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Use of Forge in the Operational Management of Infrastructure Assets

Dam

There is no doubt about the importance of the period of operation of an infrastructure asset, such as a bridge or dam, in view of its life cycle. However, despite such relevance, there is an absence of tools and workflows that allow us to safely and dynamically manage the mass of information that is generated during the operation of such assets.

In this article, we will present the possibilities of using Autodesk Forge to support engineering teams, so that they are subsidized with information for decision making in a fast, safe, and transparent way. Examples of IoT usage will be presented, integrating real-time data from sensors installed in the asset and integrated into the model. In addition, the importance of including information from the design and construction phases with the operation phase will be justified. Finally, we’ll present a dam case study that was refined with support from the Autodesk engineering team during the Forge Accelerator event.

Brazilian Infrastructure Market

Infrastructure investment is essential for accelerating a country's economic development. Better services in airports and roads and a more efficient sanitation network, for example, make the country more competitive and, thus, accelerate GDP growth. In addition, construction works also contribute to moving the economy, as they generate employment and income distribution. Brazil still has infrastructure deficiencies that limit the country's growth. The weakness of the infrastructure in recent years is evident when analyzing investments in the sector. In 2019, the Inter.B Consulting and the Brazilian Ministry of Economy surveyed economies of countries. India and China show levels of 58% and 76% of GDP, respectively. The government's goal is to raise the infrastructure stock to 38% of GDP by 2022, advancing to 61% of GDP in 2040.

Infrastructure stock: ranking and forecast of Brazilian expansion. Source: Inter.B Consulting and the Brazilian Ministry of Economy.
Infrastructure stock: ranking and forecast of Brazilian expansion. Source: Inter.B Consulting and the Brazilian Ministry of Economy.

On the other hand, Brazil currently has the largest infrastructure asset concessions program in the world. The portfolio of projects of the Ministry of Infrastructure forecasts at least R$217 billion / US$40 billion in investments, over the next decades, in ports, railways, highways, and airports that will be granted until 2022.

Expansion potential: Brazil's position in infrastructure components among 137 countries. Source: World Economic Forum 2017.
Expansion potential: Brazil's position in infrastructure components among 137 countries. Source: World Economic Forum 2017.

In addition, the recent approval of the new Basic Sanitation Legal Framework points to an increase in infrastructure investments in the sector. The main objective of the legislation is to universalize and qualify the provision of services by 2033. For this purpose, it is estimated that investments of around R$500 billion / US$90 billion to R$700 billion / US$ 125 billion will be necessary in 10 years.

Current scenario by scenario proposed by the new Legal Framework. Source: SNIS – Brazilian Sanitation Information System.
Current scenario by scenario proposed by the new Legal Framework. Source: SNIS – Brazilian Sanitation Information System.

Associated with the infrastructure GDP expansion scenario, the BIM BR Strategy is underway, which aims to provide guidelines for promoting an appropriate environment for investment in BIM and its diffusion in the country.

On the occasion, goals were also set for the Brazilian Army, the Brazilian Navy, the National Civil Aviation Secretariat (SAC), and the National Department of Transport Infrastructure (DNIT), which are responsible for coordinating and operating infrastructure works of great relevance. In short, these goals aim to use BIM in the Construction and Operation phase from 2024 and 2028, respectively.

Brazilian Federal Government decree phases.
Brazilian Federal Government decree phases.

Relevance of Operational Management of Infrastructure Assets

Analyzing the life cycle of an infrastructure asset, it is observed that the main challenges are associated with finding the balance between performance, cost, and risk to achieve the objectives defined in the business plan.

It is worth mentioning that the life cycle of an infrastructure asset involves everything from identifying the need through planning, design, acquisition, implementation and/or commissioning, operation and maintenance, and updating or modification to decommissioning and/or disposal.

Asset life cycle.
Asset life cycle.

An important and relevant phase within the life cycle is the operation and maintenance phase. Such relevance can be illustrated by the table below, where it is possible to observe that the useful life of a special structure (e.g., a bridge or viaduct) exceeds 100 years, which directly impacts a greater proportion of financial resources foreseen for OPEX.

Life cycle of structures. Source: Adapted from European Committee for Standardization EN 206.
Life cycle of structures. Source: Adapted from European Committee for Standardization EN 206.

