Barcelona Airport Takes Off with Integrated Command and Control System

  • October 27, 2014
  • Case Study

Barcelona’s El Prat airport, together with the port of Barcelona and the city’s Zona Franca area, serves as a vital cog in the region’s economy and is integral to tourism in Spain. In 1999 the Spanish government approved a new master plan for El Prat, aimed to turn the Catalan city into an essential European air hub and a premier facility for travel to and from southern Europe. Under a €3.2 million ($4.4 million) investment, Plan Barcelona was developed to increase passenger capacity to 55 million per year; add new terminal buildings; add a third runway; and adapt all the of this new infrastructures to meet growing demand. The plan also called for an intermodal area, new jet ways, a luggage transportation management plant, service and evacuation galleries and refurbishment of the existing terminal. And, to top it off, it required a new integrated control system to bring it all together. As one of Europe’s ten busiest airports, El Prat is an unbelievably large and complex operation, and growing fast. In 2013 it handled 35 million passengers, 276,496 operations and more than 100,000 tons of cargo. It is managed by Spanish Airports and Air Navigation, a public company in charge of civil air navigation and airports in Spain that is also overseeing the implementation of Plan Barcelona. AENA’s subsidiary, AENA Aeropuertos SA, manages 47 airports and two heliports in Spain and participates directly in the management of 28 other terminals throughout the world. In passenger count, AENA is the world’s leading airport operator with about 200 million passengers per year.

Recognizing the Need for Full-Scope Modernization Program Today, much of Plan Barcelona has been implemented, including the construction of a new terminal and a new runway, as well as its new facility management and control system. But El Prat’s original control system managed just 35,000 I/O signals, and its existing systems were implemented as vertical functions, with each vendor designing and installing their own solutions with unique operator HMIs and interfaces to other systems. Fifteen to 20 systems integrators were engaged to support the airport’s control systems, and each vendor had implemented a separate solution, resulting in multiple technologies. The airport’s operators had to learn up to 20 different technologies and tools, which made training difficult and operations cumbersome. Stress was rising, and costs were high. Operators and other facility personnel had to spend an extraordinary amount of time and energy to keep the facility functioning smoothly, and management was concerned they were unable to respond appropriately to incidents. El Prat had reached a critical point. One integrator stated it clearly: “It was necessary to standardize communications and automation in order to create a control environment that was worthy of a large infrastructure like this.” AENA quickly recognized the issues they faced as Plan Barcelona was put into effect. They soon learned that subsystem chaos was causing many of their operational issues. The control system structure created lags in responding to and resolving incidents. For example, as another integrator explained, “To control lighting, the building information would appear on a screen in the power control room and different data would be seen in the engineering room. This prevented handling the processes in a simple manner. It was also difficult to address other issues, such as environmental impact.” And although appropriate attention was paid to all incidents, yet another integrator added, “We had to analyze each subsystem to understand where a malfunction was located, which inevitably slowed down response times.” The budget too was under pressure. Contracts with multiple suppliers meant maintenance expenses were increasing, and training costs soared since multiple systems required staff to learn the unique signal logistics for each and every one. The size and scope of Plan Barcelona required AENA to find a system that would solve these issues by bringing everything together. Airport management searched the market for a solution that met three specific criterion:

  • A single, scalable platform that would unite existing control and facility management systems, as well as accommodate future expansion.
  • Reliability, to support efficient and safe airport operations and avoid airport services downtime.
  • Affordability, to meet the budget restrictions of a public project.

At the conclusion of its search, AENA chose the Wonderware software platform from Invensys, now a part of Schneider Electric. AENA believed the Invensys solution would help them integrate all their existing disparate systems, achieve reliable and cost-efficient control, enable safe operations and create scalability for future growth. Additionally, the Wonderware solution met management’s criteria for lower ongoing total cost of ownership. First Step: Project Coordination To kick off the project, a central office in AENA headquarters was created to understand user requirements, standardize the deployment and guarantee the reusability of the software objects developed, with the aim being to reduce engineering efforts and maintain standardization. The central office coordinated everyone involved with implementing and using the new system, including airport personnel, system integrators and systems vendors. A chief Invensys partner in Europe, Wonderware Spain set the direction of this office, designing all of the procedures in the development phase, as well as overseeing version updates, support and other functions. This is where advance planning of the control system design and the specific features of the Wonderware software offering came together to help AENA meet their objectives. The design stage began by using Wonderware software’s strengths to develop a better engineering routine. Each new device would be integrated into Invensys’ Wonderware System Platform software, based on a set of common rules. And any supplier who was awarded a contract was required to conform to these rules. Then a data template was created for each element that was to be deployed in the terminal and for each process that would connect to the airport’s SCADA system. Because Wonderware software enables these objects and templates to be easily replicated, AENA soon had a library that helped them standardize all field device connections. No matter the brand of the PLC or which supplier was installing it, each device had a common interface to the system as defined in the overall plan. And while the control systems operated independently at lower levels, processes were categorized and standardized at the SCADA level. Since each vendor had to meet that standard, the system was integrated successfully. Despite having multiple companies working on multiple projects, uniformity, full connectivity and efficiency was achieved relatively quickly. According to the lead integrators and AENA, the project marked a change in how control systems are developed in Spain’s airport sector because it overcomes two key challenges: It avoids duplicate engineering and, since the objects in the design have been pre-validated, their proper functioning is assured. Not only does this bring new facilities online faster, it improves operations efficiency, reduces costs and improves ROI.

