Modernizing bridge safety inspection with process improvement and digital assistance
Mills, Thomas H., III
Wakefield, Ronald R.
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This research effort was developed to record and analyze the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) bridge/structure inspection processes as an aid to modernizing and automating these inspection processes through the use of mobile personal computer (PC) devices such as Palm/PPCs and other wearable computing devices. The research was conducted using an informal conversational interview process coupled with direct observations to match the perceived processes with actual processes. Once the interviews and observations were completed, workflows were mapped and analyzed for operational bottlenecks and process improvement opportunities. The results of the mappings and a comprehensive literature review were used to analyze the existing work processes. New process transformation maps were created and overlaid on current mappings to complete a transformation model. Redundancies were observed in the reporting function, and bottlenecks were identified within the inspection management and inspection functions. The research also indicates that the inspection process is readily transformable from one that relies on marking up paper reports in the field and then returning to the office for semi-manual reporting to one that is electronically assisted in areas of data capture, automated bridge inventory updates, and semi-automated report production. From this analysis a series of strategies and recommendations were made to assist VDOT in modernizing and transforming their current bridge inspection processes to more efficient digitally assisted processes.