Transforming Public Works With Technology (Part 2): Increasing Efficiency With Technology

This is the second part of the article called “Transforming Public Works with Technology”. To read Part I, click here.

Real-Time Digital Data Collection

“Paper” processes are often interpreted as “manual” processes that involve some form of data entry. In the public works industry, the term has historically taken on a more literal meaning. Regulatory inspections of various infrastructure were conducted through a series of “as-built” drawings. These are a chronological series of paper drawings that capture all specification changes throughout the lifespan of an asset. Each drawing depicts the dimensions, geometry, and elements of all work completed in between mandated inspections, though their one-dimensional layout does not account for underlying factors such as wiring and cables. In some cases, regulatory inspections are still conducted this way.

Presently, more organizations are turning to technology to record this information. Digital data collection via tools such as tablets and mobile apps can decrease labor hours and eliminate downtime between the moment the data is recorded and when it is input into a central database. Mobile technology can offer predetermined inspection checklists that can help all inspections follow a uniform process rather than having several parties submit individual as-built drawings in various styles and formats. Ultimately, this standardizes the data and eases reporting.

Enhanced Mapping Capabilities

Geographic information systems (GIS), such as Esri, provide visual representations of mapped assets. Users are able to identify assets through mobile technology and view their assets through organized layers, such as culverts, roads, signs or park benches. The inspection history, recent search activity, and condition ratings of each asset on the map can be accessed in the system, as opposed to having these record sets scattered across multiple paper-based records.

When blending a visual tool such as GIS with a unified database, leaders within an organization are given a quick, accurate, and high-level overview of all of the organizational infrastructure and can see all data in one location. This assists in understanding patterns and trends and making informed decisions.

Another benefit of GIS systems is route optimization. For instance, if a field worker is assigned to fix a pothole at a given location, the system may reveal several other potholes within close proximity, or even along the route to or from the original service request. This increases productivity while making better use of time and resources.

Proactive Planning

As part of the MAP-21 law, each state is required to develop a risk-based Total Asset Management Plan (TAMP) for the National Highway System (NHS) to better preserve the condition and performance of all assets. This includes information about management strategies, long-term forecasting, and other business processes. Mobile technology helps speed the development of these government-regulated plans, and makes ongoing compliance management much easier.

Other important tasks such as inspection cycles can also be automated. For instance, a bridge inspector can run through a routine checklist, attach pictures from the inspection, and attach to a report. The software automatically generates service requests for assets who do not meet satisfactory requirements during inspections.

Finding The Right Solution

Technology is a big investment and AssetWorks recommends that organizations take the time to review and understand all of their options. Our Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) system is a comprehensive asset management solution that handles all aspects of public infrastructure maintenance. For more information, click here.


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