Security and infrastructure upgrades at airports nationwide have boosted business for Jervis B. Webb Co,'s airport systems group and poised the segment to become Webb’s largest business.
“It’s been a very good year, and this has been a great diversification we’ve taken on,” said Kenneth Hamel, vice president of airport systems.
Farmington Hills-based Webb has picked up $55 million in new airport contracts this year. The bulk of those contracts
include installing new conveyors for the baggage-handling and explosive-detection systems at airports such as T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I.; Orlando International Airport; and Chicago Midway Airport.
With Webb projecting $250 million in revenue this year, airport systems are tied with automotive conveyors as the company’s largest sector. Hamel said airport systems business could surpass automotive business this year.
“It’s been the single biggest marketplace that we’ve been able to diversify,” Hamel said.
While Webb has made and installed airport baggage conveyors since 1990, Hamel said the airport business started to pick
up just before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. That’s when air traffic was reaching its peak, and many of the nation’s airports began installing new conveyor systems to handle more baggage, Hamel said.
Traffic volume dropped following Sept. 11, but Congress soon passed legislation requiring all checked airline baggage to be screened for explosives. Hamel said that legislation meant most airports needed to upgrade their baggage-handling
systems to incorporate explosive detection systems and be able to efficiently transport checked luggage to its
Many airports also are ordering new systems as they build new terminals to accommodate recovering traffic volumes, he
Those changes have created an opportunity for conveyor manufacturers to grow by implementing those systems, said
Tom Carbott, vice president of sales for Material Handling Industry of America, a Charlotte, N.C.-based trade association.
“I think that there is a tremendous need for airports to upgrade their infrastructure in regards to handling,” Carbott said.
“I think it’s an ongoing thing,” that he expects will continue over the next five years.
Alpharetta, Ga.-based Siemens Energy & Automation Inc. has secured at least $62.8 million in contracts for airport
baggage handling systems since late April, and the business is growing, Press Officer Michael Krampe said.
“There’s a tremendous need for infrastructural improvement within the airport community,” Krampe said.
St. Louis-based FKI Logistex North America picked up $30 million in new airport contracts during the first quarter of
this year, and expects to acquire new business throughout this year and beyond, said Wes Goode, vice president of
“(There are) a lot of other airports that haven’t been touched yet, and I think they’re just getting in line,” Goode said.
While most of Webb’s airport systems growth has been domestic, the company is looking to expand its international
business, Hamel said.
“This will slow down in the U.S. at some point … and we have a lot of expertise we can take overseas,” Hamel said.
The company secured a contract with Iraq’s Erbil International Airport earlier this year. As Webb expands into
international markets, the company plans to focus on the Middle East, as well as India and China - countries where
Webb has existing joint ventures.
“They want Western technology, but a local presence,” Hamel said about demand for airport systems in those regions.