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Marketing Plan for Prefabricated Bridge Elements and Systems (PBES)
Analysis of Internal Markets and Environments
Both the highway community as a whole and the FHWA in particular have been diligent in seeking out innovative solutions to highway challenges. As noted earlier, each year, teams of engineers, planners, and other professionals scan the globe, looking for potential innovations for highway facilities. The result of those trips is an increase in understanding of what the technology could provide the bridges on the Nation's highway system. A lack of innovation, however, has not been the problem. Rather, the challenge has been in getting those innovations moved from state-of-the-art to state-of-the-practice. Two key factors need to be addressed to improve implementation time.
First, there needs to be a standardized systems approach for deploying technologies. There is a need for a specific system for tracking where in the process an innovation is at any one time, and for getting technologies delivered to state DOTs that might use them. Ensuring that technologies are communicated to and understood by all stakeholders are key objectives.
Prior to 1999, FHWA maintained a central organizational unit responsible for moving technologies into the marketplace—"technology transfer," as it is called. The Office of Technology Applications (OTA) included engineers and communications specialists whose job it was to coordinate the process from "market ready" to state-of-the-practice throughout the highway community. But with the restructuring of the agency that year, OTA was dissolved and the individual program offices were given the funds and the responsibilities for marketing technologies within their own program areas. The result has been inconsistent and uncoordinated.
Second, the culture of the highway community must be changed so that it sees the benefit in trying new innovations. Because of the way many agencies are set-up, very often a project manager prefers to use the "tried-and-true" approach of the past rather than using an innovative approach, even when it has been proven in other locations. This is in part due to the continuing reduction of the state DOT workforce while work volume remains constant or increases, making it difficult to allocate the additional time required to implement new approaches. Also, the lack of a motivating device such as awards and bonuses, or simply an environment that praises innovation, can mean that trying something new is simply not worth the risk.
The consequence of not taking these two necessary steps is a very slow process for delivery of innovations. The effort creeps along, often taking years, or even decades, Marketing Plan for Prefabricated Bridge Elements and Systems (PBES) 16 before an innovation is accepted on a nationwide basis. What is needed is to "leap, not creep" in this effort.
How is that brought about? One approach is to simply set up a systematic process for technology deployment. But merely setting up a new, untried process will not be sufficient. What is needed is a commitment by management to the process, as well as support to assist with the implementation and examples of innovations that have been successfully delivered using that process, so that others can see the benefits of using such an approach.
Therefore, in the areas of infrastructure, safety, and operations, the FHWA selected three example innovations for deployment using a systems approach that would be common to all:
These innovations were chosen for their potential for making a significant impact on the current state of the highway system. They provide the diversity needed to demonstrate that a common approach will work for virtually any innovation. Although this marketing plan focuses on PBES, because it is to serve as a model approach for getting technologies adopted in the future, the plan is intentionally fairly exhaustive in its approach.
The FHWA Innovation Delivery Process Model
The model calls for a marketing team comprised of representatives from the responsible Headquarters Program Office(s), the Resource Center, one or more of the Federal-aid Highway Division Offices, and the Federal Lands Highway Divisions. Among the team's members are specialists with expertise in the innovation itself, Federal-aid program delivery, Federal Lands Highways program delivery, and marketing. The Highways for LIFE (HfL) program provides coordination and administration services for the team.
The team will be responsible for the development, implementation, and management of a marketing plan for the innovation that includes the following:
For the innovation marketing team to be successful, it will require several specific types of resources, specifically funding, staffing, and commitment from management. Management commitment includes both the senior management of the agency and the immediate supervisors of the staffers who will be called on to work on the innovation team. This approach provides a means for getting innovations to state DOTs faster and with a higher potential of being implemented. A training module will be developed as one means of addressing this matter, which will specifically show highway engineers and other employees how to access a variety of resources where such innovations are described. The training also will provide guidance on how individuals can develop innovative approaches to the challenges they face in developing new highway or bridge projects.
A critical element of the process will be the assignment of specific tasks to individuals, along with timeframes in which those tasks are to be completed. Without such personal accountability, schedules are not likely to be met.
Finally, it is critical to have sufficient financial resources to fund communications materials, travel, and training curriculum development. Two sources for funding have been identified: the HfL program has agreed to provide significant initial funding, and bridge program funds can supplement that.
Attached is an organization chart of FHWA. It is noteworthy that bridge engineers populate every aspect of the agency: Headquarters (including both those in the Nassif Building and at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center), the Resource Center, the division offices, and the Federal Lands Highway offices. Thus, unlike many areas of the agency, it is possible to have a "champion" of PBES in virtually every office of FHWA. As one of the FHWA bridge engineering websites notes,
FHWA's partners and senior managers expect FHWA bridge engineers to aid them in the deployment of emerging technologies and practices that reduce the number of deficient bridges, construction time, and construction and maintenance costs, while improving work zone and traffic safety. FHWA bridge engineers must possess superior technical skills and have a comprehensive understanding of "best-practices" in bridge engineering to be able to accommodate our agency's strategic goals and support the "Vital Few."2
FHWA's Bridge Leadership Council has committed to serving as a champion as well. As that website notes, through the efforts of the council, "FHWA bridge engineers will be able to lead the mainstreaming of new technologies and strategies to assess and preserve bridges, which reduce the construction time and impacts on congestion." This organization should be enlisted to provide resources, whether it's assistance in communicating with others within the agency, or financial assistance.
2 For details on this, see the agency's intranet discussion at staffnet.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/blc/enhance.htm.
The various roles of FHWA units in implementing PBES are as follows:
This page last modified on 04/04/11