shelves. When a bag forming part of a batch for a specific flight is ready for retrieval, it can be pulled from the rack, rather than being randomly pushed in loops that take up space and capacity. Transforming baggage flow from a push to a pull process increases the efficient use of resources as well as the physical size and design of the make-up area.

The great advantage of using high-bay racking is that it has the same storage capacity as the traditional storage lanes or loops but occupies substantially less space.

For example, a flexible racking system with the capacity to hold 800 bags will use just 730m2, while a conventional storage lane system holding the same 800 bags will inhabit 1200m2. Rack-based stores can save up to 50 percent in valuable footprint and provide room for larger storage to hold more bags.

When racking systems are combined with the practice of batch building, EBS systems can be transformed into multi-bag stores. So, more than being just early-bag storage, EBS systems can be fully multi-purposed into dynamic storage systems for empty totes, goods for the retail area and on-demand storage. It also provides passengers with check-in flexibility, offering greater personal choice and convenience.

Semi-automating the loading of bags

The automated loading of bags into ULDs or dollies also helps to optimise the baggage make-up process. Semi-automated loading devices facilitate speed loading baggage with high efficiency and improved ergonomics.

A semi-automated loading device enables a single operator to control an entire flow or batch of bags with a simple joystick while loading them into a dolly or container. These devices make shorter loading windows possible, allowing baggage operators to handle a higher number of items. They also reduce the risk of injury to operators caused by repetitive or heavy lifting.

As there is less manual handling needed when deploying semi-automated devices, the airport can increase its overall security and reduce its risk of damage to baggage items.


Creating greater efficiencies in baggage handling is not confined to the sortation part of the process. System optimisation can also be made downstream at the storage and make-up areas with new approaches and technologies. Automation, together with the introduction of practices such as batch-building and rack-based dynamic storage, can deliver more streamlined and productive make-up areas that operate on a very effective pull process.

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