'No longer having to lift a suitcase, that's the goal'

Logistics and operations

The operation behind the scenes at Schiphol is quite a jigsaw puzzle, in which baggage handling plays an important role. Immediately after landing, the suitcases have to be taken off the plane and onto the correct belt, while the next load is already waiting to be loaded. Speed is a crucial factor, but so is the health of baggage employees. That is why process managers Christel Rustenburg and Maud Lange of Baggage Services pay a lot of attention to increased and improved lifting assistance.

The turnaround must go on

When an aircraft lands at Schiphol, it has to be ready for departure soon after. And during the the so-called 'turnaround' – a lot happens from refuelling to cleaning. At the same time, the baggage hold has to be emptied and refilled. 'A complex operation, involving several teams, everything has to be precisely coordinated,' says Christel. Maud adds: 'That's why I always compare it to a clock. It too only ticks properly when the cogs are precisely interlocked. They have to keep doing that when changes occur. Adjustments can sometimes take a long time, because many parties are involved. The trick is to keep the momentum going'.

Baggage handling is one of the bigger cogs in the turnaround. Christel and Maud are both process managers at Baggage Services: they are engaged daily in making work better, more efficient and healthier. Christel focuses on incoming flights, Maud on outgoing ones. 'We set up the work process,' Christel explains. 'From the instructions for baggage handlers to the tools they have at their disposal. One example is the lifting aid, a device that helps colleagues with heavy lifting so that the legal standards for physical load are not exceeded.'

As mentioned, our focus area is part of a complex puzzle - a fun challenge! Technical specifications, coordination with various parties, supervising schedules, organising training, and complying with Labour Inspectorate requirements: it all comes together in our work. And meanwhile, of course, we're working hard to place lifting aids in all places where lifting takes place.

Maud, manager Process & Project Support

Cooperation and further development

In their mission to reduce the amount of heavy lifting among their colleagues - and in the long term even eliminate it altogether - Christel and Maud collaborate a lot with Schiphol Airport. Christel: 'We rent the baggage halls from Schiphol, including the lifting aids. Ultimately, the airport is responsible for the equipment. But we exert influence where we can. We gather input from the teams and pass on their wishes or feedback, so that the lifting aids are tailored as closely as possible to their needs.' 'We are also exploring the possibilities of moving to full mechanisation,' Maud adds. Think of robots that take all the lifting work out of our hands. We're constantly looking for opportunities to do things even better.'

People in front of window

Good equipment is half the battle

'Finally, it is good to realise: working better is not only about tools, but also about behaviour,' Maud emphasizes. 'You can have all kinds of lifting aids in the hall, but they are of little use if nobody uses them or knows how they work. That's why we also set up training programmes.' We do that for each hall separately,' says Christel. 'They all have their own dynamic and we have to be sure that the programme takes off. We're also constantly fine-tuning the training and adjusting attitudes. We'll keep doing that until our colleagues can do their work responsibly and healthily – a worthwhile goal to contribute to!'

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