Sharing Knowledge

Mike Malkowski
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Mike D. Malkowski

Mike Malkowski is CEO and president of the Five Star Airport Alliance Companies, which include G&T Conveyor, The Horsley Company, Star Systems, Elite Line Services and Ameribridge.

With 25+ years in the material handling and baggage system industry, Malkowski is also co-founder and president of the International Association of Baggage System Companies ( The association provides a center point for leadership, support, innovation, standards, education, literature and a voice to the billion-dollar airport baggage handling industry.

Baggage systems are a key operating component of any airport and shouldn't be an afterthought. They should receive the same attention as runways, control towers and/or any other critical function that is at the heartbeat of an airport.

Following the 9/11 crisis and most recent economic downturn, airports, airlines, passengers and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are requiring more than ever from baggage systems. Baggage consultants do a good job providing information and innovations, but it is far too much to expect them to facilitate all the interests we see in today's environment. Federal requirements for baggage systems to be an integral part of baggage security further increase the need for a broader view of the systems.

TSA has continued to improve designs and operational requirements of the "Hold Baggage/Inline Screening." This single element has brought more change to the baggage industry than any other in the last 30 years. The International Association of Baggage System Companies (IABSC) has worked closely with TSA from an informational and educational approach. And more participation may be in the works.

Recent economic conditions are also changing the role of baggage systems. In the past, baggage systems were not considered a revenue source. These days, most airlines charge for checked baggage - yet another significant change to the baggage industry. It appears this might be taken one step further with the possible introduction of new limitations for carry-on luggage.

Lately, it seems everyone has a keen interest in "green." Yet it appears that all have overlooked the role baggage systems play in airports' "green" efforts. On average, nearly 25% of the energy consumed at mid to large size airports is consumed by the baggage systems. Until recently, this area has gone without consolidated research or advancement toward a "green" initiative. IABSC is currently immersed in a comprehensive study of the topic and will issue a similarly thorough white paper in 2010.

During the early stages of developing IABSC, many of us took a step back and evaluated the baggage industry as a whole. What we found was surprising. It has clearly been a matter of "not seeing the forest for the trees." We identified numerous areas that needed improvement, cost savings and innovation. We also saw overall problems that simply were not being addressed because no one was championing their cause.

Additionally, we found that there was not a single, centrally located point of information about baggage systems. Top airport executives seemed to have little understanding of baggage systems and the significant role they play in airport infrastructure. "Knowledge is power," and it seemed that only a few have the necessary knowledge to make critical decisions about the implementation of baggage systems. It was clear an association was needed to fill the gaps.

It is IABSC's intent to empower all those who want access to resources and knowledge about baggage systems. It is unquestionable that most architects, construction firms, consultants and baggage system suppliers look out for their customers' best interests. But it seems unreasonable that customers would not make the same effort to become knowledgeable about such a critical component and financial investment prior to engaging them, in order to ensure the direction given matches the expected outcome. Knowledge is especially important for airports that do not have staff specially dedicated to large, complex baggage system projects - all but the rare exceptions.

Many executives and staffers possess vast amounts of knowledge about airport construction, air traffic controls and other similar critical areas, which empowers and enables them to participate in making critical decisions. When I ask these same professionals why they don't take the same keen interest in baggage systems, the overwhelming response is, "Where would I obtain such knowledge?" Now I can answer: "as a member of the IABSC."

As the baggage system industry continues to evolve, IABSC intends to represent the leading baggage system manufacturers, consultants, designers, suppliers of all tiers and other associates worldwide. We will strive to be the industry resource for design standards, technical application standards and the introduction of new innovations and baggage system safety/security standards. IABSC will also strive to be the mechanism for innovation and new approaches, and serve as a voice for all professionals participating in this vital industry sector.

It feels good to give something back to an industry that has given so much to me and the companies I've represented.


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