I visited LSGSkychefs Brahims flight kitchen yesterday in Kuala Lumpur, and was able to compare it with the Cathay Pacific Catering Services (CPCS) unit I visited four weeks ago. LSG’s unit is producing around 40,000 airline meals a day, whilst CPCS is averaging around 70,000. Both were built about 15 years ago, and incorporated much of the same technology, but in some key respects their operations are different.
CPCS still uses the suspended conveyor system for moving the airline trollies around, whereas LSG had the same technology but has ceased to use it. The manager of LSG explained that the system came from Europe, so that if it broke down there was delay whilst replacement parts were shipped over, and it was costly to maintain. Likewise CPCS laid up airline meal tray on conveyor belts, with the tray moving along a belt, whilst different employees placed items on it. LSG laid up trays using work stations, at which one (sometime two) employees each laid up two full trays at a time. LSG used to use belts, but following their company-wide lean initiative abondoned them in favour of work stations, as these were measured to be more efficient.
There were other ways in which the two operations were different, that I will not go into. But what drives these differences is interesting. CPCS is an individual kitchen, mainly owned by the Hong Kong based airline Cathay Pacific. But the KL kitchen is part of the largest flight catering company in the world – LSG has nearly 200 flight kitchens. This means that LSG has economies of scale and organisational learning capabilities that CPCS does not have. So it is possible for LSG to invest in IT systems, develop a lean programme, and benchmark their operating units, whereas it is much more difficult for CPCS to do so.