Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Guest editorial From: Facilities, Volume 29, Issue 13/14
Infrastructure facilities (e.g. roads, railways, schools, hospitals) play a critical role in determining the economic viability and social welfare of every nation. Hence, delivering and managing modern infrastructure systems represents an essential task for many government agencies. Besides the aging of the infrastructure stock in advanced industrialized countries the complexity and underlying dynamics associated with decision making have become more arduous, particularly as projects have become increasing susceptible to cost and schedule overruns. As a result, government agencies have been confronted with increased political pressure to rethink and alter their service provision in terms of greater cost-effectiveness, customer-orientation and accountability. They are forced to achieve more public value with fewer resources. In order to meet these challenges, more and more agencies develop into professional public-oriented network managers and seek new approaches to manage their infrastructure portfolio.
That includes new procedures and methods of optimizing their decision making on when, where and how to build, maintain and renovate infrastructure facilities. Severe budget constraints have prompted agencies to identify appropriate ways of allocating available funding. The main aim is the reduction of expenditures over the life-cycle of an infrastructure facility while extending the period for which the facility provides the required performance. The agencies face different challenges when striving to achieve this aim. For example, due to the multi-functional nature of infrastructure facilities, multiple actors (e.g. user groups, political bodies, private sector organizations) affect and are affected by the agencies’ decision-making. Since the interests and expectations of these stakeholders are partly conflicting, the agencies are required to act as managing intermediaries between stakeholders and therefore are subjected to trade-offs in their investment decisions. However, the analysis of stakeholder interests and their translation into objectives and measurable thresholds of infrastructure performance still represent difficult tasks for public agents. Without clearly formulated objectives, the evaluation of infrastructure performance and the prioritization of infrastructure interventions will remain on-going problems.
Another course public agencies have adopted to increase the cost-effectiveness of infrastructure investments is to successively extend the involvement of the private sector in the provision of infrastructure facilities. Not only are private sector suppliers contracted to construct large-scale infrastructure projects, they are also assigned the financing, development, operation and maintenance of these facilities. Central to this on-going reorientation is the transition from procuring single goods and services – as was done in the past – to procuring integrated service packages based on performance descriptions rather than detailed work specifications. The extensive use of public-private partnerships (PPP) to deliver critical infrastructure is the most prominent sign of this transition process. Changes of this nature depend on new forms of procurement, contracts, incentive systems and cooperation, which align the agency and its suppliers to deliver improved infrastructure performance. However, the choice to use long-term partnership contracts may reduce the flexibility required to adequately respond to dynamic developments at the strategic level of the agency or its larger environment such as the introduction of new technologies, changes in policies and regulations.
While the importance of modern infrastructure systems is widely recognized, the plethora of long-term and short-term decisions to deliver and manage infrastructure and their effects on infrastructure performance are less well understood. With this in mind, this special issue on Infrastructure Management brings together a number of research papers addressing this wide spectrum of infrastructure management decisions.
The opening paper of this special issue addresses a perennial problem faced by clients: how to select an appropriate project delivery system (PDS)? Ibbs and Chih provide a brief review the literature on PDS and provide a comparison of selection methodologies available. Their review highlights that there are four groups of PDS selection methodologies: decision charts and guidelines, multi-attribute analysis, knowledge/experienced-based and mix-method approaches. Ibbs and Chih propagate a conceptual framework for PDS. However, this framework has several limitations and akin to other studies should be tested in practice.
Chan et al. examine the nature of risks associated with Target Cost Contracts (TCC) and Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) contracts. They use an empirical questionnaire to solicit the allocation of risk preferences from construction experts. Changes in scope, insufficient design completion during tender and unforeseeable design development risks at the tender stage were identified as the three primary risks in TCC and GMP contracts. Irrespective of contract type, such risks are prevalent in projects.
In their paper on stakeholder interaction in infrastructure management Van der Lei and Herder compare the results of two different stakeholder analysis methods that belong to the group of methods of multi-actor decision-making: transactional analysis and conflict analysis. They show that there is no single best method to predict stakeholder behavior and suggest the application of more than one stakeholder analysis method to analyze multi-actor problems from different angles.
Yang and Kumaraswamy examine the management and maintenance of infrastructure assets from a safety perspective. As the repair and maintenance sector is significantly growing, the occurrence of accidents and fatalities are also increasing. Yang and Kumaraswamy identify and evaluate strategies during a project’s life cycle for ameliorating safety performance and repair, maintenance, minor alterations and additional works. They use semi-structured interviews and a Delphi method to identify strategies for safety performance. Raising the safety awareness and improving the safety performance of subcontractors were identified as the primary strategies for good safety performance. In addressing safety awareness Yang and Kumaraswamy suggest that a reward and penalty juxtaposed with a safety and education scheme be implemented.
In the next paper Hon et al. continue with the theme maintenance and repair with respective to bridge management systems in Hong Kong. Hon et al. develop an approach to improve the performance prediction for concrete bridge elements. The authors reveal that lessons learned from previous practice, with proposed new strategies and practices need to be integrated in a systematic manner to ensure data from non-periodical and periodical inspections are used for maintenance and repair decision-making.
The final paper of this special issue Kobayashi and Kaito develop a random proportional Weibull hazard model for large-scale information system (IS) projects. A two-step estimation method is used to carry out a fault analysis for components in large scale IS, which is particularly pertinent for constructing integrated asset management systems. Using a traffic control system for expressways the model is demonstrated. The model is able to able to predict deteriorating facilities and equipment while considering the heterogeneity of devices used. Such a model is pivotal for examining the technical obsolescence associated with IS infrastructure.
The Guest Editors would like to thank the authors and reviewers for contributing to this special issue. In particular, the Guest Editors would like to thank the Editor-in-Chief, Professor Edward Finch and the Emerald Team for their assistance and encouragement.
Andreas HartmannUniversity of Twente, Enschede, The NetherlandsPeter E.D. LoveCurtin University, Bentley, Australia