Data analytics can help the infrastructure industry save time and money

As Australia undergoes something of a boom in infrastructure construction it is perhaps timely to also consider how that infrastructure will be maintained over its lifecycle.

Asset owners often hold a tremendous amount of data on the condition, maintenance, and operation of infrastructure. Research by McKinsey and Company has found that, although advanced analytics is increasingly used by infrastructure players in both the private and public sectors, infrastructure still tends to lag behind other industries in the application of analytics and that better use of data could bring benefits.

McKinsey notes that many asset owners experience weaker productivity than that achieved in other sectors, as they are making big infrastructure decisions based primarily on qualitative, rather than quantitative, factors. Infrastructure owners still tend to base maintenance and replacement decisions on traditional time based or event driven methods.

The use of sensors to provide data and then taking advantage of data analytics when making decisions in these areas could help asset owners free up capital. McKinsey say they have seen savings of between 5%-15% by companies using the more advanced analytics.

Advanced analytics uses inputs such as historical weather data, operations and maintenance records, combined with leading-edge processing systems and machine learning to develop predictive insights. McKinsey give the example of being able to forecast the probability of a given event, such as a maintenance or shutdown.

The McKinsey research highlights efforts in this area implemented by the South Carolina Department of Transportation which uses analytics to monitor the structural health of bridges. Traditionally they would have just used visual inspection.

Analysing data from sensors can allow an operator to identify bridges that require complete reconstruction or partial fixes.

The use of analytics can avoid the problem of replacing assets too early and wasting precious capital. It can also prevent pressures on budgets by continued spending on maintenance of an asset when a replacement would offer a better return on investment.

For more on how the internet of things brings more applications that can be use to analyse data see our BI Research The Connected World Report

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