It's something we take for granted, especially in Pittsburgh. You may have crossed a bridge today, counting on its safety and reliability. But the 2007 tragic collapse of Minneapolis's I-35W bridge thrust bridge safety and our aging infrastructure into the public eye.
InspectTech, founded in 2003 by Carnegie Mellon alumni Michael Schellhase (ECE, CS '02, ECE '03) and Jeremy Shaffer (ECE '01, '06), offers bridge managers and inspectors powerful tools to improve their efficiency and necessary time in the field.
"We noticed when we started the amount of effort that goes into producing inspection reports," Schellhase noted. "There's often twice as much time spent back in the office doing the paperwork than actually at the bridge in the field."
The entrepreneurial pair began developing their proprietary software while still in school. While attending a campus symposium, they hit on an idea.
"We found this opportunity," Schellhase explained. "We were planning to finish our degrees, but also didn't want to wait to get started. Crazy and typical at Carnegie Mellon."
InspectTech's unique software offers managers centralized data collection, tracking and analytic ability. It allows inspectors to add scanned documents into reports, add supporting digital photographs, and integrate GPS and reference information in the field. The software is also flexible enough to apply to almost any transportation structure.
"I think the big thing we're offering is information flow," Schellhase said. "We're helping to shorten the gap between the inspector in the field working on a bridge to the decision maker deciding where to spend x amount of dollars. It's making sure the process is electronic, much faster and much more accurate."
Even in tough economic times, bridge integrity is a critical public safety concern. With available funds shrinking, however, challenges increase. InspectTech's software can help managers prioritize needs given limited resources.
Schellhase explained, "If a particular county has $30 million in identified need, but $3 million to actually do the work, you'd better be pretty good at figuring out what the highest priorities are. The more data you have the better. We can help bridge owners make that decision correctly by providing the bridge managers with all the tools they need."
Schellhase believes his time at Carnegie Mellon helped prepare him for career success, and has come back to attend two executive education classes at the Tepper School of Business.
"The skill set of having to juggle many responsibilities and tasks at one time, the challenging environment at Carnegie Mellon, provided a good background for the challenges of the entrepreneur," he said.