3 reasons why you need to test your baggage system

20 June 2018

The extent of the requirement to test a baggage system depends a lot on the scale and complexity of the system. A definite pre-requirement is a fully defined test and performance strategy based on clearly defined processing and throughput requirements.

The type of testing required by baggage systems fall into 3 main criteria. The first is a new or modified system, the second is to understand how an operational system performance has been affected or deteriorated over time and the third is certain function and process need checking on a regular basis to ensure they still meet the required mandatory legal requirements (i.e. safety system, HBS (Hold Baggage Screening) systems etc.).

1: Testing of a new or modified system can be achieved by following the tried and tested route of Factory Testing and Site Testing.

Factory Testing should contain:

  • Mechanical equipment testing (mainly of prototypes or first of type equipment)
  • Individual control system functional testing utilising an emulation environment
  • Integration testing of multiple control system to check correct interaction and interfacing between disparate systems
  • Mechanical system integration mainly around checking machine interfaces and processes

Site Testing should contain:

  • Mechanical equipment installation quality benchmarking
  • Electrical installation quality benchmarking
  • Low level control I/O checks and testing
  • Safety system functional testing
  • Mechanical equipment running tests (including load testing)
  • Individual control system functional testing
  • Integration testing of multiple control system to check correct interaction and interfacing between disparate systems
  • System performance testing
  • System throughput testing
  • System specialist functional testing (i.e. HBS)

2: Testing of an operational system is generally required to understand how much the performance has degraded over time and help to target where essential maintenance is required. This can also be carried out to help to benchmark the systems performance before any major changes are implemented or carried out.

The key areas to test are:

  • Baggage input processes and functions
  • Baggage output processes and functions
  • Baggage merge and divert functions
  • Baggage sortation accuracy
  • Baggage in-system timings

3: Mandatory requirement testing only covers safety systems and HBS systems. It is good practice to at least annually test all safety devices on a baggage system especially in public and airline/handler operational areas. While HBS X-ray machines should have daily functional checks, these generally only cover the HBS X-ray machine and its associated operator screens. It makes sense to check the associated baggage system functions as well with a smaller scale system validation test on a regular basis.

The most common way of checking the performance and throughput of a system is to carry out a sequence of tests with test baggage. The number of test bags required will vary depending on the complexity of the system and the number of processes and functions under test. It can be as small as ten bags for a simple system such as Out of Gauge, or tens of thousands of bags for a full terminal baggage system such as Terminal 5 at Heathrow for example. Certain tests will need specialised test baggage (i.e. HBS), due to the specialist contents required to allow X-ray screening to function (For more test baggage guidance read our 6 Things to Consider when Ordering Test Baggage article). The biggest challenge with high volume tests is the pure logistics of loading, unloading and observing the baggage during the tests, this can require significate manpower which can be costly.

The cost and logistics of high volume testing with test bags can be a huge constraint and drain on project budgets. The results of these type of tests are rarely black or white and can lead to further tests to evaluate any issues found.

There is an alternative by way of monitoring the system during normal operation over a pre-set period. The pre-set period generally replaces reliability and confidence trials at the end of a project. The monitoring is carried out by a small team from the client and the supplier. they utilise CCTV cameras located at key points in the system and the Systems SCADA /MIS systems data. A small team of experienced observers are used to evaluate the information daily and evaluate any issues identified with the suppliers. Any issues found can then be logged, evaluated and prioritised by the team.  The issues can then be addressed in a controlled manner and solutions implemented.

For more information, and how we can provide independent baggage system testing services, contact us at info@chsservices.com or +44 (0)1245 496281.