An Inside Look at Exemplary Command Center at One of UK’s Airport Leaders

Client Spotlight Miniseries: Manchester Airport Group

In November, we spoke to Nolan Hough, Commercial Director of Car Parks and Ancillaries at Manchester Airport Group in the UK about his success with using a ChipCoin system rather than the magnetic stripe or barcode system for the airports’ operations (read article here). This week, we take a further look inside at M.A.G’s secret to smooth parking operation through their exclusive command center.

At the core of every successful airport parking operations is a central command center that controls the efficiency of the facility. Gone are the days for antiquated attendant supervised toll-booths that result in longer exit processes for motorists. Today, many of the major airports around the world rely on a strong command center that allows for full automation of their systems, which in turn saves the airport millions of dollars in operations.

The Manchester Airport Group exemplifies the ideal model of a successful parking group operating under an efficient fully automated parking system. As the UK’s largest airport group, MAG operates four airports under its umbrella. The airport company employs over 41,000 people at its sites and serves 42 million passengers annually. Specifically, M.A.G’s command center incorporates Scheidt & Bachmann’s entervo software features to effectively manage a $125 million operation remotely. We continue the conversation with Nolan Hough as he shares secrets to his success with the fully automated systems operations at MAG:

SCHEIDT & BACHMANN: What makes M.A.G parking operations unique from other airport parking facilities?

NOLAN HOUGH: Unlike many international airports, Manchester Airport internally sources all car park (parking facility) operational and commercial functions. This includes e-commerce (pre-booking); yield & revenue management; distribution and product development; capital delivery and IT infrastructure to busing car park management; and command center. This allows us to control every customer’s touch point, and in doing so, improves the customer journey making car parking a compelling option for our passengers.

We have a wide range of products from low cost (JetParks) branded as an off-airport product to compete in the off-airport market, to valet parking where customers drop off their cars adjacent to the terminal and we park their car in secure compounds. This summer, we moved in excess of 2,300 vehicles per day in valet parking operation. For quarter two, we secured the number one position for our car parks (parking facilities) in terms of value for money and facilities in our ASQ (Airport Services Quality) benchmark group of airports across Europe.

Scheidt&Bachman M.A.G. parking operations

S&B: Your in-housing of operations for the business you do is impressive. But what’s your secret to being able to operate internally yet manage all of your operations smoothly and within budget?

NH: Specifically at Manchester Airport, we have over 30 car parks (parking facilities) – many remote – with 53 exit lanes, all of which are fully automated without the need for cashiers at the exits. Payments can be taken in-lane via Chip & Pin devices or at pay-on-foot machines located in and around the facilities. Any customer queries are fed via intercom to our command center with full CCTV coverage provided automatically to the operators as the call is answered.

SB: The M.A.G.’s command center has quite the unique setup and your ability to coordinate your command center with full automation of your parking barrier equipment is efficient to say the least. Tell us a little more about the features of your command center.

NH: Our command center has full integration of CCTV, LPR and barrier control to all command station operatives with automatic system switching to lane devices. There is an extensive CCTV wall showing over 128 simultaneous CCTV feeds of the entire estate including lane and “pin hole” device cameras. This allows our parking team to “visually” manage every exit lane as if they were standing alongside the customer.

Our team is proud to work in such a facility. It is the heart of the business and gives the team all the information and data required to interact with and assist customers as required. They can see their estate – even remote parking facilities – and react in a proactive rather than reactive manner. In the future, we may look to operate other M.A.G. airports from a single command center.

SB: As you have provided in previous discussions, M.A.G incorporates some very unique features into its parking operations. Please describe some of these features.

NH: At Manchester Airport we have near real-time integration between our pre-booking e-commerce platform and our barriers. It is important that we have an efficient system particularly for pre-booking as pre-book represents 60-70% of our long stay transactions. A customer can book an hour before arrival and enter in an automated basis via LPR. Should the customer not be recognized (i.e. they book with the incorrect license plate or their plate is misread), they can scan a barcode from their booking confirmation email upon entry.
Barcode is particularly useful in snow events where license plates may be obscured. If customers have forgotten their booking confirmation email, the command center staff can search for the booking by name, license, and/or time of arrival etc. The process has far improved from our previous system and we are able to manage higher volumes of traffic on fewer stations.

Scheidt&Bachman M.A.G. parking operations

SB: What do you see happening in the industry of airport parking or even parking operations in general for the next five to ten years?

NH: It’s hard to say. Certainly demand for airport car parking will continue to grow as customers seek cost effective & convenient alternatives. Online business is clearly an area of opportunity and will remain an area of focus for many airports. EV (electric vehicles) will become more important as the cost of fuel rises, the costs of battery technology reduces and driving range on a single charge increases. Infrastructure for charging stations (and payment solutions accommodate) will need to be considered but only once a national standard has been established.

About Nolan Hough

Nolan is the Commercial Director for Car Parks and Ancillaries at M.A.G, responsible for commercial car parking, private hiring, car rental and ancillary revenue streams (i.e. fast track) across all four airports. He has a passion for innovation, product development, pricing and distribution and comes from a commercial background. During his 5 years at M.A.G, Nolan has played a key role in helping the group innovate, build major capital schemes across M.A.G airports and bring products to market at price points that would maximize market and modal share driving incremental yield.

About Scheidt & BachmannScheidt & Bachmann logo

The family-owned company with its headquarters in Moenchengladbach, Germany was founded in 1872 and is now managed in its fifth generation. In the four divisions Fare Collection systems, Signalling Systems, Petrol Station Systems and Parking and Leisure Centre Systems, Scheidt & Bachmann is setting worldwide standards. The Parking Systems division dominates the international car park market by nearly 22,000 installations; it is the system provider for more than 75 airports worldwide. Scheidt & Bachmann provides with its brand “entervo” integrated, modular general solutions consisting of up-to-date JAVA software and innovative equipment.

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