12 Cool Facts About KLM Cargo’s Brand New Sorter!

KLM Cargo will launch a new, super-high-tech sorting system at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in August. This innovative system will enable KLM Cargo to transport more parcels than ever before. Check out the facts & figures!

1. It can handle 2,000 parcels per hour.

2,000 parcels per hour. That’s 33 parcels per minute! Or 1 parcel every 2 seconds! And the system, built in cooperation with Lödige Industries and Vanderlande, is not only fast, but also super-smart. The sorter is almost fully automatic and “close to error-free,” according to KLM CEO Pieter Elbers.

KLM cargo parcels

2. 3 different types of parcels: post, express and pharmaceutical consignments.

Would you like to send vintage KLM scale models to a buyer in America by post or express (by courier)? Our new system ensures that AviationAddict77 in America gets your models pronto. The market for the above products is growing fast, with major players like AliExpress, eBay and Amazon making extensive use of airfreight. The growth of e-commerce has also sharpened same-day delivery demands, which means smooth handling is essential. Our new sorter ensures that we can handle these post and express parcels at much lower costs!

Demand for pharmaceutical transport is also growing fast. Our new sorter also handles so-called “active containers”, which sometimes contain dry ice. If this has to be replenished, the sorter automatically delivers the container to the service point, saving staff a lot of time an effort. We’ve also doubled the storage space for these containers, which means we can handle more.

3. The system can handle parcels for 70 destinations simultaneously.

Parcels are sorted according to their destination. This means that all packages bound for London, for instance, automatically end up in the cart train bound for the flight to London Heathrow. As soon as the train is fully loaded, it automatically makes its way to the aircraft. The fact that the sorter transports cargo parcels automatically is unique in the world. The system can do this for 70 destinations at the same time!

klm cargo

4. The maximum parcel weight is 32 kilos.

So, if you really want to get your parcel quickly, don’t order 33 kilos’ worth of shoes online! All freight weighing more than 32 kilos is handled manually. There’s also more and more room for cargo transport aboard passenger flights. The demand for airfreight aboard such flights is growing faster than the demand for full-freighter services. Whereas the old Boeing 747-400 can carry 12 tonnes of freight, the new Boeing 777 can carry 20 to 40 tonnes of freight. That’s a lot of shoes! *insert happy sigh*

5. 60 cameras keep track of all the processes

The new sorter features cutting-edge technology. Every parcel and mailbag is scanned by barcode scanners, which register its size, shape, colour, weight and other information. The codes on the package are scanned to check its destination. A system of conveyors, elevators and slides ensures that each parcel gets to the correct cart train. All these processes are being watched by around 50 cameras, to make sure everything is going smoothly.

6. The entire system consists of around 400 sub-systems.

The system is almost fully automatic and has about 400 machines. It also consists of 4,000-plus so-called anchors (that “kick” the parcel in the right direction), 108 slides, 54 workstations and 200 storage positions! The system handles a lot of the heaviest work, cooperating with its human colleagues to ensure safe and efficient handling. However, the cargo train carrying active containers for pharmaceuticals is still driven by a member of staff, because various special procedures have to be carried out. The system is also a lot safer now, because fewer carriage movements are required than before.

7. The sorting system cost EUR 12 million.

Airfreight is a very important part of the KLM network. No fewer than 195 destinations in the KLM network would be unviable without AFKL Cargo. That is why it is so important to keep investing in this business, “taking KLM back into the lead,” as KLM’s President Pieter Elbers put it. This new, super-fast and hyper-efficient sorting system ensures that Air France-KLM Cargo is fully prepared for the future!

8. The system took 9 months to build.

It was no easy task. Construction began in August 2016 and the system will be officially launched in August 2017. It was presented to the media on 13 July 2017, which was quite an event, with Pieter Elbers placing the first parcel on the belt under the watchful eye of Marcel de Nooijer (VP of Air France-KLM Cargo), Kajsa Ollongren (Alderman & Deputy Mayor of Amsterdam) and Bertholt Leefting (Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs).

klm cargo event

9. The system occupies two-thirds of Cargo Warehouse 1, measuring 5,000 m²!

The sorting system is located in Cargo Warehouse 1 on the Handelskade at Schiphol-Centrum. This warehouse had to be partly demolished to make room for the new A Pier at Schiphol Airport. This meant we needed to do more in less space, which is exactly what the new sorting system does.

10. 928 kilotons of cargo per year. That’s 928.000.000 kilos!

This is the total amount of cargo handled by the KLM Group and partners, which also includes Delta. Looking only at KLM, Air France and Martinair, the total weight is “just” 636 kilotons. Which obviously includes quite a lot of my shoes…

11. The world’s 5th-largest airfreight carrier.

Together, Air France and KLM are the fifth-largest airfreight carrier in the world. Our cargo division earned EUR 1.1 billion in revenues last year, which is phenomenal considering that air transport contributes EUR 27 billion to the gross national product of the Netherlands!

12. Schiphol is Europe’s 3rd-largest airfreight hub.

And let’s not forget KLM’s home base, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, which is Europe’s third-largest airfreight hub, after Frankfurt and Paris. A great achievement for such a small country!

Check out this cool video about the new sorter!

All photos: Paul Ridderhof