Poor Planning of DIA Baggage System

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Underestimation of the complexity of the project BAE and the airport authorities Careful evaluation of the complexity involved Involving experts in the industry BAE and the airport authorities Poor planning BAE and the architects Experts should be involved in planning phase BAE and the airport authorities Time constraints Airport authorities Set realistic deadlines for a project Airport authorities Lack of due diligence BAE & Airport authorities Proper evaluation of a project Taking expert advice into consideration BAE & Airport authorities Defaulting on promises BAE Make promises that can be delivered Avoid being overambitious in making promises BAE Executive summary of the Denver International Airport Baggage case

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Project failures lead to massive losses in terms of time, energy as well as resources. Expectations of those involved are crushed when a project stalls but oftentimes there are always indicators that were ignored. The root cause for a project failure may be one major problem or a set of complex related problems. The Denver International Airport (DIA) Baggage case in the 1990s was one such project that failed to meet the expectations. It was to be the worlds largest automatic baggage handling system but never materialised due to a complex set of intertwined problems. A detailed look at the set of problems that worked against the project leading to its failure will be reviewed.

Underestimation of the complexity of the project was one of the major problems. This was the first project of its kind around the world with respect to the magnitude and complexity involved. Experts had pointed out the complexity involved citing that it could not work successfully as envisioned. In the process of looking for a contractor to take on the project, the airport authorities rejected three bids on grounds that they could not finish on time for the opening of the airport. Consequently, the authorities decided to approach Boeing Airport Equipment Automated Systems Incorporated (BAE). An underestimation of the task involved would inevitably lead to overworking of the staff in order to meet deadlines.

The deadlines set for completion of the project were unrealistic. Time is an important component for every project. Initially, companies that had bid for the project cited time constraints issues and were therefore rejected. However BAE took on the project. This was against advice from Munich Airport experts who had clearly pointed out that the less sophisticated Munich system took two years to be completed even after having worked on the project non-stop for the last six months. In addition to this, the decision to do an airport wide integrated baggage handling system came in a bit too late; two years later. This was precious time lost which piled excess pressure on BAE to deliver. Probably, the project would not have been such a failure if such a key decision was made in time.

Poor planning was one of the major mistakes that led to the downfall of DIA baggage system. Originally, the architects of the airport only catered for normal baggage handling systems. An automated baggage handling system was an after-thought and the company involved, BAE, had to work with what was already in place. On the other hand, demolishing some parts of the building to cater for the new system was the next option, but it was too expensive to implement. Subsequently, the system had far from optimal turns which made bags fall off while taking the sharp turns. In response to this, the speed of the system was slowed down to sort out this issue. Similarly, the airlines proposed changes which forced redesigning of the system again since the new changes could not be fitted in the original plan. As a result, more time was required yet the company was already behind schedule.

Other problems that hindered the complete realization of the DIA project included ineffective communication between the stakeholders, change in leadership and also lack of management oversight among other issues. The stakeholders have to move in one direction and must be involved in all the major steps of the way. For example, BAE was not aware of the demonstration for media of the new system otherwise they would have been prepared. The management on their part were at fault; they did not know what was happening on the ground or else they would not have invited the media for a demonstration. Furthermore, the chief airport engineer, Walter Singer died in 1992 before completion of the project.

In conclusion, it is evident that for a project to be successfully, all its components have to be in harmony. There has to be ample time for the project as well as proper planning before anything is implemented. A detailed evaluation of the project should be done before committing to anything or promising that stakeholders involved. The waterfall development methodology should have been implemented in such a project so as to guarantee its success which has five phases: requirement phase where all the objectives are stated, designing of the project, implementation of the already designed project, verifying the project meets the customers needs and maintenance of the project. Such a methodology would have ensured the success of the Denver Baggage system.

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