Changi Airport has a new tracking system to ensure travellers do not have to hunt for baggage trolleys.
It is not a big problem now but, with growing flight numbers and a a manpower crunch, automation is the way forward so that service standards do not slip, said Changi Airport Group's vice-president (passenger experience), Mr Albert Lim.
With the new system, ground supervisors armed with iPads are updated in real time on the number of trolleys available at each bay. Alerts are issued before flights arrive so they can be replenished if need be.
Before this, trolley handlers parked a fixed number of trolleys at every station throughout the day regardless of the anticipated demand. They also had to patrol the terminals regularly to manually check supply at each parking bay.
Since the implementation of the automated system - which was rolled out progressively across all three terminals this year - the airport has achieved a 25 per cent man-hour saving, Mr Lim said during a media preview yesterday.
Instead of 10 trolley handlers being assigned to the transit areas at each terminal at any one time, there are now six to eight, freeing up staff to do other duties.
With more efficient operations, Changi has also been able to increase the number of trolley parking bays from 50 to 70, making it more convenient for travellers to get to the trolleys.
Mr Lim said: "Managing trolley operations across 1 million sq m of floor area for 150,000 passengers a day is a challenging task."
With automation, Changi is able to ensure trolleys are readily available for passengers at the right place and at the right time, and to do so in the most efficient manner, he said.
The automated trolley system is among a slew of initiatives across Changi Airport to boost productivity amid a manpower shortage, especially among ground handlers.
From passenger and baggage check-in to meal preparation and cargo handling, operators such as Sats and Dnata are turning to technology and automation to get the work done. Instead of making staff walk to and from the airline meal assembly belt, for example, Sats now uses automated guided vehicles that do the walking for them.
This has cut the total preparation time by about 40 per cent.
At Changi's three terminals, which handled a record 54.1 million passengers last year, self-service check-in kiosks are also a common sight now, and more will be rolled out in the future.
Operations manager Alan Teo, 51, who uses the airport as a passenger often, said: "It may take some getting used to but if technology and automation can help us do things better, it's a good thing.
"The trolley system, for example, is a nice idea. I usually don't have problems getting a trolley at Changi but with more and more passengers, it may become a problem in the future, so (the airport) might as well tackle the issue now."
This article was first published on December 31, 2015. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.