It is not often that those in the air cargo business have thoughts about who designs and builds cargo handling systems.
These range from simple cargo storage trolleys to ultra high-tech storage and transport systems (ETV) and are usually produced to fit customers individual needs.
SACO Airport Equipment, based in the Netherlands is one of the companies who has been designing, developing and building a range of cargo handling equipment for the trade for many years.
Air cargo tonnage down - investment in equipment up
It’s no secret that air cargo is going through a hard time with carriers now diluting routes, fighting to get a slice of the cake and still returning low margins.
Despite all of that, life goes on on the equipment side.
Airlines and cargo handlers need to keep abreast of their competitors and be in a position to offer their present and future clients more up-to-date and sophisticated handling equipment and the IT programmes which go along with it.
SACO’s CEO, Hans van Schaik is not complaining about the business.
On the contrary, he states that his company has, especially since 2012 / 2013, been experiencing what he terms as exponential growth in the air cargo handling equipment sector.
Express operators are the biggest investors
The investment in ULD handling projects by companies such as FedEx, TNT and DHL is non-ending according to Hans’ information.
SACO has contracts from all three of the above to supply ULD handling systems.
FedEx took on SACO for their hubs in Paris CDG and Cologne-Bonn airports.
TNT did the same for their large hub in Liege, Belgium and DHL for Leipzig and Brussels.
It is not just the large hubs where Express operators are investing in.
The list is long where Hans and his team at SACO have been delivering the goods.
For example, DHL Express opted to update their systems in the Swedish airports of Gothenburg, Arlanda and Vaestberga, as well as in Finland’s Tampere and Helsinki smaller hubs.
Airports are also re-looking at the need to invest in more modern handling systems, whereby the fully automated ETV systems for the storage of aircraft ULD’s seems to be a favourite all
These can range from simple one or two level automated storage blocks or ones which can go up to three to four levels in height and house a variety of 10ft, 20ft and LD3 containers with a fully automated IT system which searches and delivers the ULD right where the handler needs it.
Hans van Schaik does not limit his working are to Europe alone.
The first SACO ETV system for the South Pacific area was built and delivered in June of this year. The four level 15ft ETV with capacity to house up to 300 ULDs and which was both designed and built by SACO was handed over to the customer within the planned time limit.
2016 has been an exceptional year
Calgary, Vladivostok, Auckland, Dacca - these are just a few of the expansion areas where SACO, despite disappointing cargo revenues, has bid successfully for business.
Competition in this sector is tough as the business is mainly in the hands of a few companies such as SACO who have the necessary know-how and technical teams to be able to offer the client a full package from design to build and to installing whatever equipment the client may go for.
The Express clientele it seems remains as a steady pillar for handling equipment suppliers.
However, as more and more airports and countries who want to develop air cargo hubs come on the scene, then the future for companies such as SAC looks promising for the coming years.
John Mc Donagh