Tactics for Hitting Project Quality the First Time

Poor quality control leads to many negative results on construction projects. Studies put the cost of rework at between 5 percent and 9 percent, and then there are the associated losses from delays. Here are helpful tips and modern tactics for getting quality to hit the mark the first time.

It’s inefficient to address quality issues during construction. So, the best time to start working on quality is during the design and planning stages. That’s when people make decisions about materials, equipment performance, specifications, and how crews will configure components. If designers and planners do a thorough job, all that should remain is making sure people follow the plans.

Know Your Project

Project managers, superintendents, and foremen stand on the front lines of quality control. Not only must they interpret the specifications, but they also must make sure crews do the work the correct way. Their job gets tougher when planning isn’t thorough, and when the inevitable changes arise. To get out in front of quality issues though, supervisors can look to places in the building plans that foretell potential problems.

Get a deep understanding of the project by studying the specifications and the building plans. You need to know all the places where quality can go astray. If activities need specialized equipment, that’s a potential quality control issue. If you have new building methods that people haven’t used before, that’s a potential quality issue. If the specifications call for new materials, or using old materials in new ways, that’s also a potential quality problem. In short, any time the plans introduce something new or unfamiliar to the crews who must do the building, you should know about it well beforehand. Study the plans and specifications until you’re the expert.

Make Sure Others Know the Specs

As you do that, look for places where people might inadvertently, or intentionally, substitute materials. Crews are often under orders to use what’s available, but when they substitute a different material than what’s specified, the stage is set for some expensive rework. To help set the tone for adherence to the specs, insist that subs complete their mockups well ahead of schedule. Also, insist that project participants submit requests for information and requests for material substitutions well ahead of the scheduled work.

It’s great when you know the plans and specs, but don’t stop there. You can short circuit mistakes by taking time to acquaint crews with the quality standards before they start working. This might mean holding a meeting to go over areas of the plans where people could misinterpret the sequence or methods. Or, if you use formal work packages, you can call out special instructions within the packages so there’s less chance of people misinterpreting the requirements.

Use Modern Quality Control Tools

Another highly effective quality control tip is to use tools that help in tracking and monitoring quality aspects. Construction project management software provides ample ways to put quality right into the schedule. Besides directly scheduling equipment testing, you can build in reminders about new materials and methods, so you can tailor work packages and instructions to meet the new specifications. The same holds true for anytime you have third party certifications due, and even when you need unusual code inspections done.

Another tip is to use monitoring to ensure people deliver quality standards the first time around. You can’t be everywhere at once, but you can enlist the help of others who understand the quality goals specified in the plans. Technology also offers excellent opportunities for monitoring without pulling people away from other duties.

You can place construction cameras so they automatically record images or video of the action you want observed. If you can’t be there, you can monitor activities remotely, and get on the phone or radio to instruct people when you see quality problems arising. This approach has a secondary benefit. It provides a record of how crews interpreted and followed specifications. If there are any questions later, you have evidence that crews followed best practices.

The secret to managing quality on construction projects is to tie it to the specifications. And then follow up to make sure it hits the mark.

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