Five Stages to Optimized Facilities Management The first phase of the master plan was to integrate the building control systems in the existing T2 terminal. The 35,000 signals in the lighting, climate control, passenger transport systems and entrances were brought over to the Wonderware platform. Next, the control systems for services that would support the future T1 terminal were integrated. These included the fire brigade, civil guard, waste facilities, water control and pumping and other systems. With the addition of these signals, Wonderware software was now helping AENA manage 80,000 I/O signals. At this point, project engineers integrated the airport’s power plants monitoring infrastructure. The third phase started with the deployment of the infrastructure for the newly constructed T1 terminal. This comprehensive, three-year project involved special challenges for the AENA team. They had to direct the many public sector contractors to work together, as well as ensure the new engineering routines and rules established at the beginning of the initiative were being followed. Jordi Asensi, head of systems and database management for AENA at El Prat, said, “If we had not decided from the beginning to create routines for each of the developments in order to be coupled naturally to [the Wonderware solution], we would have found ourselves in precisely the situation we had wanted to avoid.” Prior to terminal construction, processes were validated in the department responsible for defining user requirements, interface and design. Models were also tested to verify proper operation. Once the building was constructed and the field systems and control environment were deployed, an independent company tested each system to confirm everything functioned properly. At the end of the T1 project, 400,000 signals were added to the existing 80,000. The fourth phase integrated the automated luggage transport system (SATE), which included software to manage luggage movement, delivery and incident warning. The final phase integrated the new terminal’s area power plant. This plant powers the airport and is the first facility to use AENA’s “airport model.” The company has set this standard for specific situations and platforms based on the Model View functions of Wonderware System Platform software, which show how objects are arranged and describe the physical layout of the plant and the supervisory process being controlled. Also in this phase, in late 2010, the energy control system was redesigned to bring together all the disparate electrical control systems into a single control point, including associated environmental monitoring for each. With the completion of these projects, the new system today handles 1.5 million inputs through 80 servers that make up these five control environments. In effect, the airport is operating on one, integrated and centralized command and control platform that has streamlined its operations and maintenance and improved its efficiency and responsiveness. Each signal is presented simply and in context to enable operators to quickly and accurately interpret the information they receive, and because it is standardized, AENA and Aeropuertos SA can easily replicate at its other airports. Coordinated Uniformity The new Wonderware system has three major subsystems, with consistent subsystem interfaces, operator interfaces and operations information for airport functions. It includes direct PLC drivers, an OPC server and a Wonderware DA server to connect subsystems, while corporate systems are connected through middleware software to provide, for example, information such as "time and energy used" in a jet way connection that AENA requires to invoice airlines. The Energy Control System The Wonderware solution controls airport processes that manage the terminal buildings and cooling and heating power plant, as well as auxiliary buildings for luggage transport, and additional systems are being deployed. In late 2010, the structure of the energy control system was redesigned to bring together all of the electrical systems under a single control point. This unified the controls for four separate power plants, including associated environmental monitoring for each, such as measuring groundwater levels or pumping systems using Archimedean screws to stabilize a portion of the runway built over a lagoon. The energy control system was provided by specialized Invensys system integrators, but all the supervision and control was developed in the Wonderware system itself. The Communications Systems The system has direct tie-ins to other communications systems, including audio, fire, passenger communications and security. The Luggage System The project integrated the SATE, which included software to manage luggage movement, delivery and incident warning. A totally automatic luggage handling system with more than 6,000 motors and 12 miles of belts, SATE uses an entire floor of the terminal building and is able to bring luggage from the check-in counter to the airplane without any human interaction. Wonderware software controls all the infrastructure of this system, as well as its reporting status and alarms. If an incident requires a change to the luggage system, the Wonderware platform sends the necessary updates to the routing system. Asensi says that because SATE is connected to the Wonderware platform, El Prat has one of the lowest lost-luggage rates in Europe. Technical Highlights For AENA, the architecture of the T1 monitoring systems is especially outstanding because of its structural logic, robustness and transparency. It consists of a development server and 19 other servers running Wonderware System Platform. Of these, one acts as a repository, running Wonderware Historian software and containing the full configuration for all servers. The remaining servers are structured around four pairs of redundant object servers that contain the logic for each of the infrastructure management parts; three pairs of independent communications servers that communicate with field PLCs; and two pairs of terminal servers, which are redundant servers with Wonderware InTouch HMI that allow clients to connect and use applications. The airport has two data processing centers that are geographically separated. Redundant servers are located in each of these centers and connected through the fiber optic network. In the event of a power failure in one center, the other takes over. The only server that is not redundant—the repository—uses SAN (Storage Area Network) technology that continuously replicates its disk arrays locally and remotely. So if it fails, the disks have a hot back up or distance mirror. Integrators used Wonderware software to create a special object to address potential conflicts in this redundant system. Called “control of communications,” it continuously assesses all elements in a particular process and makes decisions based on the data, communicating the optimal route for all objects that operate through it. In this way, it avoids overloading the system by defining more organized communications paths. An important safety aspect is the connection between the monitoring system and the closed circuit TV system. When there is an alarm, the software enables operators in the control center to see images and locations of incidents so they can quickly make accurate decisions and resolve the situation. Despite the independence of the two systems, they are perfectly integrated. The Many Benefits of a Single Control Environment After a decade of work, the control environment of El Prat Airport is almost completely integrated, and AENA’s commitment to Wonderware software as their standard for handling the 47 airports they operate in Spain is stronger than ever. According to the AENA team, the most outstanding benefit so far is that the solution enables them to manage a large number of processes simultaneously in an integrated manner under a single platform, even with so many devices and signals with distinct technological languages. The result? Now, all terminals are handled within a common environment. Each system still works within its own logic, but the Wonderware solution has created an extraction and intercommunication layer that makes it possible. “The centralization of operations that we get with Wonderware software helps manage around 1.5 million signals and is essential for a critical infrastructure like this,” says Asensi. “We can now quickly respond to incidents and also be proactive in optimizing management.” “Wonderware System Platform has a number of features that make it appropriate for infrastructure management,” observes Jordi Rey, managing director of Wonderware Spain. In fact, according to this evaluation, José Luis González, chief technology officer of AENA Barcelona, describes the most outstanding benefit of the project: “Thanks to Wonderware, our systems allow us to be aware of what is going on in the airport. The smart city concept is very much in vogue nowadays, and we can say without any doubt that the Barcelona airport is a smart airport: intelligent, able to manage its infrastructures and always self-aware.”  

