Predictable maintenance of infrastructure will lead to improved traffic flow

 As the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Rijkswaterstaat (RWS) is responsible for the design, construction, management and maintenance of the main infrastructure facilities in the Netherlands. This includes the main road network, the main waterway network and water systems. At the moment, the maintenance of these infrastructures costs taxpayers millions each year.

 To reduce these costs, RWS wants to use data to make maintenance more efficient. As a partner of the European BE-GOOD project, RWS is looking into decreasing the costs of untimely maintenance, ideally decreasing the energy consumption by 50% before 2030 and improving contract management with stakeholders like maintenance contractors.

Maintenance at the right time

Maintenance is often carried out either too early (at fixed intervals) or too late (when it has become corrective, rather than condition-based). To correct this, RWS is installing sensors in its infrastructural works to ensure that future maintenance is done at the exact moment needed.

 

These sensors will track information like electricity consumption and movement in structures such as lock gates or bridges.

The collected data will be combined with data from similar infrastructural works at different locations and other data like the weather forecast and water levels. A dashboard will display the combined data and indicate if maintenance is needed. For example, a lock will require consistent amounts of energy for  a given water level. When tracked as a trend over time, any variation in this energy consumption pattern can be easily flagged so that RWS can take a closer look to see if other variables play a role or if maintenance is required. The more data available from different sources, the better decisions can be made. 

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 Source: Rijkswaterstaat

Pilots with different types of infrastructure

The main obstacles between  RWS and its objectives are technical and organisational readiness. There are already smart algorithms and high-tech sensors available but there is little point in implementing them when employees don’t have the  training or necessary tools.

That’s why RWS has started pilots in several regions and made an Implementation Smart Maintenance plan which will reduce investments by 16% and maintenance costs by 11%. At the moment, a number of pilots are running, like the Prince Bernhard locks in Tiel, Kreekrak locks in Rilland, the pumping stations in IJmuiden and the bridge of Spijkenisse. Within these pilots, RWS is collaborating with several knowledge partners, for example TNO, Twente University, University of Eindhoven and Deltares. Each pilot is enhanced with lessons learned from previous pilots like the technical readiness of the ICT infrastructure, including the necessity of improved data security.

The pilots have already proven to be effective, with some preventing several interruptions of the infrastructure facilities. They also provided RWS with better insights into how these assets are used and maintained. Therefore, RWS is now looking at implementing this method across more infrastructure facilities.

Less tax money needed and decrease in traffic congestion

By using predictable maintenance, RWS is expecting two major benefits for the general public. The first one is lower costs for the maintenance of infrastructure, meaning less tax money needed. These savings are achieved due to reductions in material used, damages to infrastructure and energy usage.

The second major benefit is that the reliability of the installations increases and a reduction in downtime of the infrastructure. This means fewer disruptions, an increase in safety and less rerouting of traffic and traffic congestion.

 

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