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SOPHY : connected to efficiency


In times of crisis, reducing costs is a must to keep the operations of a business afloat. But airlines are challenged to examine where they can improve their operations while decreasing costs. SOPHY, Safran Cabin’s smart trolley technology, can help. SOPHY will give you control over optimizing your catering operations.

Sophy, une nouvelle application pour chariots connectés

Controlling a trolley fleet

“Catering issues are really complex,” outlines Sergio Gomez, who leads the SOPHY project.  “First of all, there is the question of timing: food and drinks must be prepared as late as possible for health and taste reasons.  The quantities must also be as close as possible to the actual number of passengers onboard. Then, all this needs to be loaded onto the planes as fast as possible, to avoid keeping them grounded. Of course, the fact that all airlines use standardized trolleys helps, but this is not sufficient to ensure absolute reliability: we are talking about several hundred flights per day here, to and from many destinations, which means thousands of trolleys! Also, the longer the flight, the more complex the needs become. In addition, almost all airlines deal with external suppliers. It makes sense as catering is not an airline’s core business, but it also adds complexity to the process, to the extent that more than often, airlines do not exactly know where all their trolleys are located and if all processes go as planned. To sum it up, catering is a crucial process, and airlines, so far, are not yet in a position to have total control over it, which can imply quality issues, and always means unnecessary costs. It is a kind of black box.”

A financially sustainable solution

Airlines now have less aircrafts flying and are asked to define how to shrink their operation. This is link to reduction of warehouses and stock. The problem here is that they do not have visibility on what equipment they have and where it is located. The lack of control creates additional and costly chores for the flying crew, who has to manually check that all trolleys have been delivered and are operational. If SOPHY would already be in the market, this information would be available instantly. The solution is in the form of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), a wireless technology adapted from the Bluetooth standard to provide lower power usage and cost. “From the moment BLE provided the level of accuracy and reliability that was needed, we knew we were on to something,” explains Sergio Gomez. “There were still other issues to address, and the main one was economics. We had to come up with a financially sustainable solution that would not imply heavy investments from our customers; one key element we focused on was that we needed a device that could be retrofitted to existing trolleys: there was no way we could explain airlines they would have to dump all of their old equipment!”

Customer needs tools to prove that lessening their equipment will be sufficient. If they do not have an overview of the utilization of the fleet, then they will struggle to make such decisions.

Airlines had to reinvent themselves. Caterers are going bankrupt on key destination and airlines had to find new catering suppliers and set them to their quality and operational standards. At airline site, there are less people to manage these programs, and due to safety, trainings and audits are becoming less and less. SOPHY allows airlines to have insights on operations remotely, minimizing traveling and audits.

SOPHY, a part in the bigger picture of augmented cabins

As often when good design is involved, the answer was simple: the sensors and Bluetooth transmitters are fixed on a bracket, which itself is fixed on the trolleys. All the necessary data (location, temperature, etc.) are automatically transmitted across the entire supply chain, without human intervention; the crew just has to flip a tag to mark a catering unit for inspection, and then confirm the process on their phone or tablet . Additionally, this information, once compiled, forms the basis for indicators that will help airlines improve their efficiency in their catering operations. Safran Cabin presented a demonstrator of SOPHY in Frankfurt, Germany, in November 2019, as one of the elements of the 2019 Boeing ecoDemonstrator 777.Although very innovative in itself, SOPHY is just a brick in Safran Cabin’s Smart System Integrator Galley, which includes many more features…