Case Study: Air Catering

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A construction contractor

End user

A leading Australian airline


An iconic Australian airline company commissioned a Queensland construction firm to build a new air catering facility as part of its multi million-dollar airport upgrade. This multifaceted project was a complex process, so the construction firm commissioned Industrial Conveying (Aust) Pty Ltd (ICA) to design and manufacture some of the specialised components that facilitate the handling of food and beverage carts as they pass through the facility.

What is it?

ICA custom designed and manufactured a system that automates the handling of food and beverage carts in between flights.

How does it work?

The facility tracks, receives, unloads waste, washes, loads and redeploys airline catering carts according to the requirements of each carrier, aircraft type and catering requirement. ICA’s custom-designed equipment accommodates the different physical dimensions, wheel alignment and centre of gravity for each cart.

The different systems that integrate to form the whole turnkey solution are:


Dirty meal carts are received from the aircraft and transported to the facility. A moving floor principle enables the transfers and movement of carts. A high degree of system engineering combined with specialised air controls ensures up to 160 carts per hour can be processed safely. AGVs are used throughout the facility to transport carts to and from the multiple loading positions.


Cart data is recorded and tracked via scanners and RFID tags prior to entering the storage area. This data is matched with the allocation of required carts for different airlines.


  • Conveying of all waste from international and domestic aircrafts.
  • Sterilisation and separation of all international arriving food waste to satisfy AQIS regulation.
  • Under floor waste processing system to improve hygiene and reduce landfill.


Components of the carts are automatically washed and sorted.

Clean Utensil Conveying (CUC) system:

Positioned overhead, the CUC system transports washed components to be reassembled and stored.

  • Utensils are transferred from the wash area to the cart loading area.

Clean Cart Storage (CCS) system:

Fully automated, the CCS system operates on a FIFO (first in-first out) principle and holds multiple cart types for different carriers.

  • Carts are transferred from the washing station via sorting conveyors to the lane storage system.

Loading and dispatch:

  • Specialised cart lifters present carts at the optimum position for loading the multiple shelves in the cart.
  • An electronic operating system selects a batch of carts from the required holding lanes and releases the correct carts to the loading areas for make up prior to being dispatched to the aircraft pickup point. 


ICA designed, manufactured and installed an innovative turnkey system for the airline company that fused state of the art technology with sound engineering to achieve world’s best practice results.

Located in the main airport precinct, the catering facility operates to the highest efficiency standards enabling a 25% increase in production capacity compared to the previous system. It has the capacity to handle 160 carts per hour (1200 per day), resulting in higher throughput and reduced processing time.

With less reliance on human intervention OH&S issues have decreased and staff are able to be redeployed into areas of the business that lead to higher operational efficiency.

The speedy processing and handling times allow meals to be prepared closer to departure times, resulting in fresher food for consumers and higher levels of customer satisfaction.

For other airports looking to adopt a similar system, the air catering equipment can be supplied either as a complete turnkey system or as modular components that can be integrated to meet the particular requirements of each facility.


The construction firm was awarded two HIA Building Awards for this facility: industrial building over $5million and industrial building over $20million (2014).

ICA congratulates them for this achievement and is pleased to have played such an integral role in bringing the project to fruition.