Feature: Trolleys

BY JULIE BAXTER

New demands and innovative ideas mean designers are taking a closer look at trolleys, the onboard workhorse whose role is changing fast, says Julie Baxter

If you think some things never change and that the onboard trolley is beyond reinvention, you probably didn’t get a sneak preview of the new kid on the block which made its debut, behind closed doors, at WTCE in Hamburg this year.

Two years in the making, the Highliner trolley is the product of an Italian manufacturer and a Swiss research and development company and the brainchild of Maria Iacobucci, daughter of the founder of trolley business Iacobucci and with 25 years experience gained within the family company.

It’s been a challenging project with numerous time-consuming certificates needed for every new modification but the goal was clear says Maria Iacobucci: “To create a completely new style and approach to trolley manufacture which meets all airline weight requirements, can be customised to need and is a pleasure for the crew to use.”

The resulting lightweight, contemporary design is already in prototype and being trialled by a Middle East carrier. It will be available to buy from the end of the year. It has clean lines, rounded corners, neat ergonomic handles and reshaped pedals. It can be finished in black and silver powder painted aluminium or a carbon fibre composite which can cut weights to 9.8kg for a half size trolley, 15.9 for the full size.

Practical style

It takes all the Atlas drawers or ACE configurations and is designed with customisation very much in mind. Airlines can put advertising on the sides or dictate a tailor-made shaping for the moulded top, depending on the intended use. There is also the option of a pull-out table to add work space.

Key among the innovations are the wheels, which are a new patented castor different from the traditional wheel castor. Tracking technology is built in and tracks both location, maintenance needs and temperatures. It has been specifically designed with fewer parts to improve maintenance says Maria.

She is launching in a competitive market at a time when the role of the trolley is changing to embrace great retail opportunities as well as efficient catering service and she is not alone in trying to forge stylish and practical innovations.

Engineerethics showcased its LED drawer lighting for trolleys and the option to add video ad panels to the trolley. Roberto Cerrone, ceo, says: “It is time to bring the trolley to life and give it new energy. Our new LED light-emitting drawers are the easiest way to do just that. They are an accessory we conceived to be used on our retail trolley but it could also be used by airlines to turn a simple trolley into a small illuminated display area on longer flights, positioned by the galley or door – imagine the beautiful vestibule of a 787 Dreamliner with a lit trolley rather than a poor cart with just bottles and snacks!”

The lighting is part of a collaboration with Egret Aviation which began at the end of 2015. Together the two companies are promoting tailor-made solutions including the Café Roulant, a trolley with an inbuilt patented lift system to allow a coffee machine to be stowed within, then vertically lifted for service.

Intelligent trolleys

The collaboration also spawned the Duty Pad designed to give the “stupid” trolley new meaning by incorporating a tablet, PED or PED compatible device so it works as a rolling monitor, communicating sales information, success and stock requirements as it goes. “This was very well received during WTCE,” says Cerrone.

The company’s Selling Trolley has been developed primarily for rail operators. With Atlas full size trolley capacity, developments include new ergonomic positioning and shaping for the handles; big wheels to better negotiate gangways; dead man brakes; transversal transparent drawers with LED strips to improve visibility of the products on sale; and bumpers at three levels to protect the cabin furnishings. A side door and the addition of a 13” tablet for visual communications or passenger interaction has also been added.

The company’s Safe Trolley now includes reinforced bi-fold trolley doors with an upper central lock secured with a PIN code for security.

US collaboration

Collaboration is the name of the game for Nordyn too which recently forged a new partnership with RMT Global Partners to sell its products to US based airlines. Richard Tuttle, ceo for RMT Global Partners, says: “This new partnership is very exciting and will enable us to offer our customers an entirely new line of quality products. ”

Nordyn’s Quantum Flex trolleys differentiates themselves through the use of mostly composite materials. This is easier to maintain than all-aluminum trolleys, lowering overall maintenance costs, and is available in full and half sizes with multiple configurations. Combined with Norduyn’s lighter Atlas standard drawers it aims to ensure lower airline fuel costs per flight, less down time due to maintenance, and happier flight crews with its ease of use. As Tuttle, likes to say: “It is a win-win-win for the customer.”

Szic also puts its focus on weight with its lightweight full-size trolley selling well in the Middle East and Russia. Szic spokesperson Li Li says: “Airlines just want improved efficiency and we believe with our cart they can save four kilos on every full-size trolley and that is well worth having.”

Addressing waste

David Boreel, sales director EMEA at Zodiac, agrees innovation is important and flags up the company’s Hybrite S line launched 18 months ago in full and half sizes as a fast moving service trolley complete with full- or half-size meal, bar, waste and folding options to maximise its usefulness, and a choice of finishes which are fully customisable.

