Users Report Vol. 120
Meiwa Sky Support Co., Ltd.

Supporting Safe Flight of ANA etc. Through Ground Handling Service in Haneda Airport
Built Up DS for Educational Training Using UC-win/Road, Winning Grand Prix in the 16th 3DVR Contest

Meiwa Sky Support Co., Ltd.
Location: Ota-ku, Tokyo
Services: freight operation of domestic air cargo and mails, loading/unloading assistance, and other related services in Haneda Airport

Mr. Ryuji Torigoe, President,
Meiwa Sky Support Co., Ltd.

"(Against the social trend that declining birthrate and aging population cause decrease in workforce,) it seems mechanization and systematization have made little progress (in the work in) Haneda Airport. I think we need to rely on human operation for the time being".

Mr. Ryuji Torigoe, President of Meiwa Sky Support Co., Ltd. points out that there is still a strong demand for such services considering the circumstances surrounding the company. In addition, though various companies are trying to secure human resources for the year of 2020 when Tokyo Olympics will be held, it seems that employment is not realized in a desirable form. According to Mr. Torigoe, in order to deal with the increasing business volume, the company has been improving the organizational system based on the concept of relying on elderly or foreign workers' help as a solution at hand.

Our user to pick up in this issue is Meiwa Sky Support Co., Ltd., which performs freight operation of domestic air cargo for airline companies including All Nippon Airways (ANA) and mails and other related services based in Haneda Airport, Tokyo. The company has been increasing new employees almost every month with a steady need as its backdrop. For educating them, the company paid attention to the possibility of utilizing virtual reality (VR) before other companies in the industry related to ground handling in airports to support air transport. In the autumn of 2016, the company started to construct a tool for educational support using "UC-win/Road", FORUM8's three-dimensional (3D) real time VR. A VR-based simulator was developed before the end of February 2017, which has been operated since April for the educational and training process of new employees.

Its outcome, on the other hand, was applied to "the 16th 3DVR Simulation Contest on Cloud" (in the 11th FORUM8 Design Festival 2017-3Day+Eve), and won Grand Prix (the highest award) after the final judgment held in November 15.

Expanding Ground Handling Business in Haneda
over a Half Century

Meiwa Sky Support Co., Ltd. was founded in November 1968 as Meiwa Kogyo co., Ltd to operate ground handling business in Haneda Airport. Later, it developed its services gradually through events like the opening of Narita Airport in 1978 and the transference of international air routes associated with it, completion of the second stage construction for the Haneda Airport offshore development project in 1993 etc. Starting with services for ANA's domestic flights in 2004, Meiwa Sky Support has been taking charge of freight operation of air cargo and loading/unloading assistance for airplanes, including ANA cargo liner, AIRDO since 2013, and StarFlyer (SFJ) since 2015. Moreover, it was entrusted with connecting L-2PBB (passenger boarding bridge) to airplane for ANA domestic airline in 2013, and also with "mail warehouse outside service" for ANA in 2014. For SFJ, Meiwa Sky Support was further entrusted with vehicle control service and connecting/disconnecting PBB and airplane in 2015; and with high lift loader and cargo loading service, aircraft parking service, towing assistance, ground power supply, and air heating and cooling service since 2016. In the meantime, the company changed its name to the current name at the time of reaching the 40th anniversary. It will reach the 50th anniversary in November 2018.

Mr. Hirofumi Nitta, Manager of Safety and Quality Section, Safety and Quality Management Department Mr. Nobuyuki Endo, Assistant General Manager of Cargo and Mail Department and Leader of Administration Section Mr. Ryusuke Matsuda, Leader of Safety and Quality Section, Safety and Quality Management Department

Currently, the company is engaged in services including freight operation of air cargo for all flights of ANA that nearly amounts to 400, AIRDO, and SFJ; and handling and freight service of mails as its main service mainly in the 2nd Terminal of Haneda Airport. Based in its head office and Airport Office (both of which are in Ota-ku, Tokyo), about 230 employees (as of Nov. 2017) are working 24 hours 365 days on shifts. Among them, Airport Office accommodates Cargo and Mail Department that provides work-site operation, and Safety and Quality Management Department that supports its safety and management. The head office accommodates General Affairs Department.

