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Challenging winter weather sparks innovation

Article published
8.6.2019 at 09:00
The weather is unpredictable and can sometimes make life rather difficult. But, at Finavia, anyone can develop their own work, so staff came up with a creative idea to change runway lights smoothly – come snow, rain or shine.

Finavia's responsibility is the sum of many tiny details, all of which would not be possible without skilled and motivated employees that enjoy opportunities for continued growth. The Sum of Good Things article series tells stories of the different aspects of Finavia’s responsible work. This story concentrates on the ideas of a good working environment and developing one’s own work.

“It’s always windy at the airport” is a truism to anyone working at one. Especially in Finland, winds can become strong and cold in the winter, and it can become uncomfortable to take off one’s gloves, even though the work sometimes requires it.

“On runways, lights are embedded in the ground. A bulb cannot be changed with gloves on, as its parts are so small. Some years ago, our team’s electricians Jari Kantola and Tapio Salminen came up with the idea of an opening underneath a service car, and a lift with which they can descend directly on runway lights. In the shelter of the lift and the car, an electrician can change lights without getting their hands cold, says Harri Rytkönen, Manager of Apron Electricity at Helsinki Airport.

“Great innovations at the airport have developed from practical needs, as in this case. The lift in the service car improves the process of changing lights, especially in the winter, while at the same time allowing for better working conditions,” says Rytkönen.

This is how the innovation works

Marko Kimmo, supervisor of the team responsible for the runway light system, explains how the ingenious innovation works. “There is an opening at the back of the car, and a car-wide lift with 30-centimetre high walls. The lift descends to the ground, where the electrician can go and change the light from an opening in the lift’s underside. There are cameras at the back of the car and above the opening that help to park the car right above the light.”

These cars and equipment can’t be bought commercially, so the cars are customised according to Finavia and its maintenance teams’ needs.

“Our work is basically invisible to customers. However, the maintenance, enables timely flight departures and arrivals, as there are no sudden breaks in runway use, and bulbs can be changed even quicker because of the opening in the car, and so a runway can be back in use sooner,” says Kimmo.

Employee innovation is supported

The innovation may have already been in use for many years, but similar development ideas are collected continuously. “For us at Finavia, it is extremely important that anyone can develop their own work. We want people to be open about their ideas and to take training and education opportunities. Finavia staff can try diverse jobs through job circulation, and we provide opportunities for people to change to a new position within the company,” says Finavia’s HR director Kaarina Soikkanen.

The initiatives can also be rewarded based on how much the initiative saves time and money, aids customer benefit, how wide the influence is, and various other measurements.  The inventors of the service car lift were rewarded for their valuable contribution.

“We have an electronic channel for sharing initiatives. Our experts award points based on their relative importance, after which the management team considers their viability. This is how both small and big solutions to our everyday life are found,” concludes Soikkanen.

Read more on runway lighting repairman's work

Read more on how user centered design is used at Helsinki Airport

Sum of good things -boilerplate
People & Aviation Development