Successful delivery of a construction project depends on the quality standards defined in the scope of work of a construction contract. The quality management a construction company provides is therefore paramount to fulfilling contractual obligations to meet quality standards.
Project specifications generally define project quality standards and so form part of the contract between a client and contractor. The fact a contract is not fulfilled unless specifications are met underlines the importance of quality standards, and quality management within any given construction project. Technical specifications may include reference to a Quality Management System (QMS) and include reference not only to the need for validation of products and materials, but also to the validation of execution and completion of construction works.
Around the world companies can take steps to meet quality requirements and be certified and/or adhere to an international quality standard. This standard certifies the efficiency of their Quality Management System. Quality Management Systems include both Quality Assurance (QS) and Quality Control (QC).
There are, however, barriers to the success of their implementation that need to be overcome by all organisations involved in the process of obtaining certification and/or complying with the quality standard for construction projects: including clients, contractors, architects, engineers and other project participants. Businesses need to find solutions and processes that are easy-to-use as well as cost-effective.
Barriers to construction quality management
Barriers to successful implementation of any construction management system relate closely to the nature of the construction process today. A QMS (QS and QC) are no exception. There are several human, physical and project related factors to consider:
- The construction industry is historically adversarial, uncollaborative, conservative and slow to embrace change.S
- Supply chains are extensive, multiple organisations have different visions, values, processes and practices
- Many contractors are Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs), unsophisticated and lack resources.
- Many construction companies rely on subcontractors working for them as part of the team.
- Staff can change, work is labour intensive, workforces tend to be transient
- Site locations vary
- Weather can vary
- Construction projects are unique, subject to change and delays and work volumes fluctuate: there is a need for flexibility.
- QA is of concern: there is a need to simplify and digitise processes to improve productivity.
- QC is of concern: there is a need to improve accuracy, reduce rework through a more structured approach.
Overcoming barriers to construction quality management
Considering the barriers to quality management, it is easily seen that effectively managing quality in construction is a real challenge. There is a real need for efficient, flexible, collaborative, easy-to-use, cost-effective management solutions in the industry, including for quality management purposes.
Here we explain three areas contractors can achieve this, namely: obtaining certification, adhering to quality standards, and implementing a contractor quality management programme.
1. Obtaining quality certification
First, contractors can seek quality certification, such as International Standards Organisation (ISO) ISO 9001:2015. Quality certification has the following benefits:
- Provides more efficient (and timely) delivery of products and services
- Increases margins and repeat business through delivery of higher quality work
- Reduces errors (and therefore reduces risk and cost of rework).
- Improves employee training, development and communication
- Provides evidence of commitment to standards of excellence.
- Compliance with legislation and regulations
2. Adherence to quality standards
Second, contractors can seek to adhere to quality standards, such as those of the ISO 9001 family of standards. Adhering to quality standards has the following benefits:
- Ensures appropriate controls and processes for efficient project delivery
- Provides procedures for monitoring approved supplier lists
- Continual management of subcontractor work quality
- Implementing a Quality Management Programme
3. Implementing a Quality Management Programme
Third, to meet standards, a contractor should have a robust Quality Management Programme (QMP). An effective QMP has the following advantages:
- Creates a process for confirming quality standards and requirements
- Establishes means and method for managing the quality management process
- Defines responsibilities and accountabilities within the supply chain
- Facilitates and manages the collection of project data and information
- Reduces performance issues and non-conformances and time spent on their resolution
- Reduces snags, defects and time spent on their resolution
- Enhances project delivery
- Improves team communication and collaboration
- Eliminates or reduces waste, including paper, and contributes to a less stressful working environment
- Improves productivity
Quality Management Programme
The contractor’s QMP is a document defining the processes, practices, and procedures, ensuring a construction project’s quality requirements are met or exceeded. It describes the QA Process and the QC Plan.
QA Process: this is the process the contractor will engage in to ensure that the required quality of the project is achieved. It defines inspection and reporting requirements, the timing of inspections and written reports, who is to receive, review and correct them.
QC Plan: this is the contractor’s definition of how project quality will be controlled during construction of the project. Any unique project quality requirement should be defined in a project specific document. It defines who is responsible for achieving quality standards and how they are to be achieved. It establishes a framework with defined procedures and practices to ensure that the completed project meets or exceeds specified quality requirements.
It is worthwhile highlighting here that a 2009 US academic research paper “Cost of Quality in the Construction Industry” mentioned that quality costs can reach 20% of construction costs.
The role of collaborative software in proactive quality management
By consistently anticipating, testing and preventing possible snags, errors or discrepancies in a systematic way, those involved on a construction site may need to be able to do some or all of the following: access, annotate, communicate, report and share information, from the field or the office.
Set within a lean culture of continuous improvement and a collaborative work environment, proactive quality management,requires the right tools for execution.
A highly efficient way to achieve this and proactively manage quality to meet standards and certification requirements is through digitisation of paper-based processes through appropriate construction management software and mobile applications with enhanced features for managing quality.
While it is true some elements of quality management can be accomplished on paper, a comprehensive and complete CQMP will benefit from digitisation and using collaborative software that with cloud storage and connectivity capability, developed especially for use in the construction field.
Using a collaborative construction quality management solution
Features of a collaborative construction quality management solution will include:
- Flexible access to up-to-date information and collaboration tools for project progress and delivery
- Secure project documentation storage and user access permission levels
- Dynamic, mobile checklist, defect management and reporting capability
- Collaborative built-in defect/issue resolution tracking
Project information and data can even be stored in the cloud. This can enable you to access it anywhere at any time, on a mobile device in the field, just as easily as on a PC in the office and communicate and share it with collaborators on site, in the office or anywhere in between.
For proactive QA and QC, you’ll need a cohesive team and a versatile solution, such as BatiScript, dedicated to monitoring the entire construction quality management process.
Proactive quality management dictates the need to adapt paper-based habits to digital ones, but offers the ability to deliver projects efficiently, collaboratively, accurately and cost effectively. It makes the transition worthwhile. Many of our clients have testified on quality improvement through use of BatiScript.