FODSA visit to DHL Logistics hub at East Midlands Airport.
Article by Andy Thompson
Photos by Graham Vlacho
On Friday 27th October 9 Fodsa members headed for East Midlands Airport to visit DHL Logistics. This was to be a follow up visit to one we made in November 2015, when we were first shown around the air cargo facility. At that time, construction was in progress to increase the size of the building as it had exceeded its design capacity. This extended hub was brought into full operation in September of this year, and we were eager to see the improvement that this would bring about.Our host for the evening was to be DHL’s Adam Keeling, assisted by 2 Lady DHL employees.
We arrived slightly late, and slightly flustered at just after 6pm, due to heavy traffic on the journey down the M1. Security formalities were soon sorted out and passes issued before we commenced the tour. Starting at the main entrance we set off up the stairs to the rest area where Adam filled us in on the history and worldwide structure of DHL. We then proceeded through the famous ‘tunnel’, where images of the DHL operation form a long corridor that funnels you through the main part of the original building. We then moved through the impressive new canteen & rest area into the new extended office area of the building. A short stop to don our protective overshoes and hi-vis vests, and we were on our way through to the warehouse side of the new building.
On passing through to the warehouse it was immediately obvious how much had changed. The original older part of the building was visible at the far end of the enlarged hub, but now formed only around a third of the total space available, while the new handling equipment and general layout seemed to give a lot more manoeuvring room than before. We were taken up to mezzanine level, where we could fully appreciate the flow of goods as it enters and leaves the facility either from airside or landside. The new sorting equipment appears to be a huge improvement, being much quieter and quicker than the older equipment in use in the older part of the building. From our vantage point, Adam pointed out the separate areas for bonded freight, dangerous goods handling, and an area for identification of packages with unreadable or lost labels. Occasionally, packages may need re-packing either due to being poorly wrapped in the first place, or coming apart during transit, and there is a separate area for this too.
Continuing with the tour, we then moved on to the airside dock, where containerised packages are brought direct from the aircraft before being deposited on the raised dock platform. The flooring here is built of wheels and castors, set into the surface, very similar to that found on the cargo deck floor in aircraft holds. This makes for easier moving of the large and heavy containers. Moving on, we walked in to the old part of the facility, taking in the scale of the machinery used to move the parcels, and separate them to drop down into the correct area for onward distribution. All of this is done automatically, with scanners reading the package label before deciding where it needed to go. We now had what seemed like a very long walk back through the full length of the building before going back upstairs to return our PPE. After taking a few photos, and saying our goodbyes to Adam and his 2 lady assistants, we returned to our cars for the journey home.
All in all, it is hard not to be impressed by the scale of this Logistics operation, which handles an average of 26 inbound and outbound flights every evening, as well as some daytime flights and occasional special one-off movements too. It must be remembered that many of the flights are carried out by widebody aircraft such as Boeing 767 and Airbus A-300, which can transport upwards of 50 tonnes of cargo, and all this moves through the building, and onward to fleets of trucks and large vans that then distribute throughout the UK. DHL’s investment in this facility should give them more than enough capacity for expected growth over the next decade, and provide good employment for many for years to come.
If any there are any FODSA members who missed this trip, but would still like to see the facility, Adam has kindly allowed us to provisionally schedule a return visit. This will probably take place in the new year, and will be for up to 10 members. The actual date will be set when sufficient numbers are in place, and will take the form of an early evening visit, with the tour starting at 6.00pm. Anyone interested can contact me on 07782 135900.
FODSA Pay Canberra WK163 A Visit In Hangar 3.
A few of the FODSA members who enjoyed a visit to see Canberra WK163 at her new home in Hangar 3 DSA.
FODSA Visit The Airbus North Factory At Broughton, North Wales.
It was another early start for FODSA on 30th June 2016, as members gathered at 05:45hrs to board the coach and head off to the Airbus Wing Factory at Broughton, North Wales.
This was to be the third time FODSA had visited Airbus; on the first two occasions the A380 wing factory had been our destination, this time we were heading for the North Factory which makes the wings for the A350 XWB (Xtra Wide Body).
With a short stop on the way we arrived at 09:45hrs, and once checked in at reception and receiving are visitors passes, we were met by our host and guide Shaun Maloney, whom we knew quite well from our previous visits.
We were given tea and biscuits, before settling into the Airbus Visitor suite lecture theatre for a short presentation on the history of the airfield, its resident manufacturing companies, and its transformation into the ultra-modern Airbus manufacturing site of the present day. Then it was onwards for a tour of the North Factory.