Waste is a big issue for airlines and Boreel says: “No one wants to talk about it but everyone has to deal with it so we have developed a universal waste cart, a low-tech solution that can be implemented overnight. We have created a bin that allows crews to easily sort the waste as they go – by glass, paper, liquid or food waste. Doing this makes waste so much easier to process, it separates the wet and reduces final volume by 40%. Crews, caterers and airlines all love this. It is so simple. And if you run out of space you can use a non-waste cart as a bin too, it is very efficient and we expect big take-up by airlines in the coming year.”

Boreel also believes trolley companies can add value to the traditional trolley product by evolving them to suit specific needs. Zodiac’s Cool Trolley, for example, is now flying in full and half sizes.
Initially developed as a niche product for narrowbody jets, it has seen growing demand from airlines which want to carry return catering onboard outbound flights. It uses dry ice in a highly insulated box to ensure the trolley departs at three degrees and keeps its contents chilled for over 14 hours. This speeds up the turnaround process and cuts costs.

For low cost carriers where all the focus is on buy-on-board and ancilliary revenue, the challenge of keeping high-value stock secure is being addressed through the company’s Smart Lock system. The system uses touch key technology for an access control system which monitors who opens the trolley and when, and can provide downloadable data to the airline/supplier so they see exactly what’s sold. The system cuts paperwork, speeds up crew handover and improves security.

Making space

The Onboard Logistics team has been looking at waste too and improving space efficiency. Nicky Beades, managing director, says: “These days trolleys are all about maximising the space onboard for auxilliary revenue opportunities. Crews are short of space and yet they are often flying with full sized waste carts they don’t really need. We have developed a range of nesting plastic draws which cut weight and add versatility. The trolley is loaded with seven full standard drawers, once these are emptied post-service the draws can be stacked together and the rest of the trolley can be used for waste bags. 21 empty Flex-e-Drawers can be stored in one trolley, freeing up other trolleys for other use.”

The company’s Flex-e-bag insert can then be used to convert a food trolley into a waste cart. It has been popular for many years but the stacking drawer innovation takes waste options a step further. Beades adds: “Everyone who sees it simply says: ‘Why on earth didn’t we think of this before?!’”

Looking good

Direct Air Flow has put its focus on shorter lead times and good-quality equipment and galley inserts manufactured through Korita Aviation in Suzhou, China. Its Aluflite range of lightweight galley equipment provides a modern, innovative design which is light, stable and durable. Marketing manager, Samantha Collas, says: “Our innovative design offers beneficial weight savings at realistic prices.”

The range includes half-size and full-size meal and waste trolleys as well as containers. Standard trolley features include a dry ice drawer, new push-to-close locking system and more.
Korita Aviation is an expert in sublimation, a process to apply high resolution imagery to external panels with the same resistance to washing cycles as a standard colour finish. This is likely to be increasingly important as the trolley’s retail role evolves.

Gemma Fleuren, head of category management at gategroup, predicts fully-branded trolleys will increasingly compete with airport Duty Free shops. “The trolley is becoming a shop onboard. While the cokes and waters are the cash cows of the business the trolley also now has to have an interesting and exciting retail offer, whether it is Pandora or Victoria Secrets ranges or innovative bespoke brands. Airlines have to compete not only on price or range but by offering differentiated, exclusive products and services onboard that customers won’t see elsewhere.”

Practical progress

Innovation is ongoing among those making trolley logistics more efficient too. Diskomat’s robust lifting pillar, for example, adjusts the height of the trolley so loading and unloading can be done at a convenient working height. This improves efficiency and productivity of packing, tray setting and ware washing.

Likewise the Wexiödisk WD-18CW trolley washer has been developed to wash and dry trolleys quickly and efficiently by using centrifugal force. It washes and dries 30–40 cycles per hour and the shortest cycle is only 75 seconds, with a fresh water consumption of only six litres per cycle also cutting costs.
It can wash several trolleys of up to 2,020mm height at a time and produces no hot air discharge. The unit has a footprint of just 4.5m2 and can have either one door or a pass through-option where space allows.

Ensuring the trolleys get onboard efficiently, Mallaghan brought its state-of-the-art Lifting Deck Catering vehicle to WTCE this year, specially designed to create an internal double-deck space with numerous benefits and cost efficiencies. The truck lessens the need for journeys between aircraft and kitchen and significantly lowers transportation costs whilst reducing carbon emissions too. Through the use of clever technology, the internal double tiered space creates a 74% increase in load capacity adding sustainablity into to the trolley mix too.