Many people do not appreciate the huge difference between prioritization and optimization. A priority listing is nothing more than a ranking. In pavements it is often a “worst-first” list which starts out with the most distressed pavement and ranks them in terms of their distress level to the best pavement section. Some PMS software uses this list to fund the first 10, 20, etc. items on the ranked list. Some software may combine two or three factors like roughness and distress and then loosely call their priority ranking “optimization.”
There are also PMS systems that provide what is called an INCBEN (incremental benefit) analysis, which is one step better than prioritization methods. In it each pavement section is examined and tested for the incremental benefit that will be added to your network for the same cost. The section that provides the biggest incremental benefit is then selected as your action section.
The AgileAssets’ pavement management software team has waded through these important concepts over the last several years to be able to provide a true multi-constraint, multi-year optimization in our Pavement Analyst™ solution. View this brief animated video below that explains how optimization works. Such optimization based on advanced mathematics can provide 10-12% cost savings compared to single year optimization or INCBEN approximations and 20-30% more than obtained with worst-first prioritization. In order to best leverage optimization in your agency plan for extra preparation time. Be prepared to receive extra training and thought to better understand and use it, but also be ready to receive the extra benefits you gain in planning, optimizing and allocating resources in real time over a multiyear horizon.
So if you are evaluating pavement management software for your agency, make sure it has true optimization capabilities. Your software provider should be able to demonstrate the level of their optimization and the benefits or shortcomings of the approach that they use.