Earlier this year Iberia announced the construction of its new Hub Control Centre at Madrid-Barajas airport as part of the overhaul of its technology platforms. This revamp is in turn part of the ongoing improvements being made by the company in order to be able to offer a superior service. The new Hub Control Centre (HCC), designed as the nerve centre of an integrated service provider, started operating after the inaugural ceremony on 8 May. INFORM’s Hub Control system is the heart of Iberia’s HCC. The solution provides an overall, process-oriented monitoring capability to identify problems at the earliest possible stage and identify and broadcast their impact to help minimise delays and deterioration of service quality.

Like other providers at major international hubs, Iberia used to manage its 4,500 staff operation at Madrid-Barajas around multiple dispatch positions, which were responsible for specific handling activities in specific areas of the airport; a decentralised situation that was imposed by the size of and distances between the terminals. This meant the need for a number of dedicated management centres that had, at best, a limited overview of the operation. Duty managers had to rely on phone and old-fashioned walkie-talkie communications to keep abreast of events and therefore were often unable to foresee, and thus to prevent, bottlenecks and conflicts. In looking at a solution for this situation, Iberia decided that a system of centralised monitoring encompassing all operational areas, both their own and sub-contracted ones, was key to the move from a mostly task-oriented operation to a fully process-oriented operation.

Centralised monitoring thus became the culmination of a project that Iberia had actually started in 2007 and which was aimed at the renewal and enhancement of its existing IT tools. This project, whose outcome is known internally as Gaudi, encompasses the entire planning and management of Iberia’s ground handling activity.

INFORM was retained to provide Gaudi’s software as well as the know-how and expertise to put it in place. INFORM is a team of raised-in-industry ICT professionals who research, develop and deliver software solutions to improve airport and ground handling logistics operations and provide consulting services. INFORM’s GroundStar system is an integrated resource management that underpins demand calculation, rostering, and deployment of staff, equipment and immobile resources as well as administrative processes.

The package for Iberia is made up of a combination of standard systems, which have been proven at other installations. It includes customised modules and features designed to facilitate a smooth transition from the previous tools to the new ones and it addresses Iberia-specific requirements. Gaudi spans the service contract handling phase, where service levels and prices are agreed upon, to the registration of services ready for invoicing, taking in strategic planning, staff rostering and time management, with tactical and operational deployment capabilities configured both to industry best practice standards and Iberia’s service quality and cost efficiency requirements. It is complemented by automated incoming and outgoing telegraphy to parser and send IATA messages and mobile communications for timely and accurate notification of work orders to the staff. It also automatically collects feedback information status of tasks, time stamps and other pertinent details.

It goes without saying that the optimised deployment of resources, monitoring and control of tasks, and the constant re-assessment and re-optimisation are essential elements of a competent operation. However, they are not sufficient if they focus solely on individual areas without taking full account of the entire turn-around process. INFORM’s Hub Control system was the solution.

In addition to Iberia’s HC duty manager and a group of hub control managers (up to six at peak times), who monitor all processes that are taking place anywhere within the terminals and on the ramp, the HCC accommodates dispatchers (up to 18 at peak hours) who manage the entire workforce and the GSE fleet.

Management decisions and operational actions are underpinned by the full views of all handling tasks and handling-related events and how they are interlinked and displayed graphically on multi- screen workstations and electronic panels along with GPS-fed bird’s-eye views of the airport and real-time operational KPIs. The collaborative decision-making approach implemented at the HCC includes a permanent link to Aena’s (the airport operator) airport management centre.

Having completed the first steps in its still short life, the HCC is expected to provide added value by helping to identify and crystallise operational synergies that were not obvious under the previous, decentralised system. In the medium term, Iberia will consider expanding the Gaudi system to other airports in its network, setting up regional hub control centres to oversee peripheral stations.