Chengdu’s new airport launches automated catering facility

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Lödige Industries has completed the design, delivery and commissioning of an automated catering facility that will optimise catering processes for Air China’s Southwest branch in Chengdu. Lödige delivered a solution for automated warehouse storage and AGV-led transportation, as well as cart and bin storage for the recently inaugurated 40,000 meals per day facility.

Goods for the new catering facility are received in a separate warehouse building which is equipped with a fully automated storage and retrieval system with three stacker cranes. The fully automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) loads goods through vertical stacking on 13 levels. Items are stored and retrieved without manual effort by personnel, improving accuracy and productivity, while minimising safety risks, accidents, and errors. When required, items are retrieved automatically and transported through a 130 m long tunnel that connects buildings using automated guided vehicles (AGV), directed by the warehouse management system (WMS), thus providing the facility with a high degree of both accuracy and flexibility.

Once equipment or meals are ready, trays are loaded into empty trolleys or carts. Dry goods as well as non-food items such as cutlery are stored in bins. Both of these are then stored until needed in Lödige ‘SPACE TOWERS’, four high-capacity cart and bin storage towers in part with integrated chilling and automatic transport and loading and unloading facilities. This state-of-the-art solution is the first of its kind in mainland China. In comparison to manually operated systems, the new automated solution will save space, improve operational efficiency and reduce operating costs. Operators from Southwest Air Catering will utilise the system to buffer, store and convey carts and bins for its inflight catering services. The new system creates 306 full cart and 540 bin storage spaces on just 52.7 square meters of floor space and enables full control and automation of the warehouse.

Installation of the Lödige Industries equipment began in August 2020 and is being completed according to schedule in November 2021. The facility was planned in close coordination with Air China. Joint development workshops were held in advance to identify the exact requirements for the catering terminal of the new Chinese aviation hub. For the planning, Lödige Industries was able to draw on extensive experience with comparable projects, in Germany, Switzerland and a leading-edge system delivered for Cathay Pacific Catering Services in Hong Kong. Having commenced operations in June 2021, the Chengdu Tianfu International Airport phase one has the capacity to handle up to 60 million passengers per year with three runways and two terminals, covering a total area of 710,000 square meters.

The German company is also currently equipping Tianfu Airport with a fully automated cargo terminal. A ULD storage and handling system will ensure a smooth and efficient flow of international, domestic, and express cargo. Two elevating transfer vehicles serving the system are the first to be delivered by Lödige Industries to mainland China.

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