Autodesk Forge as Data Integrator

Based on the above, and given the relevance of infrastructure assets for a country, the importance of keeping them in activity safely and efficiently throughout their useful life is evident. Therefore, consistency in storage and access to technical data related to each of these assets is necessary. Technical data is understood as information referring to the phases of Design, Construction, and Operation, according to the examples below:

  • Design: soil studies, plans, calculation reports
  • Construction: execution reports, photos, tests, reports
  • Operation: inspection reports, instrumentation data, sensors, photos

Bearing in mind that the plans of a medium-sized bridge can reach a total of 200 documents, we can calculate the volume of information that is associated with infrastructure assets. Thus, Concremat found in Autodesk Forge and Autodesk BIM 360 a way to accomplish not only the association of information between the stages of Design, Construction, and Operation, but also to promote greater agility and safety in the path taken between capturing field data and making it available to all involved in the process. Following are descriptions of the observed possibilities:

Documentation Storage

Using BIM 360, it is possible to store both the model and auxiliary technical documents, ensuring hierarchical integration between them, plus version controls and revisions.

Field Data Capture

Using BIM 360, it is possible to conduct field inspections using mobile devices and link any anomalies directly to the model. It is possible to build personalized checklists to suit the needs of the assets to be inspected, adding information such as:

  • Pathology category
  • Criticality level
  • Geometric information
  • Images

Only the digitization and centralized storage of such data alone would provide a significant gain in terms of information management. However, the following topic will present possible improvements using sensors and Autodesk Forge.

Sensors

By advancing the technological development of sensors with applicability in the civil engineering segment, associated with the reduction in the costs of manufacturing and operating such devices, many applications become possible in the management of infrastructure assets. For example, in the continuous monitoring of:

  • Vertical displacements
  • Longitudinal displacements
  • Slopes
  • Structure acceleration and frequency
  • Temperatures

Example of deformation sensor and its readings.
Example of deformation sensor and its readings.

In addition, the imminent deployment of 5G technology in Brazil will facilitate the capacity and reach of the network to transmit data in real time.

To exemplify the magnitude of information involved in monitoring a structure, measurements that reach the 50 Hz range may be necessary, which in practice means reading and transmitting data 50 times per second from a single sensor. In other words, in this case, 4,320,000 readings/data transmissions would be performed in a single day.

Model Integration

Based on the above, there is a small sample of the volume of data involved in the management of an infrastructure asset. In this way, Forge enables the creation of an environment that allows, in addition to integration, the consumption of such data in a dynamic and intuitive way.

Such integration occurs from APIs that are responsible for allowing the exchange of information between systems. In relation to data consumption, Forge allows access to occur directly from integration between systems and thus accessible from mobile and web environments.

In addition, it is possible to customize the visualization using markers and filters. Below are some examples of applications made by Concremat both in pilot projects and in internal research, always using as a database real information of existing assets.

Related Technologies

Below are two topics about the possibilities and challenges of using Forge:

Internet of Things 

The Internet of Things (IoT) brings a system in which common everyday objects with attached sensors are connected to the Internet through a wireless and/or wired Internet connection. The sensors can use local connections like Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth, and wide area networks like 3G, 4G, and 5G. As can be seen in the graph below, in recent years there has been an exponential increase in application:

IOT connected objects in the world. Source: IHS Markit (2016).
IOT connected objects in the world. Source: IHS Markit (2016).

The main objective of using IOT in civil engineering is the creation of smart devices and assets, seeking to ensure the exchange and updating of information in an automated manner, enabling greater control and security of the asset. The use of IoT in engineering assets brings countless gains for their operation and maintenance, where the constant search for information accuracy drives the need to use technology in long-operation assets with constant maintenance. Information such as measurements of the structural stability of the asset and automatic communications for emergency situations, among others, brings a safer and more accurate operation, even making it possible to extend the operating time of the asset in question, as well as reducing the downtime of the asset.

Programming Language and Frameworks

In the definition of the programming language to be used, below are presented four fundamental points for an effective choice:

1. Need for a language with web support, since all communication is done via the Autodesk Forge API.

2. Use a well-regarded and widely-used language in the technology market, aiming at a greater availability of courses and materials available on the web.

3. Evaluate the performance as a whole.

4. Must be supported by the Autodesk Forge API.

At Concremat, after considering the points above, we opted for the use of NodeJS as a programming language, where NodeJS corresponds to a framework based on Javascript. So far, the following APIs have been used: Viewer API, BIM 360 API, and Data Management API.

Case Studies

Bridge Inspections

The proposal of the project in question is to perform the direct integration between the data obtained from field inspections with the model from BIM 360. Such data are related to possible technical anomalies that can be identified during inspections. After such integration, it is proposed to use Forge to personalize the access and consumption of information from BIM 360, according to the flow illustrated below:

Simplified flow between field inspection and Forge.
Simplified flow between field inspection and Forge.

The idea is that Forge is able to provide personalized access, allowing both grouping and filtering of information, as shown below:

  • Category
  • Criticality level
  • Status
  • Date

Finally, it is planned to develop integration with the Concremat Maintenance Management System, where combination of information related to the cost and deadline for resolving the anomaly in question will be carried out.

Tailings Dams

The project in question, which had its development started at the Forge Accelerator Metropolis, aims to integrate the model of a dam, relevant documents (projects, reports, tests), and sensors present in the dam structure.

