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Enhancing ground handling with efficient support services

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Amsterdam Schiphol Airport has been the base of operations for KLM Equipment Services since 1952. In the intervening years the independent subsidiary of KLM Royal Dutch airlines has seen the aviation business transform itself from a glamourous mode of transport for the well-heeled, international jet set into a universal service available to a mass audience at a range of price points. “Aviation is a competitive sector with tight margins and even tighter deadlines,” says Managing Director John Engelaan. “Improving efficiency across the board is vital to the success of every airline competing for customers today.”

KLM Equipment Services’ stated mission is to realize low operational cost with maximum equipment availability for its customers. While it continues to provide services for parent company KLM, which handles its own aircraft, its customer base now covers a range of handling companies, many of which are based at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, which is also a customer, and provide ground handling services to many of the airlines operating in and out of the airport.

“Until 1992, we operated as a department of KLM,” explains Mr. Engelaan who was part of the team at the time preparing it to become an independent company. Two years ago, he returned to the company as managing director. “We are currently undergoing reorganization and have recently taken the decision to position ourselves internationally,” says Mr. Engelaan. “Starting from 2019, we want to see whether we can work in other locations to offer our engineering and fleet management services.

According to the Managing Director there is certainly interest abroad in what the company can offer. “We are already in discussion with companies about how we can help them minimize their costs and have presented our plans at a conference for GSE maintenance companies. So far the feedback has been very encouraging.”

One of the biggest innovations that KLM Equipment Services will be offering is the result of a cooperation with Inseego/Ctrack, a leading global supplier of fleet tracking and management software, to develop track and trace software and transponders for the equipment it uses. “This smart software will give us the opportunity to analyse where materials and resources are used most heavily and determine why some equipment is used more than others,” outlines Mr. Engelaan. “Our partner brings the relevant experience with respect to trucks to the project while we contribute our expertise in ground support equipment.”

The new international focus will not be the company’s first foray into foreign markets. It has already been active at Hong Kong International Airport for the past ten years, one of the world’s leading airports. “The differences in GSE between Hong Kong and Amsterdam airports are pronounced,” says Mr. Engelaan. “There is a lot we can learn from the Chinese approach in this regard. However, many of the advantages they enjoy come from the greater financial means they have available to them. That is why, in the long term, we would prefer to own the equipment ourselves rather than invoicing time and materials to KLM, which owns all of the equipment. We could then take decisions regarding investment in maintenance and replacements that would allow us to achieve our efficiency aims.”

At present, this is not so much of an issue as KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is performing well and has currently earmarked 40 million EUR to invest in its ground support equipment. Hopefully, this positive situation will continue in the future. “Schiphol will continue to be our priority in the next three years, but we are keen to build on our expertise to establish a presence elsewhere after that,” concludes Mr. Engelaan.

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