Frankfurt Airport: accommodating growth by joint action with suppliers

posted on 27th June 2018

Thomas Steckel (TS), Senior Vice President Central Purchasing and Construction Contracts for Frankfurt Airport has a very large brief. In essence, he is in charge of procurement of all commodities, including airfield equipment, services like security and cleaning, IT, office supplies, marketing as well as construction. Airside International (AI) puts its questions to him

AI           Now that Frankfurt Airport is achieving significant year-on-year growth, which construction projects are aimed at managing this growth?

TS           The good news is that so far in 2011 Frankfurt Airport has achieved the best two quarters in its history: 26.5 million passengers equate to a growth rate of 8%. These figures represent the absolute maximum capacity of the airport within the existing airport’s infrastructure, facilities and capabilities. Additional capacity can only result from our expansion programme. The key construction projects are: the 4th runway (operative as of October 2011); the new pier “A-Plus” (which will be completed Spring 2012); as well as Terminal 3. The detailed construction planning is in process and we will be ready by the end of 2016. The goal is to achieve a passenger figure of 80 million annually.

AI           When you have procured construction contracts, how important have environmental imperatives been? Where does the responsible removal/re-use of waste, elimination of noise and the accommodation of habitats come into the procurement process?

TS           The annual cost totals around €1 billion. Half of that are construction contracts. Besides competitive prices and quality, sustainability issues become more and more important. Let me give you just one example: our new Fraport headquarters, which is currently under construction, is recognised as a “green building”. With its new office structure and facility management system which was included during the design phase, the building will set new environmental and social standards. Only suppliers that are able to manage and support these goals are contracted by Fraport.

AI           Given the huge amount of development at Frankfurt, where have you taken the opportunity to procure environmentally aware airfield equipment, such as intelligent airfield ground lighting, the more responsible elimination of waste/storm water, and battery charging areas for electric vehicles?

TS           Clearly, our continuous airport development leads to greater opportunities for the implementation of new ideas. Finally the suppliers, are the experts. We challenge them to develop and build competent products. This is how, the airfield lightning, mentioned in the question, has come into operation – other products still require further development. Let´s say it´s a question of we demand, they supply – a joint action.

AI           Have recent severe winters encouraged you to rethink your investment plans in runway

snow removal, runway de-icing and aircraft de-icing equipment?

TS           Although the last two seasons were severe, the Frankfurt winter operation performed quite well. Luckily, we developed a new concept: we had a closer look to the supply chain, contracted new equipment and material.  We further improved logistics and handling of required materials. With the necessary additional equipment and material, this concept will be transferred to the 4th runway, too

AI           Are you investing in glycol recovery equipment too?

TS           A project team is working on this specific topic as we speak.

AI           Are you procuring equipment for more future orientated generation of energy as well?

TS           Yes. However, it has to comply with the general sustainability concept of the airport.

AI           Are you seeking to procure more electrically powered vehicles or is there a limit to how far electric vehicles can accommodate your operations?

TS           As mentioned before, currently not all solutions offered support our requirements. But huge developments are continuously being made. We expect to procure many more electrically powered vehicles in the future. This technology has high potential and seems to be the optimal solution as the transportation requirements of airports focus on the services within the airfield area itself.

AI           When procuring security services and equipment, what are your guiding principles? Where does cost come into the equation and how far is it about future safety the airport?

TS           It´s a pretty easy principle: Security and safety first! How to ensure this principle is laid down and specified in our blue books. If all suppliers’ products and services meet with our specifications the lowest price tag gets the contract.

AI           Is investment in ground support equipment on the ramp associated with a rolling investment programme or do you buy ad-hoc too? What would prompt ad hoc purchasing? Do you have a standard policy in relation to the retirement of ageing equipment?

TS           The procurement of ground handling equipment is generally based on a long-term investment plan. It indicates which pieces of equipment need to be replaced (standard policy!) as well as new equipment (eg for operating the additional 4th runway). This plan gets transferred to our purchasing plan, takes into our consideration our core suppliers, new (global) players, life cycle costs and (increasingly) the integration of sustainability issues. The exception is for equipment needed in special circumstances. An example, the nice but unexpected growth within the first half 2011 which led to a non-scheduled demand for additional ground support equipment. In exceptional cases like this we´re flexible enough to support the operational businesses immediately and invest

ad hoc.