Air France Cargo | Alstef Group

Air France Cargo increases its operational performance with Alstef Group

Alstef Group at Air France Cargo

  • Location: G1XL stattion, Roissy CDG
  • Supply: 30 freight AGVs
  • Industry: Freight
Air France Cargo AGV

An AGV system at the service of an international freight hub

At the heart of the international network of Air France Cargo, the Air France-KLM Group’s cargo business unit, is the G1XL station. This 12-hectare hub, located in the cargo area of Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, handles and transports all types of cargo. In total, nearly 600 pallets leave the station each day and more than 450 arrive before being shipped all over Europe by truck.

Inaugurated in 1976, the G1XL station was automated in 1996 with BA Systèmes | Alstef Group by acquiring a fleet of 30 AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles). Developed specifically for Air France Cargo, these mobile robots transport freight pallets up to 7 tons.

After nearly 25 years of operation, Air France Cargo has chosen to renew its confidence in Alstef Group to proceed with the global replacement of the system. “Our cooperation has extended over time, and we have carried out this AGV renovation and software migration project together, in order to improve the fluidity of the AGVs and increase our operational performance”, explains Sylvaine Marguet, Engineering Manager for Air France Cargo. This large-scale project included a complete logistics analysis of the site, the retrofit of the 30 existing AGVs, the migration of the control system and the operational deployment of the new solution.

A major renovation project

The logistical evolution within the hub and the flow increase required an in-depth global study, in order to ensure the sustainability of the AGV fleet and its adequacy with the new operating constraints.

The main challenge was to scale the installation in order to meet the expected logistics performance, with system availability as the watchword. Sylvaine Marguet, confirms: “The challenge of this installation is to operate 24 hours a day. We need to transport our pallets in the station 24 hours a day, every day, 7 days a week, in order to pre-route the pallets to our planes. Reliability is really our main focus.”

To achieve this, Alstef Group relied on actual data from the facility to perform a complete flow and rate analysis. This study enabled the design of an optimal solution in terms of traffic, infrastructure and operational organization, as well as a fleet capable of ensuring the simultaneous rates of the different flows of the hub. There are 30 AGVs linking the different areas of the site, including the freight station and its pallet preparation stations, the storage area with its 1,000 slots and the sequencing area before truck loading. The system also has an automatic battery changing area with 2 stacker cranes.

A substantial AGV and system retrofit

The project also included the retrofit of the AGVs in order to remove all hardware and software obsolescence. This technological upgrade was particularly important in the area of tracking, since the original fleet dating from 1996 was wire-guided. Today, the AGVs evolve thanks to a hybrid 360° laser guidance system on the traffic lanes, combined with contour tracking in the storage aisles. Precision and flexibility of navigation have optimized pallet transport and stabilized the average mission time.

These modifications to the software and hardware architecture also allow the robots to benefit from the functionalities of the new control system and provide the necessary scalability for operational changes in the years to come. The replacement of the supervision software also integrates the optimization of mission and stock management rules as well as the dynamic management of conflicts in order to improve the fluidity of the AGVs’ circulation, whose average daily number of missions reaches 2000.

Air France Cargo AGV Alstef Group (2)
Air France Cargo AGV Alstef Group (3)
Air France Cargo AGV Alstef Group (1)
Air France Cargo AGV Alstef Group (4)

A collaboration of more than 25 years

This vast project required that the challenges of the commissioning phase be taken into account in order to guarantee deployment without production stoppages. Thus, a progressive migration of the AGVs was carried out, followed by the complete replacement of the control system.

After a successful start-up, Alstef Group teams continued to support Air France Cargo, with the regular presence of an expert on site during one year. This was done in order to analyze and exchange on the site performances, while ensuring the reliability of the migrated system.

Air France Cargo_Alstef Group

“The particularity of our cooperation with Alstef Group is reliability. Reliability over time, since we have been working together since 1996, and we were able to count on them for our big renovation project. I particularly appreciated the competence of the staff we worked with, both on the software and the hardware side,” says Sylvaine Marguet.