From the business management perspective, AENA is now free to contract maintenance services for the control platform to any company specializing in Wonderware solutions. And since Invensys has a network of 170 systems integrators in Spain, many of whom specialize in serving large facilities, AENA can set out competitive criteria for potential vendors. Reliable, Real-Time Data Prompts Continuous Improvement Another benefit, a consequence of the data reporting and trending capabilities of Wonderware Historian software, is easy access to valuable knowledge. Before the Wonderware project, data was separated, and it was difficult to understand and respond to an incident. The airport was more reactive, and had a more unstable infrastructure. Now, the system provides the reliability that is required of an airport of Barcelona’s class, which is considered to be among the best in the world. The software also provides real-time distributed alarm management through an alarm filter in each facility. Those responsible for the project explain that for an airport, it is impossible to think of central alarm management, although this is the most common way to handle alarms by the majority of commercially available technologies. In AENA’s case, if a serious event occurs, there is a flood of alarm information. The Wonderware solution provides alarm absorption, management and distribution system that helps AENA manage a huge number of events, even thousands of alarms in seconds. The solution’s templates and objects have significantly streamlined engineering efforts throughout the project. In the design stage, templates were defined above each group of objects, covering up to four levels and allowing for changes without modifying each element. Template scripts defined behavior for all objects, so system modifications can be made safely and easily. Navigation is hierarchical by area, plant and facilities, even covering highly detailed facilities within each zone. In addition, all communications with PLCs and servers are performed in real time, as is the creation of graphics requested by users. Technology Takes Wing Today, El Prat airport boasts a dynamic, high-functioning infrastructure. It is the envy of Europe, and AENA is achieving operations excellence there. By implementing the Wonderware software application, AENA was able to integrate all its vendors, and the systems are coordinated within the same environment. Approximately 15 systems integrators work simultaneously within a completely standardized process. The airport has 80 licenses for concurrent operators, although they explain that the infrastructure can be managed “with only eight operators in non-peak hours.” Many other projects are currently underway, including the integration of the Beacon Presentation Command System, which will manage the runway lights, as well as construction of a platform control tower. All told, when the projects are finalized, more than 1.5 million signals will be controlled under the unified platform. With Invensys technology and the vision and teamwork of numerous executives and integrators, Barcelona-El Prat airport is one of the most emblematic projects for AENA to date, and the company can easily replicate the standardized system at any other airport it operates. Asensi, as head of the project, summarizes the benefits of the system by saying, “It would be impossible to have the management model we have today with other solutions. The centralization offered by [Invensys’ Wonderware] technology is essential. It allows us to respond to incidents rapidly and be proactive in making process improvements because now we have real-time unified information available to us for analysis.” “Our experience with Wonderware Spain has been very positive. They helped us a lot in the initial tool implementation phase, in creating the object validation model, [and we are] following their recommendations and advice. They have greatly facilitated the implementation of solutions and have guided us to address new developments.”

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