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A process for the management of physical infrastructure

  • Thorpe, David Stuart
Publication Date
Jan 01, 1998
Queensland University of Technology ePrints Archive


Physical infrastructure assets are important components of our society and our economy. They are usually designed to last for many years, are expected to be heavily used during their lifetime, carry considerable load, and are exposed to the natural environment. They are also normally major structures, and therefore present a heavy investment, requiring constant management over their life cycle to ensure that they perform as required by their owners and users. Given a complex and varied infrastructure life cycle, constraints on available resources, and continuing requirements for effectiveness and efficiency, good management of infrastructure is important. While there is often no one best management approach, the choice of options is improved by better identification and analysis of the issues, by the ability to prioritise objectives, and by a scientific approach to the analysis process. The abilities to better understand the effect of inputs in the infrastructure life cycle on results, to minimise uncertainty, and to better evaluate the effect of decisions in a complex environment, are important in allocating scarce resources and making sound decisions. Through the development of an infrastructure management modelling and analysis methodology, this thesis provides a process that assists the infrastructure manager in the analysis, prioritisation and decision making process. This is achieved through the use of practical, relatively simple tools, integrated in a modular flexible framework that aims to provide an understanding of the interactions and issues in the infrastructure management process. The methodology uses a combination of flowcharting and analysis techniques. It first charts the infrastructure management process and its underlying infrastructure life cycle through the time interaction diagram, a graphical flowcharting methodology that is an extension of methodologies for modelling data flows in information systems. This process divides the infrastructure management process over time into self contained modules that are based on a particular set of activities, the information flows between which are defined by the interfaces and relationships between them. The modular approach also permits more detailed analysis, or aggregation, as the case may be. It also forms the basis of ext~nding the infrastructure modelling and analysis process to infrastructure networks, through using individual infrastructure assets and their related projects as the basis of the network analysis process. It is recognised that the infrastructure manager is required to meet, and balance, a number of different objectives, and therefore a number of high level outcome goals for the infrastructure management process have been developed, based on common purpose or measurement scales. These goals form the basis of classifYing the larger set of multiple objectives for analysis purposes. A two stage approach that rationalises then weights objectives, using a paired comparison process, ensures that the objectives required to be met are both kept to the minimum number required and are fairly weighted. Qualitative variables are incorporated into the weighting and scoring process, utility functions being proposed where there is risk, or a trade-off situation applies. Variability is considered important in the infrastructure life cycle, the approach used being based on analytical principles but incorporating randomness in variables where required. The modular design of the process permits alternative processes to be used within particular modules, if this is considered a more appropriate way of analysis, provided boundary conditions and requirements for linkages to other modules, are met. Development and use of the methodology has highlighted a number of infrastructure life cycle issues, including data and information aspects, and consequences of change over the life cycle, as well as variability and the other matters discussed above. It has also highlighted the requirement to use judgment where required, and for organisations that own and manage infrastructure to retain intellectual knowledge regarding that infrastructure. It is considered that the methodology discussed in this thesis, which to the author's knowledge has not been developed elsewhere, may be used for the analysis of alternatives, planning, prioritisation of a number of projects, and identification of the principal issues in the infrastructure life cycle.

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