First, Cargo and Mail Department consists of Transportation Section 1 - 3 that take charge of transportation and loading/unloading of cargo in the airport; Postal Section in charge of transportation of domestic mails and sorting, stowing and delivering mails; and Administration Section that coordinates works of these sections and allocates activities. In particular, each of Transportation Section 1 - 3 consists of 5 groups, each of which has more than 20 members. In these groups, in order to maintain the shift-work system mentioned above, a large number of senior workers (older than 60) play an important role by demonstrating their abilities effectively. Mr. Nobuyuki Endo, Assistant General Manager of Cargo and Mail Department and Leader of Administration Section that leads fixation of work system of sections and inspection of work operation in consideration of productivity, expresses one of the recent characteristics of the Department.

In contrast, Safety and Quality Management Department takes charge of safety management for work-site operation that requires driving vehicles in the special environment as well as new employee training. For example, they perform activities to prevent accidents for their company employees using accident cases examples of other companies. They also give lectures on basic knowledge required at their occupations as a preliminary stage for new employees hired almost every month to take practical training after being positioned at Cargo and Mail Department. Mr. Ryusuke Matsuda, Leader of Safety and Quality Section, Safety and Quality Management Department who is responsible for policy development of the Department and its operation, tries to share information by holding regular meetings on safety with the staff of other companies who are involved with various services in the same Haneda Airport. Mr. Hirofumi Nitta, Manager of Safety and Quality Section of the same Department, instructs new employees on basic knowledge that is necessary in working in the airport. The areas of knowledge include those of vehicles they use and airplanes.

 Investigation for Possibility of Utilizing ICT for Efficient Cargo Transportation

A key to performing cargo transportation smoothly and precisely, and securing punctual flights of airplanes is "Controller". This transmits instructions of cargo transportation based on operation status of all departure and arrival flights of the airline companies they are entrusted with. Its services are roughly divided as follows: 1) "Departure Controller" to confirm the load instruction sheet for every departure flight, allot operators properly, and instructs transportation and loading. 2) "Arrival Controller" to instruct work operators who have finished operation on the departure flights about PBB connection of arrival flights, as well as unloading and transportation of cargo through wireless communication while monitoring the conditions of arrival flights. 3) "Check Controller" to confirm if there is any omission of instruction about placing operators or the progress of operation, and sum up work-site operation such as response to irregular events.

Controller operation for cargo transportation to support
punctual flights (within the airport office)

"There is huge amount of information (circulating) in the work in the airport. (To perform Controller tasks,) we organize information to communicate with 30 - 40 members (of work operators) at the same time using only wireless." Moreover, much part of the work still depends on analog methods such as paper-based communication, says Mr. Endo. In order to improve its efficiency, they are searching for possibility of utilizing Information and Communications Technology (ICT) such as smartphones and tablet terminals. However, since the system itself belongs to respective airline companies and because trustee companies of the services across the country are involved, Meiwa Sky Support is making research on the present situation of the concerned operation and effect of electronization. After that they would like to attempt an approach that is beneficial to all concerned people, according to Mr. Matsuda.

 Approach to Building Up DS for Training to Drive Vehicles in the Airport

Most of all employees are required to drive vehicles for their jobs. However, nearly 80 % of new employees are unexperienced drivers or "paper drivers" (licensed drivers who do not drive). Furthermore, since all the vehicles including towing tractors the company uses are left-hand drive, the first thing they do after joining the company is to get used to driving. In addition, the company has been giving high priority to hiring elderly people. They don't have any problem with driving, but seem to have trouble memorizing the routes in the airport. Then an idea has been aroused that having a driving simulator would be great, which allows them not only to get used to driving vehicles but also to learn the routes, says Mr. Torigoe, President. "(New employee training) has been offered by one-to-one guidance because it is accompanied by vehicle driving. However, it is not effective to teach driving (in such a system) before teaching actual work. If there were a simulator, one instructor would probably be able to instruct plural trainees (at the previous stage before being assigned to work-site operation sections)."

