Digital road management can help clear the backlog in road maintenance

With an estimated maintenance backlog of NOK 3,200 billion in infrastructure and public buildings, the time for action is ripe. ISY Road, developed by Norconsult Digital, offers a way out of the whole mess.

ISY Road is a holistic solution used by many Swedish municipalities, adapted to Norwegian conditions and integrated into the Norwegian National Road Database (NVDB). The solution supports the entire road and traffic maintenance process.

- The infrastructure owneruses this solution to follow up contractors, monitor completed tasks and report observations along the road, says Cathrine Marstein Engen, Department Manager at Norconsult Digital.

Major backlog

The report “State of the Nation 2021” published by the Norwegian Association of Consulting Engineers (RIF) concluded that the total maintenance backlog for construction and infrastructure had risen to NOK 3,200 billion, up NOK 600 billion from 2015. The report makes it clear that if this backlog continues to grow, the next generation will inherit a cost time-bomb.

RIF points out that municipalities, county authorities and the government have a duty to carry out the necessary maintenance work and that they must have the resources required to do the job. There is little to indicate that the situation is improving – in fact, the gulf between deployed resources and needs only seems to be widening.

Clearing the backlog

In 2021, Norconsult Digital was awarded a contract to provide a road management solution for all ten county authorities outside Oslo, using the ISY Road solution.

- We will replace multiple systems that the county authorities acquired when they were part of the Norwegian Public Road Administration, and incorporate all disciplines into one solution, explains Marstein Engen.

Previously, the disciplines mostly worked in separate, siloed systems. There was one system for electrical installations, another one for tunnels, yet another for asphalt and pavement, and so on. ISY Road enables everyone involved in road maintenance to work smarter, and together.

- Major gains include being able to holistically follow-up across disciplines, monitor finances, create maintenance plans and gain an overview of where the maintenance funds are used, explains Marstein Engen.

Contracts are awarded, completed assignments are monitored and the contractors’ observations are digitally registered in the solution for the duration of the project. This provides the developer with ongoing control over the costs and quality of the work carried out.

- As an IT supplier, it is essential that we help our clients fulfil their social mandate of keeping key infrastructure in good condition. The fact that we can help make a difference and drive this forward is extremely important. That’s what really motivates us, she says

- It’s a question of enabling roads owner to make the best decisions regarding where to direct resources from a limited budget. That’s what it boils down to. Everyone knows there is a major backlog and that we have to work smarter, explains Cathrine Marstein Engen.

Ten county authorities

Cathrine Marstein Engen says that the county authorities have welcomed the new software. They believe that adopting a holistic approach to road maintenance will streamline their working day and allow them to leverage significant gains. However, there is no denying that it takes time to introduce such a comprehensive IT system.

- We delivered in spring last year, but cannot honestly claim that all the county authorities are up and running at 100 per cent yet – it is a transitional process. We’re replacing multiple old systems with one new system, and both developers and contractors must learn new ways of working, explains Marstein Engen.

- It’s a journey, but our clients are telling us that we will realise the gains the county authorities envisaged when they opted for this procurement, she adds.

Predictive maintenance

The next step Norconsult Digital envisages is to use technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to perform predictive maintenance: maintaining equipment before the damage becomes so great that the equipment, for example, tunnel fans, fail completely.

- You can identify data patterns from sensors that flag up when an error condition is likely to occur. In such cases it is better to repair the equipment before the fault becomes so great that the equipment fails completely, says Cathrine Marstein Engen.

- Or when it comes to roads: Work performed on individual sections of a road, for example, paving, is continuously updated. By using machine learning to identify cracks, we can predict how the crack will develop. Then it will be more cost effective to do something about the crack now, rather than wait until it has become much worse, she concludes.

Article reproduced with permission of the publication Samferdsel & Infrastruktur. Text: Inge Fosselie



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