Taking a Systems Approach to Airport Planning, Design, and Operation

Part 3 of a 3-Part Series on Airports by Isaac Benzaquen and Jerry Schwinghammer

As mentioned in previous blogs, the Virtual Twin is the link between virtual and physical environments. Virtual twin is becoming increasingly to create a smart airport.  The smart airport can be described as a system of systems that are encountered throughout the passenger journey. Each system works to deliver services.  By connecting all these systems, it provides a holistic view of the end to end passenger journey by connecting the dots between:

  • Landside and air-side functions
  • Airport, airlines and passengers’ needs
  • All the passenger journey touch points

These systems together act as the airport’s intelligent nervous system. The foundation is built on a well-defined systems engineering methodology called Model-based Systems Engineering (MBSE). This discipline is found in numerous industries and proven to be effective.    

Integrating an airport’s siloed systems through a systems approach, enables executives to ensure that their vision permeates the entire enterprise in a harmonious and agile manner. As airports strive to be more businesslike in their operations it is key that decision making is fundamentally aligned to customer needs. The complexity of an airport creates significant challenges when not approached from a systems perspective. Taking a top-down customer centric systems engineering approach yields better, more deliberate results. Through systems thinking, innovation can be instilled cohesively throughout the organization.   

The complexity of an airport creates significant challenges when not approached from a systems perspective.

Specifically, a systems approach is inherently top-down starting from a clear and simplified, high-level view of an airport’s mission. Such as a “Deliver a highly customer-centric delightful traveling experience.” This vision is then driven down into detailed sub-systems that must conform to the larger vision of highly quality passenger experience. Decision-making must continually drive toward that vision at all levels.

Systems Thinking

In traditional design, we go too much into technical details, we jump into the solution before properly considering the problem, or stay at too high a management level, and we become blind on how the product will be used. We spend most of our time in integration, and test phases to ensure that the system behaves properly.

MBSE focuses on defining passenger needs and required functionalities early in the development cycle. Then it takes into consideration the required functionality in all the phases of the airport’s life, from design concept to detailed development, Operation, maintenance, and finally decommissioning.

Systems Engineering considers both the business and the technical needs of the airport with the goal of providing a quality product or service that meets the passenger needs.  Risks are identified and mitigated in early phases because of the systematic and holistic approach of systems engineering. Each change is simulated within the system as early as possible so that all the events or situations are addressed.  The net result is faster decision making, lower risk and a better service or product. 

This approach allows for rapid adaptation to new, potentially disruptive technologies. The airport’s master plan is a great place to start applying systems engineering to ensure designs and changes drive toward a common vision and improve passenger experience.

This article is part of a series of articles on how to explore, develop, and adopt virtual twin technology to move the airport industry forward.  Read Part 1 here: https://blogs.3ds.com/delmia/a-practical-look-at-bringing-innovative-digital-and-virtual-twin-technology-to-airports/ and Part 2 here: https://blogs.3ds.com/delmia/five-ways-a-virtual-twin-can-benefit-an-airport/

Isaac Benzaquen

Isaac Benzaquen is the Airport Industry Solution Director at Dassault Systèmes. He has over 33 years of experience and 29 years at Dassault Systèmes. He has contributed in multiple roles to the significant growth of Dassault Systèmes Isaac’s previous roles have seen him as Head of Aerospace Services and later to that, as head of Industry Solutions Center at Dassault Systèmes services.

Jerry Schwinghammer

Jerry Schwinghammer is DXC ‘s Associate Partner for Airport Consulting. He was formerly the CTO at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, and a Technology Manager at Orlando International Airport. Jerry has more than 25 years of leadership experience on strategic planning and organizational transformation for major transportation infrastructure enterprises as well as private business operations.