Under such an idea, while searching for a simulator that met their own needs on the Internet in summer 2016, they reached FORUM8's "UC-win/Road Drive Simulator (DS)" as well as other companies' products that provide similar technologies. After having asked various inquiries to each of them without preliminary knowledge about VR, President Torigoe and Mr. Matsuda visited FORUM8 because of our careful explanation and agreement of conditions such as the price. Experiencing different kinds of simulators on display, President Torigoe got the feeling that this would be satisfactory.

Moreover, based on the offer of the FORUM8 staff member in charge saying "We would like to cooperate with you so that we can meet your needs, though we have never treated DS for driving special vehicles in the airport." The company started to show their request around November. While taking the cost accompanying it into consideration, they worked out the details of the range of airport for VR to create, accuracy of video image, and vehicles to set, then shot video. Based on the video image, they started to create VR. By the end of Feb 2017, a simulator for educational training was developed for driving special vehicles, reflecting the particular environment of Haneda Airport and its specific traveling rules, using VR based on UC-win/Road DS. Beginning with the unveiling at the training for mid-career employees held in March, they started full-scale operating of the simulator from the instruction and training for new employees including new graduates in April.

VR simulator using UC-win/Road that allows realistic experience of
cargo transportation in the airport

The company also applied the created VR data for "the 16th 3D-VR Simulation Contest on Cloud" (sponsored by FORUM8). They won Grand Prix (the highest award) at its final judgment held on Day1 (Nov. 15) of "the 11th FORUM8 Design Festival 2017-3Days+Eve".

 Evaluation of DS and Next Target

"(Though we had thought that the VR space would be in a bit lower reality,) it was greater than we imagined, being just as actual (as the real world). So, we felt for real that this was completely usable". In President Torigoe’s opinion, using this simulator to have new employees being able to drive to some extent in advance will lead to avoidance of accidents and reduction of training time. Besides, Mr. Nitta mentions its reputation from elderly employees that it was useful in learning routes.

In the sense of reproductivity, Mr. Matsuda highly evaluated it for its correct representation of the rules specific to the airport as well as road markings, and Mr. Endo also for its representation of traveling characteristics of special vehicles. They also consider its effective application to explanation of dangerous scenes etc. Additionally, Mr. Matsuda expects it to develop to a tool that contributes to improvement in safety for both new and experienced employees, as well as for instructing new employees, by including the past accident cases, scenes where an airplane and a vehicle cross, and grading function. Based on such needs, they are willing to update the VR data continuously by adding diverse information, as President Torigoe says.

"In the future, we would like to reach the level that the VR contains simulation of operation to connect mechanical equipment to the high lift loader, as well as potentially dangerous minor incident or irregular cases in the past."

Grand Prix in the 16th 3D-VR Simulation Contest on Cloud
"Educational training using Haneda Airport VR simulator"

Click to enlarge the image.
Click to enlarge the image. Click to enlarge the image.
Click to enlarge the image.

VR data for the driving simulator aiming for training safe vehicle driving with particular vehicle traveling rules and environment inside Haneda Airport, which is different from general roads. The data represents not only the roads and facilities within the airport but also special vehicles and airplanes coming and going. It is utilized for instruction and training of dangerous places and check points in driving vehicles.

Award-giving ceremony

System outline
Allows experiencing scenario of driving safely and stopping at the given position in the particular environment of airport, where the driver confirms the destination by the number put on the bridge, or waits for an airplane to pass.

Click to enlarge the image. Click to enlarge the image.
DS was introduced to practice driving in the particular environment of the airport, where various special
vehicle travel, no signs and direction boards are installed, and its own original traffic rules are provided.
DS helps to memorize routes to destinations, or confirm the check points such as stop positions.
Click to enlarge the image. Click to enlarge the image. Click to enlarge the image.
Destination is confirmed by the number etc. put on the bridge and such. Destination is
confirmed in this way because there are many places with similar landscape in the airport
Travel safely, and stop at the destination.
Written by Takashi Ikeno
(Up&Coming '18 New Year issue)