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Final Case Study Denver International Airport Baggage System Failure Michael J. Starr Jr.

UNIV-4706 Managing Software Development Professor Sandy Schaeffer 5/2/13

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Denver International Airport was going to be cutting edge; the greatest thing since sliced bread. At least that was the plan. However not all plans become reality. The idea was planted and research started in the early 1980s. And in 1989 the idea was finalized, as federal officials authorized the construction of this $195 million project. The projected date of opening was October 29, 1993. Unforeseen delays due to design changes and poor planning caused the opening day to be moved back multiple times, finally landing on May 15, 1994. That date was later cancelled by the Mayor of Denver and the airport finally opened, 18 months later than projected, on February 28, 1995, replacing the old Stapleton International Airport in Denver. So what happened? The plan was to build a brand new airport with a completely automated baggage system. The airport was to be state of the art and completely efficient. BAE Automated Systems out of Carrollton, Texas designed the mega-system. The project, as it sounds was intended to build a system that would, through a course of automated belt-ways, transport travelers luggage from terminal to terminal without any manual labor. Total automation was the goal. Stakeholders in this project include the city of Denver, all of the airlines who fly into and out of Denver, the airport and airline employees, the construction employees, and the investors. The Denver Airport Project Management Team was in charge of the project and seeing that it ran smoothly. They laid the plans, approached BAE Automated Systems and oversaw every aspect of the work done.

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Looking at the scope: time, cost and quality; they expected the highest quality with a time of roughly four years and cost of $195 million. The actual outcome was unreliable quality, over 5 years of time, and a cost of $250 million. Nothing went as planned. As mentioned in the introduction there were crucial milestones that the project failed to hit and the opening date continued to get pushed further back. After opening the airport did not do well. There was originally supposed to be 3 separate systems for each concourse, but in the end they had varying levels of automation and finally only one concourse ran on the system, and not well. United Airlines ended up buying the system with the idea of fixing it and keeping the airport functional. United however made the decision in 2005 to cut all ties with the automated system. Ten years after its opening the little system that couldnt finally shredded its last piece of baggage. The airport went back to 100% manual baggage transportation. The project was attempted to simplify things, cut-down on wait time of travelers, and ease the transportation process. The intricate winding of the belts from each concourse to the mainframe of tracks in the basement of the airport, and the buggies, insufficient to hold the luggage on the belts, combined with poor and unorganized design and planning led to the projects failure. In my opinion this was a very daring risk, and risk can be good. But DIA was trying to jump about 40 years into the future; and sometimes it is best to take things one step at a time. I believe that the project should have had better planning, looking at the facts, what was possible and best and worst case scenarios. Also someone should have been there to pull the plug before the system cost $1 million a day to maintain. Once it became clear that the system

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was going to be more of a hassle than help, the idea should have been scrapped and the airport would have been allowed to open on time. From the planning perspective, automation is a fine idea; do it in moderation. The airport still could have been cutting edge and actually meet its efficiency goals if they had not gotten so caught up in being the biggest and the best. A smallerscale course of belts to transport luggage could have helped with efficiency and achieve a notion of automation that they were looking for. Had the project managers been realistic and practical instead of idealistic and selfish, the Denver International Airport Automated Baggage System would not have headed for perdition.

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Calleam Consulting Ltd. (2008). Case Study Denver International Airport Baggage Handling System An illustration of ineffectual decision making. Retrieved May 1, 2013, from Johnson, K. (2005, August 27). Denver airport to mangle last bag. Retrieved April 27, 2013, from The New York TImes: Knill, B. (2004, January 1). New Inspiration From The Old Denver Airport Disaster. Retrieved May 1, 2013, from MH&L (Material Handling & Logistics): Neufville, D. R. (n.d.). THE BAGGAGE SYSTEM AT DENVER: PROSPECTS AND LESSONS. Retrieved April 27, 2013, from The Failure of Denver International Airports Automated Baggage System. (2010, June 1). Retrieved April 27, 2013, from Strategic PPM: