Improving highways construction processes using computer-based simulation techniques

Qasim, M ORCID: 2018, Improving highways construction processes using computer-based simulation techniques , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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Roads are long-term infrastructure investments and are a valuable asset to the community. While it is crucial to construct new roads for various societal functions, maintaining the existing ones is also essential to develop a safe and accessible road network. Road construction projects suffer from tight schedules, massive traffic volumes, low budgets and environmental constraints that affect the productivity of road construction. Road sector is quite fragmented, and various companies are involved in a construction process. Most of these businesses have their internal procedures that are usually different from other stakeholders, which make it more complicated to improve a particular process. This research aimed to improve highways construction processes at the activity level by using the integration of manual and computer-based simulation tools.

This research involved simulating two different as-is process highways related operations to experiment different what-if scenarios that are not possible otherwise to try in real life. It also involved investigating the underutilisation of simulation techniques in the highway sector. The case studies chosen for this project were resurfacing (maintenance) and earthworks (construction) operations. This integration of simulation and lean boosted the output of various highways maintenance and construction operations and maximised the efficiency of resources involved. The data was collected from reports, on-site observations and constant collaboration with the industry partners.

This research succeeded in developing two artefacts (two detailed, lean-integrated simulation models) which were based on real projects and were verified and validated by the experts from highways and simulation backgrounds. It involved using Design Science or Constructive research methodology to identify an industry based problem, study it in detail and then develop a practical solution which can be implemented by industry to solve this issue. The developed models are based on two particular case studies; however, they are designed in such a way that they can be easily modified according to the needs and conditions of different countries and similar projects. There are thousands of simulation models available online but lack the ability and freedom to change accordingly and do not have detailed guidelines about its construction, usage and adjustments.

A significant knowledge gap exists regarding improvement of construction processes. Existing optimisation approaches are based on manual procedures, are fragmented and not making the best use of computer-aided methods to improve operations. As the industry is becoming more competitive, there is a need to enhance various construction (decision making and ground level) activities that can ultimately improve the efficiency for overall construction projects. Current improvement approaches mostly involve manual procedures like Value Stream Mapping, DRIVE (Define-Review-Identify-Verify-Execute), PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) and process mapping etc. These processes can further be enhanced by using a computer-based environment to experiment different what-if situations. The demand for enhancement can be fulfilled by utilising computer-based simulation methods that have already proven its ability in manufacturing, process and production industries.

This research contributes to the existing body of knowledge by adapting constructive research methodology or design science method for developing a practical solution to improve highways/construction processes. The research is based on two real-life case studies, and all data collection is being done within the structure of case studies. These projects are first studied in detail, and then different experimental scenarios are performed to improve the as-is processes. This research was based on two different sorts of highways operations (resurfacing and earthworks), and the findings are limited to these two operations only. Even though these operations are the most frequent and important ones, there are many other processes which can also be studied and improved in the same manner. At the same time, the models created in this research are designed not to be very project-specific and can be used in projects of a similar nature.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Schools: Schools > School of the Built Environment
Depositing User: Muhammad Qasim
Date Deposited: 18 Dec 2018 14:50
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 23:54

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