The North Factory, which represents an investment of £400m, was officially opened in October 2011 by the Prime Minister David Cameron. It was designed and built to the framework set by BREEAM, one of the world’s leading design and assessment methods for sustainable buildings and received the rating ‘Excellent’ for its environmentally responsible features.
The A350 XWB is an all new family of mid-sized wide-body aircraft which brings together the very latest in aerodynamic, design and advance technologies leading to a significant step-change in designing the most fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft. Over 50% of the wing is made from new high-strength, lightweight composite materials which have brought a new skill to the workforce in Broughton.
The wing covers are made from Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic, as are the front and rear main wing spars. the wing has a metallic (aluminium) wingbox, ribs and various titanium engine and landing gear fittings.
Operating around the clock, the factory makes wings over 30 meters long for the A350 XWB. For the first time, the wings are built horizontally rather than vertically. This is due to their size and lightweight composite materials which make it much quicker and easier for the engineers to work on them.
The wings are moved around the factory by a series of automated transporters and jigs. The assembly process is known as a pulse line, where the wing is moved against a pre-planned rhythm between three assembly stations; structure assembly, automated drilling and bolting. As holes are drilled into the wing surface, the dust and waste is automatically vacuumed away which makes the environment clean, safe and pleasant to work in. Much of the drilling is also completed by automation.
The A350 XWB wings are also partially equipped at Broughton before they are transported by the Beluga to the Bremen wing equipping line. Here the installation and testing of hydraulic, electrical and pneumatic systems take place, together with installation of flying control surfaces including flaps, air brakes, ailerons and leading edge slats.The complete wing is then delivered via Beluga to the final assembly line in Toulouse, France.
Our tour of the North Factory was most interesting, and made all the more enjoyable by Shaun, who’s knowledge and presentation was second to none. After our tour of the North Factory was over we had a little time in the Airbus gift shop before heading off to spend the rest of the afternoon in Chester.
Many thanks to FODSA’s Andy Thompson for organising such a pleasant, interesting and enjoyable trip.
FODSA Visit DHL Cargo Hub At East Midlands Airport:
Article and photos by Graham Vlacho.
On Friday evening, the 3rd July 2015, 9 FODSA members, in 3 cars, braved the perils of the M1 to travel down to East Midlands Airport, for a visit to the DHL Cargo Hub. DHL was formed in 1969 by its founders, Dalsey, Hillblom, and Lynn. The company began by operating a door to door express delivery service, transporting documents between San Francisco and Honolulu, Hawaii. After steady worldwide expansion, Deutsche Post became the majority shareholder in 2002.
At 9pm, we were met by Sabrina, our guide for the evening. She has worked for the company for 15 years. After being issued with security passes, we visited the warehouse. The site opened in 2000, and covers 63 acres, with 30,000 sq metres of warehouse and 10,000 sq metres of office accommodation. The initial cost was £35 million. Currently, the site is being doubled in size, at a further cost of £90 million. This is due to be completed late next year. The current facility has 4 kilometres of conveyor belts, capable of handling 45,000 shipments per hour or 1,200 tonnes of material per night. On average 140,000 packages a night are handled. There are 18 X-ray machines to check these packages, the staff monitoring these machines only work 20 mins a session to maintain concentration. 400 staff work in the warehouse between 7pm and 6.30am. Top of the range cars such as Bentley’s are exported through this warehouse to destinations such as the Gulf States and the Far East.
There is also 10,000 sq metres of truck canopy, with 35 truck bays and additional parking for 70 trucks. Airside there are 18 aircraft parking stands , which covers another 160,000 sq metres. An aircraft normally takes 90 mins to turnaround, but this can be done in 50 mins if necessary. From the East Midlands Hub, more than 24 aircraft serve destinations across the world, including DHL’s biggest hub at Leipzig, where connections are made with 60-70 airlines. Lorries also convey containers to other airports, such as Heathrow, where they connect with the Virgin Atlantic service to Sydney. From the warehouse, we passed through a rigorous security scan to airside, where we witnessed staff monitoring the configuration of loads on the aircraft. A good view was had of several aircraft on the pan, including a Boeing 757 of DHL UK and an Airbus A300 of DHL Germany.
After about 2 and half hours, it was time to finish our visit. After thanking Sabrina for a very interesting and informative tour, we headed to the M1, only to find junction 24 closed, so after a 10 mile detour, we finally hit the road home.