Dubai Airport: Unitechnik implements new software for flight kitchen

Seamless changeover without downtime thanks to digital twin

Around 225,000 meals a day: At Dubai International Airport, one of the largest airports in the world, the UniWare warehouse management system has been in use for 16 years. The software from Unitechnik Systems GmbH in Wiehl coordinates the material flow within the flight kitchen - from the returned carts of the landed aircraft to just-in-time provision for all departing flights. Updating the software to the latest version of UniWare means completely reprogramming the older part of the system. This open-heart surgery is carried out without downtime thanks to the digital twin.

With more than 88 million passengers in 2023, Dubai International Airport is one of the largest airports in the world. Providing all these travelers with meals on their sometimes long flights requires efficient logistics. This is managed by UniWare at Dubai Airport. Michael Huhn, Sales Manager at Unitechnik, knows that the importance of catering on every flight should not be underestimated: "An aircraft will take off even if individual passengers or pieces of luggage are missing, but it will never take off if the food is not on board." Unitechnik's WMS was also used when the galley was expanded in 2018 with a new building and its capacity more than doubled. Now the operator wants to upgrade the system to the latest version in one go.

Reliable catering thanks to UniWare
Thanks in part to the use of UniWare, the flight kitchen is able to provide around 225,000 meals a day. The backbone of the system is an electric monorail system. It transports the slim roller containers (carts) through the widely ramified system - from one station to the next. In total, a 2.5-kilometer-long rail network hangs below the ceiling. The carts are emptied, washed, filled with new food and made ready in good time - individually for each flight. Crockery and cutlery for Business and First Class passengers are stored and provided in an automated small parts warehouse. The kitchens are supplied with ready meals and baked goods from the in-house bakery by driverless transport systems. All reliably coordinated by UniWare.

Digital simulation enables update without downtime
As the airport is in continuous operation except for short rest periods at night, the software upgrade must be implemented without any extended downtime of the flight kitchen. "We have a time window of five hours for the final software changeover. This also includes updating all end devices. After that, operations must run smoothly again," says Michael Huhn, explaining the parameters. To meet this time frame, Unitechnik uses a digital twin. This digitally replicates the entire system. This allows all functions to be thoroughly tested. The entire operating sequence can be run through until there are no more errors. Only then is it implemented in the real flight kitchen.


The white paper from Unitechnik shows where digital twins also offer added value in intralogistics: