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What is Bridge Management System (BMS) and how it works

What is Bridge Management System (BMS) and how it works

How to manage bridges and infrastructure with the help of a Bridge Management System and innovative digital systems for monitoring and maintenance

The latest catastrophic events affecting roads and other infrastructures have brought up again the issue of infrastructure maintenance and safety to the center of technical and scientific debate, with a compelling need of periodic checks and analyses on their state of conservation.

Bridge management system is an essential part of overall, long-term asset management to improve the safety of bridges and infrastructures, allowing you to quickly identify any problems and to intervene promptly to prevent accidents or even collapses.

Failure is not an option and for this reason, it is necessary to:

  • set up an accurate structure monitoring plan;
  • have the asset information database always updated;
  • have decision-making models that provide for appropriate intervention and maintenance strategies.

All these aspects can be managed with the help of a bridge management software, which also enables you to manage 3D BIM models, update data and information in real time, manage IoT sensors and plan the activities of technicians and operators involved in the entire process.

What is a BMS?

A Bridge Management System (BMS) is a set of tools, methodologies and processes used to effectively and efficiently manage the maintenance and management of bridges within a road or rail infrastructure. BMSs are essential to ensure the long-term safety, durability and functionality of bridges.

The Importance of Bridge Management Systems

Bridges are fundamental infrastructures to ensure mobility and connection between different geographical areas. However, weather conditions may cause damage to decks, which could compromise the safety of users. Therefore, it is crucial to constantly monitor the condition of bridges and plan appropriate maintenance interventions.

Main components of a BMS

A BMS includes several main components, including:

  • database of information on bridges, including for example their location, type of structure, age, state of conservation, etc.;
  • monitoring and analysis tools to collect and evaluate data on bridges;
  • decision models to determine priorities and maintenance strategies.

How a Bridge Management System works

Data collection process

The data collection process in a BMS involves the use of different monitoring and inspection techniques, such as:

  • visual inspections, in which engineers assess the condition of the bridges by observing them directly;
  • instrumental monitoring, which uses sensors and measuring devices to detect any deformation, corrosion or damage to the bridge structure;
  • non-destructive inspections, such as thermography, ultrasound or radiography, used to detect internal defects without damaging the bridge.

To learn more, read also “Monitoring bridges: how to manage infrastructure assets with IoT“.

Data analysis and maintenance decisions

Once the data is collected, it must be analyzed to identify any problems or areas of degradation that require maintenance. The system can also predict the evolution of bridge conditions over time, based on mathematical and historical models. Based on this information, the BMS shall establish the most appropriate intervention priorities and maintenance strategies, taking into account available costs and resources.

To analyze data and build an informed and efficient decision-making process, you need to manage information with a bridge management software that enables you to:

  • store information in an orderly manner;
  • share the data with all the users involved;
  • have realtime updates;
  • view information directly on the BIM model;
  • manage IoT sensors directly from a smartphone;
  • have 3D models, reports, analyses, etc. available on the cloud;;
  • create and manage GIS maps complete with BIM models;
  • plan maintenance;
  • track activities and manage issues.

BMS: bridge management system with openBIM and GIS integration


BMS: a practical example

Now let’s take a look at how to proceed with the implementation of a BMS.

In order to structurally structure a BMS, it is necessary to start from the creation of a GIS map in GeoJSON format, using a BIM GIS software. You can insert the BIM models of your infrastructure project directly on the 3D map, that has been produced with any BIM software and then imported in open IFC format.

You can also digitize the entire sensor system for monitoring and associate it with properties, characteristics and technical information. All information is shared on the cloud and easily accessible to all team members. The territorial context on which the infrastructure is built can be represented in different ways and with different degrees of detail, in order to facilitate the analyses to be carried out also on the reference context. You can associate technical information and refer to the data attached to each model object. The amount of data that can be managed is considerable and the BIM GIS tool allows you to have everything under control and update the models over time.

IRBMS (Integrated Road and Bridge Management System)

Main functions of the IRBMS

The IRBMS, or Integrated Road and Bridge Management System, is an integrated management system that combines bridge management with road management. The main functions of an IRBMS include:

  • planning and scheduling of maintenance activities for bridges and roads;
  • analysis of infrastructure conditions and prediction of their deterioration over time;
  • assessment of the impact of maintenance decisions on the entire road network and on user mobility.

Benefits of IRBMS

Adopting an IRBMS offers several advantages, including:

  • more efficient management of resources, thanks to the possibility of planning joint maintenance interventions for bridges and roads;
  • the integration with rail traffic control and resource planning systems;
  • the assessment of risks associated with the deterioration of railway bridges, taking into account the consequences on train operations and passenger safety.

IRBM Railway (Integrated Railway Bridge Management)

Features of IRBM Railway

The IRBM Railway is a specific management system for railway bridges, which integrates aspects related to the maintenance of bridges with those related to the management of railway networks. Among the main features of the IRBM Railway, we find:

  • the possibility of simultaneously monitoring and managing bridges and tracks, taking into account the specificities of railway infrastructures;
  • the integration with rail traffic control and resource planning systems;
  • the assessment of risks associated with the deterioration of railway bridges, taking into account the consequences on train operations and passenger safety..

Application of IRBM Railway

The IRBM Railway is used by railway companies and authorities responsible for infrastructure maintenance to plan and schedule maintenance interventions, monitor the condition of railway bridges and assess the impact of maintenance decisions on the entire railway network.

Bridge Alert Management System

What is a Bridge Alert Management System

Bridge Alert Management Systems are real-time alert and monitoring systems for bridges, designed to detect any dangerous situations and send notifications to the competent authorities. These systems use a range of sensors and sensing devices to continuously monitor bridge conditions and identify any anomalies or significant variations. Currently it is also possible to integrate IoT sensors with BIM models to supervise and monitor any alerts directly from the digital twin of the work, using an IoT BIM platform.

Bridge monitoring | The case study of the Canalone viaduct

Bridge monitoring | The case study of the Canalone viaduct

Bridge safety and the use of Bridge Alert Management Systems

Bridge Alert Management Systems help to improve the safety of bridges, allowing to quickly identify any problems and to intervene promptly to prevent accidents or collapses. In addition, these systems provide valuable information for planning maintenance activities, allowing you to optimize the allocation of resources and reduce costs in the long term.

Bridge Asset Management System

Bridge Asset Management

A Bridge Asset Management System is an asset management system (bridges) that monitors, evaluates and manages the entire lifecycle of bridges, from design to construction, from maintenance to replacement. This approach maximizes the duration and value of assets while reducing the associated costs and risks.

Tools and technologies used

Bridge Asset Management Systems use a variety of tools and technologies to collect, analyze, and manage information about bridges, including:

  • BIM GIS software for mapping and locating bridges;
  • sensors and monitoring devices for the collection of data on the condition and performance of bridges;
  • analysis and modelling software for risk assessment, deterioration prediction and maintenance planning.

A dynamic optimization model for the Bridge Management System

Dynamic optimization is a mathematical and computational approach that aims to find the optimal solution for a problem over time, taking into account variations in the conditions and variables at play. Within Bridge Management Systems, dynamic optimization can be used to determine the most effective and efficient maintenance strategies, considering the evolution of bridge conditions and available resources.

Model implementation

A dynamic optimization model for the Bridge Management System can be implemented using mathematical programming algorithms and techniques, such as linear programming, dynamic programming, or heuristic methods. The model takes data on bridges, available resources and operational constraints and returns optimal maintenance decisions, considering the impact on bridge conditions, costs and user safety.

Bridge Management Systems (BMS) are essential systems to ensure the long-term safety, durability and functionality of bridges. By integrating with other technologies and systems, such as IRBMS, IRBM Railway, Bridge Alert Management Systems and Bridge Asset Management Systems, more efficient and sustainable bridge infrastructure management can be achieved. In addition, adopting dynamic optimization models can help further improve maintenance decisions and resource management.

Further developments in the field of Bridge Management Systems

Artificial Intelligence and BMS

Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing many industries, and the field of BMS is no exception. Adopting machine learning techniques and evolutionary algorithms can improve the ability to analyze data on bridges and predict their deterioration over time. In addition, artificial intelligence can help optimize maintenance decisions and resource management, considering a greater number of possible variables and scenarios.

Advanced monitoring systems for bridges

Advances in sensor technology and monitoring devices mean that more and more accurate and reliable information can be gathered on bridges. For example, the use of drones for visual inspections or the adoption of wireless sensors for instrumental monitoring can reduce the costs and times of data collection activities. These technological innovations contribute to improving the quality and effectiveness of BMS, making them even more valuable tools for managing bridge infrastructure.

What is Bridge Alert Management System

Sustainability is a crucial issue in infrastructure management, and BMS can play a key role in this area. By adopting maintenance strategies based on life cycle analysis and reducing environmental impact, BMSs can help promote more sustainable bridge management. In addition, integration with environmental management and environmental impact assessment systems can help to monitor and mitigate the effects of maintenance activities on the environment and local communities.

Bridge Management Systems are a fundamental tool to ensure the safety and durability of bridges over time. The evolution of technologies and BIM GIS integration, such as artificial intelligence, advanced monitoring systems and sustainability, offer new opportunities to further improve the effectiveness and efficiency of BMSs. Investing in research and development of new solutions and methodologies in this field is essential to ensure a safer and more sustainable future for our bridge infrastructures.