Such integration is notable due to the need to evaluate the massif's behavior (evidenced by the sensors) in a spatial and joint way and, at the same time, to provide quick documentation support to assist in the impact associated with the disturbance in a given sensor.

Simplified schema of the data to be integrated.
Simplified schema of the data to be integrated.

Using Autodesk InfraWorks, shell modeling of the dam was carried out, with the objective of serving as a geometric base for inserting pins that would serve as a spatial representation of existing sensors in the field. Then, the model was loaded into BIM 360 in order to use the API - BIM 360 to allow communication with Forge.

Simplified flow between Infraworks model and Forge.
Simplified flow between InfraWorks model and Forge.

Finally, integration with data from fictitious sensors was carried out. Thus, when clicking on a pin, it was possible to consult both the sensor data and the documents associated with that region of the massif, see the illustration below.

Integrated viewing of documents, model, and sensor data.
Integrated viewing of documents, model, and sensor data.

Next Steps

Currently, Concremat already has a roadmap specific for applications associated with Forge, where the conception of future is directed to the construction of a portfolio view of georeferenced assets, enabling a drill-down analysis, going from the macro to the detailed level.

In projects that require the use of sensors, for example, construction or management of water retention dams or even tailings dams, the proposal is the migration of analog sensors to digital and automatic sensors allowing the integration of these sensors with the model of construction virtualization, generating information in real time and giving us the possibility to create alert levels from the work limit established for the asset in question, triggering alerts by email and SMS when the sensor limit is reached, thus having security control of the asset.

Guilherme Borges has been working with engineering projects and research involving BIM since 2012. The research also started with a civil engineering degree at Universidade Federal Fluminense, Brazil with an emphasis on structural analysis using robots. He carried out MBA studies focused on construction site logistics using 4D in the Navisworks and now in his master's research at Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil he focuses on infrastructure projects supported by BIM methodology. At Concremat-CCCC, he works in the Strategic Studies and Innovation sector, seeking BIM solutions for the most diverse segments in which the conglomerate operates.

Alexandre Pasquini Praxedes graduated in Environmental Engineering, PMP and specialist in BIM Applied to the Implementation of Infrastructure Works. He has 9 years of experience in the area and great experience in the preparation of the BIM execution plan. He works with BIM models for infrastructure, such as studies for implementation of construction sites and accesses, studies of movements in land and rock, survey of quantitative, programming and control in 4D and constructive simulations. Currently he leads the technical team of BIM implementation for construction and assembly.

Leonardo Pissolatti Costa Factori graduated in Architecture and Urban Studies, Specialist in BIM Applied to the Implementation of Infrastructure Works. He has five years of experience in the area and experience in the area of Engineering Projects, such as, for example, building project execution. More recently, with a theoretical and practical bias towards BIM, studying the various applications and bringing it to practice in infrastructure projects.

Anderson Freitas Cavalcante has 14 years of experience with technology, with 10 years focused on software management and development with an emphasis on web and mobile development. He has experience managing a technological park of a Holding, where he worked performing surveys of needs / improvements for technology solutions, such as the implementation of business intelligence solutions. He currently works in the consultative construction area, developing solutions for public and private contract management, loan contracts with national and international financing agents, program and project management, project management, and spatial information.

References

Brazilian Association of Infrastructure and Basic Industries: Recovery of Infrastructure Investment. Accessed on September 17, 2020. https://www.abdib.org.br/2019/11/04/motor-para-a-recuperacao-investimento- in-infrastructure-must-grow-in-2019-but-only-in-the-second-decimal-place.

Brazilian Association of Infrastructure and Basic Industries: Investment in Infrastructure. Accessed on September 20, 2020. https://www.abdib.org.br/2020/02/11/investimento-infraestrutura/.

Markit. "Iot platforms - enabling the internet of things." https://www.ihs.com/ Info / 0416 / internet-of-things.html.

Ministry of Development, Industry and Commerce: BIM BR Strategy. Accessed on September 16, 2020 http://www.mdic.gov.br/images/REPOSITORIO/sdci/CGMO/26-11-2018-estrategia-BIM-BR -2 .pdf.

Schwab, Klaus. World Economic Forum. “The Global Competitiveness Report 2017–2018”. Accessed September 16, 2020. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/GCR2017-2018/05FullReport/TheGlobalCompetitivenessReport2017%E2%80%932018.pdf.

Silver, Nate. "Untying the infrastructure knot in Brazil: a reform agenda." Inter B. Consultoria. Accessed September 04, 2020. http://www.interb.com.br/sites/default/files/Desatando%20o%20n%C3%B3%20em%20infraestrutura_FUNCEX.pdf.

SNIS - National Sanitation Information System. Accessed September 10, 2020. http://www.snis.gov.br/.

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