UK Parking Manager Sees Success with Chipcoin
Much can be learned by observing the successes of parking industry colleagues from around the world. Many of the top parking operations pioneering major technology changes are doing so on an international platform.
The UK-based Manchester Airport Group (M.A.G) boasts one of the leading airport operations in the industry. It owns and operates four airports, including Manchester Airport, the third largest in the UK.
The company’s airport parking facilities make up roughly $125 million in income every year. With efficient parking operations to rival the best systems in the U.S., M.A.G is a forward-thinking company that steers its budget on parking operations toward efficiency and customization.
What was M.A.G’s main objective when you first sought a PARCS provider? Did you have any requirements and expectations for how to improve parking operations?
NOLAN HOUGH: In addition to selecting a state-of-the-art vehicle management system, our key objective was to select a strategic development partner that could support our commercial and marketing strategies. M.A.G is constantly looking to technology and innovation to streamline processes, gain better data, improve our customer journey, better manage capacity and drive operational efficiencies.
What were some of your custom requirements in features when you sent out for initial bidding?
NH: M.A.G had a goal to make the overall customer journey easier. For online booking, we opted for the use of virtual media allowing automated access by license plate recognition (LPR). With this application, the customer books their parking in advance and enters their license plate number. On the day of arrival at the parking facility, they approach the barrier and the system recognizes the registered license plate number and grants them access to the parking facility. This is clearly a fantastic and extremely intuitive customer experience. For customers not wishing to pre-book, we use a “chipcoin” system. Instead of the traditional paper ticket being issued at the entry barrier, the customer receives a chipcoin. This was not in our original specification; however, the benefits were quickly realized. Field devices require fewer moving parts versus paper ticket equivalents, which result in lower maintenance costs. Furthermore, because chipcoins are recycled and used multiple times, there are significant operating cost savings to be had.
Unlike many parking operations, you chose to utilize chipcoin as your ticketing media system, rather than the widely used magnetic stripe or barcode technology. What do you see as the differences between utilizing chipcoin technology compared to a paper ticket?
NH: For M.A.G, the key differentiators between a paper ticket and chipcoin system included the following:
Significant reduction in cost of consumables (tickets are seen as consumables, whereas a chipcoin is seen as an asset).
Significant reduction in the number of moving parts in the field devices required to process a chipcoin, as such benefits are realized from both a life expectancy perspective and frequency of planned preventive maintenance activities.
Speed at which the field devices process a chipcoin is faster.
Value-added functionalities associated with a chipcoin (e.g., ability to validate and update through use of hand-held terminal).
How well received was the chipcoin system at the airport? How easily did patrons adjust to chipcoin and what was the overall feedback?
NH: Chipcoin was received extremely well. This was the first chipcoin installation at a UK airport. The switch was near seamless, and customers found it really intuitive.
What goals lie in the future for M.A.G’s airport parking operations? Are upcoming projects planned?
NH: M.A.G will continue to develop and install solutions for our customers. Upcoming projects include “bay monitoring” in all terminal garages (total 6,000 spaces), guiding customers to available spaces, and a taxi management system in all three terminals. Pipeline projects include “wave and pay” contactless payment solutions and nested carparks.
Is there any advice that you would offer for other airport facilities to consider when planning for parking operations?
NH: Ensure that you choose a strategic technology provider. Every airport is unique and will require a custom-made configuration and deployment of technologies. A “one size fits all” approach is sub-optimal and costly, and will never deliver exceptional customer service.
Nolan Hough, Commercial Director for Car Parks and Ancillaries at M.A.G, is responsible for commercial car parking, private hiring, car rental and ancillary revenue streams across all four of its airport operations. During his five years at M.A.G, Hough has played a key role in helping the company innovate, build major capital programs across M.A.G airports, and bring products to market at price points that would maximize market and modal share, driving incremental yield.
Scheidt & Bachmann offers the chipcoin technology, which consists of sturdy plastic coins with an embedded chip and aerial used as an “intelligent” ticket media. The system shares the same advantages as other ticketing media, such as excellent offline capabilities, comprehensive transactional data storage on the chip, and the ability to recode the chip to reflect a change in ticket status (e.g., after a validation or payment).
Ensure that you choose a strategic technology provider. Every airport is unique and will require a custom-made configuration and deployment of technology.