May 18, 2008

Optimizing Multi Bridge Inspection and Other Traveling Situations

Part of assembling a bridge tender proposal for the City of Halton required a visit to 42 bridges in the area, in order to assemble an acceptable proposal for inspection/conditional remediation schedules of the City’s bridges and culverts. The more aged the bridge the more frequent the proposed inspection to the City. In the end we decided that the contract was beyond our abilities, but while considering it we realized that this type of assignment was the quintessential “traveling salesmen” problem. Fortunately with today’s computing power this is not quite the problem it once was.

With a quick Google query I came across a website called which solves the “traveling salesman” problem quite readily. While limited to 20 locations, it drastically improves any route I would have come up with during a 10 minute paper and pen planning exercise. The uses of this application in a consulting engineering office are not limited to bridges, of course, but all sorts of projects. Eight structural inspections planned for the day? Optimally solved. As-built drawings to deliver to 15 clients? Solved. Quite a useful tool that will not only improve productivity, but will also cut down on those pesky mileage payments.

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