Claus Klint: Building the Next Generation AI and Asset Management Solution in the Civil Infrastructure Industry

Claus Klint
Claus Klint

When Claus Klint, IBM Worldwide Industry Sales Leader, Civil Infrastructure, started to work with Danish infrastructure operator Sund & Bælt in 2017, he had no idea that the civil Infrastructure industry would become the most exciting chapter in his career, and he would go on to become of the key drivers in the digitization of the industry. Sund & Bælt owns, operates and maintains the fifth-largest suspension bridge in the world.

The Great Belt bridge opened in 1998, and its structure is an engineering marvel. The tops of the Pylons are 833 feet above the sea (making it the two highest points in Denmark). It is carried by two anchor blocks, each weighing 720 million lbs. (almost the same weight as the entire population of Denmark with its 5.8 million inhabitants). 18,648 steel wires are inside the cables – which is enough to go around the world more than three times.

This construction is Civil Engineering at its finest, but how is it related to IBM, Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, and Asset Management? Claus explains, “Sund & Bælt spends a significant amount of money and resources on inspection, operation, and maintenance. They wanted to use digital tools to improve productivity. They wanted to move from time-based maintenance to predictive maintenance.”

In order to fulfill Sund & Bælt’s wishes, much innovative work needed to be done. First, a digital asset management platform based on IBM Maximo was built and then connected to integrate the data from the bridge’s sensors, as well as using visual inspection AI to analyze drone images.

The project was successful. From 2017-22 Sund & Bælt has had a 2% savings each year, and they are projected to continue this saving percentage until 2025.

In the process, they found another important benefit. Claus explains, “The bridge was designed, dimensioned, and built to last 100 years. After Sund & Bælt have digitized and gained insight into the condition of their infrastructure, they have been able to double the expected lifetime from 100 to 200 years.

Together with their civil engineering advisors, they have done the sustainability impact calculations. It is equal to 2.2 billion lbs. savings in CO2 emission.”

Looking at the Bigger Picture

Along the way, IBM realized the need for a global solution for all civil Infrastructure operators.

The idea for the IBM Maximo Civil Infrastructure product was born. Claus says, “It became clear that our ability to integrate data to the Maximo Asset Management platform was unique, so we decided to build an industry solution specifically for operators of civil infrastructure assets – roads, bridges, tunnels, rail, ports, airports and transit transportation.”

All industries face the same challenges. First, they need to minimize the risk of failures and accidents; second, they have rising maintenance costs and want to improve productivity; third, they want to extend the expected lifetime of the structure and improve sustainability; and finally, they also need to be ensured compliance with rules and regulations.

The launch of Maximo Civil Infrastructure in October 2020 was a great achievement for Claus. “It was amazing that IBM decided to launch the product in all countries in the world where we operate, based on innovation that I had personally been involved in. I specifically asked Kareem Yusuf, General Manager of IBM Sustainability Software, if I could lead sales of the product worldwide. Luckily, he said yes, and I shifted to my current role in January 2021.”

Finding True Inspiration

“It is the best job in my entire IBM career. It is my dream job. I worked with innovation and partnership with Sund & Bælt for four years to build the foundation of the Maximo Civil Infrastructure product.”

For Claus, working with organizations and people is truly inspirational. “The magnitude and the talented people and organizations in Civil Infrastructure are staggering. In general, it is an industry with aging infrastructure, analog procedures, and the need for intelligent asset management is immediate and universal.”

Every fourth year, the American Society of Civil Engineers publishes a report on the state of the infrastructure in the US. The last report was in March 2021, which mentioned that the state of the infrastructure had not improved overall since the last report in 2017. The grading was roads C, bridges D, Rail B, Ports B- and Transit D-.

Claus says, “This is not really grades any of us would like to get if we were still in college, and it clearly shows the need for investments and intelligent asset management. The Bipartisan Infrastructure act was approved last year with total funding of $ 1.2 Trillion ($ 1,200,000,000,000.00).”

Reliable and trustworthy civil infrastructure is the base of any modern society. Keeping infrastructure safe requires extensive maintenance. Recent technological development has made it possible to reduce the extensity of that maintenance with new digital solutions. By using IoT sensors, drones, and AI, it’s possible to bring down the risk of accidents, expand the infrastructure’s lifetime, reduce CO2-emission and increase productivity. To achieve these goals, there has to be an industry-wide shift from asset maintenance to asset management.

Claus says, “It is our ambition to digitize the entire industry for the benefit of society and sustainability, and I cannot find a better purpose in my working life. It is a pleasure to work with this ambition every day.”

IBM aims to digitize the entire industry and use AI and Asset Management technologies for operations and maintenance of bridges, tunnels, roads, rail, and ports to avoid accidents, expand lifetime and reduce CO2 emission and increase productivity and reduce costs.

Visual Inspection

One of the most obvious use cases for digitalization is the inspection of bridges.

Claus says, “On a global scale, more than $50B are spent on manual inspection of bridges. That’s engineers going to a bridge with a paper-based inspection form, filling in the information based on their observations. Imagine if you can capture the data from drones, map into a digital twin, apply artificial intelligence – then you are able to not only detect defects but also see their development over time.”

A crack in a concrete structure is not necessarily a problem, but if prior inspections or the next inspections show a development, it might require actions to be taken. The innovative technological functions of Maximo for Civil Infrastructure provide this information.

Motivation to Lead

Transforming an industry to fit into a digital world requires skilled leadership.

Claus Klint proudly celebrated his 36-year anniversary at IBM in January 2023.

Claus adds, “Wow. Time flies when you are having fun. What a fantastic company to work for, and what a ride. I have always been blessed with exciting job opportunities.”

When Claus had his first day as a student worker driving a truck in IBM’s Software and Publication Center warehouse, the Soviet Union still existed, Germany was divided into East and West, and Ronald Reagan was president.

After graduating from Copenhagen Business School in 1992, He got his first professional job as an international project manager. He worked on some cool innovations like a preload of Power servers. Software customer orders were received in Copenhagen and transmitted electronically to the plant in Italy, where it was loaded on the corresponding server. As Claus states, “Yes, Cloud computing existed in the mid-90s.”

“In 1997, I got the opportunity to move to Sales, and I have never looked back. In my 25 years in sales, I have had many fantastic achievements with clients, ecosystem partners, and colleagues.”

I have had diverse and exciting sales leadership roles with domestic, regional and global responsibilities. Along the way, IBM funded my MBA from Henley Management College, and I got the opportunity to live two years in London on international assignment.

A common theme for Claus has been to work with innovation and leading-edge technologies and be dedicated to client success.

“I have always valued the inspiration I get from clients and being able to build strong relationships. Passion, curiosity, and delivering value to the clients have always been the main driver for me.”

Looking Forward

Claus an experienced marathon runner with 16 races completed and personal best on 3 hours 11 minutes expresses, “The entire industry is not going to be digitized overnight. It is more like a marathon race. I have trained and prepared well. I have the best equipment, started the race, and am full of energy. Everything looks good. IBM has momentum with many client engagements and a strong base of Maximo clients eager to take asset management to a new level.”

For Claus, it is truly inspirational to work with the ambition to digitize the civil infrastructure industry for the benefit of our clients and society at large.

He says, “To have a job where technology is used to minimize the risk of accidents, improve productivity and sustainability is a true pleasure. At the same time, IBM has a product Maximo Civil Infrastructure, that makes this possible. I feel privileged to lead our efforts and am eager to help our clients achieve their goals and objectives.”