A working airport is not the best place to create a construction site. So when it came to building new passenger corridors to meet the needs of security legislation, BAA did it all in the factory. Tony Matthews goes airside.
Delays and gate closures cost the airport business big money and cause inconvenience to travellers. With airports operating almost around the clock, any construction work becomes a complex process. If that construction work involves the movement of passengers, then it gets even more complicated.
Large numbers of construction workers milling around in secure areas can create a security risk. The storage of construction equipment, building materials and waste can also have a destabilising effect on airport logistics, particularly if it leads to aircraft stands being taken out of duty.
Nevertheless, these issues have to be addressed from time to time, particularly with new security legislation demanding that passengers are totally segregated on their way to and from the aircraft.
For BAA, this legislation has meant embarking on a two-year segregation programme at Gatwick (Piers 2 and 3) and Heathrow (Piers 5 and 6) for the building of new passenger corridors. One of BAA's primary objectives was to achieve a reduction in airside construction during peak travel hours (06:00 h to 22:00 h).
Rather than assemble on-site, BAA decided to pre-assemble the corridors off-site and deliver them to site for rapid erection. According to Nigel Fraser, Head of Products and Controls, BAA's aspiration was to have 65% of construction work done away from the main airport areas.
Hence the corridor modules were manufactured at a prefabrication facility in a timed, flow process. They were then transported to Gatwick or Heathrow for overnight installation. At the end of the project, over 1.3 km of corridors had been built and installed.
To achieve its goals, BAA created a virtual company called the Common Product Team (CPT). The team comprised MACE, Mansell and Crown House. Guided by BAA, the team designed, developed and manufactured the corridors from premises in Crawley.
Implementation of the BAA corridor programme went through three phases (with distinct evolutionary activities between each phase):
- Series A: Gatwick Pier 2
- Series B phase l: Gatwick Pier 3 and Heathrow Pier 5
- Series B phase 2: Heathrow Pier 6.
The manufacturing process was based on flowline manufacture, a process also known as one-piece flow typically used in the automotive industry. One-piece flow involves moving one work piece at a time between operations.
The decision to employ one-piece flow manufacturing was to achieve predictable workflow under controlled quality conditions, with minimal work in progress. The process reduced scrap and waste and lead to higher productivity, which in turn lead to a greater return on investment.
Compared to traditional batch production, flowline manufacture produces modules as required, rather than by producing in volume and stockpiling. In this way, items are pulled from the manufacturing plant by the demands of the site rather than being pushed into a stockpile by the factory.
The characteristics of build-to-demand manufacturing include on-the-spot resolution of problems, while accommodating on-demand variations of the modules without loss of time. Achieving this required meticulous planning, assiduous monitoring and great attention to detail in work schedules.