There is no one-size-fits-all solution to construction quality control. Every company will have different processes, checklists, and punch list items based on the type of construction, subcontractors, and regulatory requirements. However, there are some common mistakes that we have seen in our decades of experience with construction quality control.
Do any of these potential quality control pitfalls sound familiar to you?
1. Management Not Making Quality a Priority
Company culture starts at the top, and if owners and managers don’t make it clear that quality is a high priority, it won’t filter through to superintendents and crews. On the other hand, if the importance of quality is ingrained at every level in the organization, it will show in your work. Managers can demonstrate that quality is a prime concern by actively participating in quality control decisions.
Shortcutting quality will always be tempting to meet deadline, cycle time and production goals. But, company leaders must walk the talk. They can’t preach a commitment to quality, then put hard targets ahead of quality requirements. A strong Quality Management Program will make both possible, and rewarding field personnel and project managers for achieving first-time quality will drive home the priority.
2. Thinking That Quality Management = Punch Lists
Quality management requires a lot more than just going through punch list items. Thinking beyond the punch list includes changing the focus from problem fixing to proactive problem prevention, setting expectations for first time quality, and using an integrated system that allows everybody on the team to learn from the mistakes that have been made in the past. The goal isn’t just correcting mistakes, but preventing recurring mistakes from happening in the future.
3. Not Having a Quality Improvement Process
Effective quality management requires an ongoing process that includes systematically learning from mistakes and always getting closer to first-time quality. For example, every mistake is an opportunity to look at improving training, checklists, or processes that will help it go right the next time: Rather than making the same mistakes time and again, a good quality management process will include a mechanism for identifying what went wrong and determining what can be changed to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
4. Not Understanding Recurring Issues
Common mistakes should not be taken for granted; they should be identified and targeted for prevention. You can probably think of at least a few issues that constantly pop up on your punch lists. A true quality management process will determine how often issues occur, where they happen, and who is responsible. Finally, it must take steps to purge those issues from the jobsite.
5. Not Preventing Known Quality Risks Before a Project Starts
When superintendents and project managers start a new project without identifying potential quality issues and take proactive steps to prevent them, they increase the risk of encountering those issues in the future. Some examples of ways that quality risks can be prevented is to fully understand the potential problems and quality concerns of the client, engineers, subcontractors, and your own staff. Treat these concerns as potential risks and implement special quality controls to prevent them once construction begins.
6. Poor Communication Between Quality Managers and Superintendents
Communication between quality managers and construction managers should be a two-way street, but all too often quality control personnel talk and field personnel listen. The fact is, quality managers have a lot to learn from the superintendents who spend a significant amount of time at job sites. They see firsthand the challenges that crews and subs are facing, they know the strengths and weaknesses of their teams, and they know what hasn’t gone well on past projects. The more superintendents share with quality managers, the better the quality manager can help the overall quality process.
7. Not Communicating First Time Quality Expectations to Subcontractors
Just because you can’t control certain aspects of a subcontractor’s work, it does not mean you can’t influence quality. When writing contracts, keep subs accountable by including expectations for first-time quality work. Don’t just write it down and assume they will read it. Have a conversation about your first time quality goals before the project starts so that subcontractors understand that they need to control their own quality and complete their work without depending on you to give them punch lists.
8. Thinking Subcontractor Rework Is Acceptable When They Pay for It
Just because a subcontractor is willing to correct mistakes “on his or her dime” does not mean that rework is acceptable. When a sub returns to a job site multiple times to fix something, it might hold up other tasks and unnecessarily delay the project, not to mention the time and effort to handle the issue. It also sends the message that you are not truly committed to first-time quality. In the end, you pay for the mistakes anyway, whether that’s in delays, damaged reputation, or increased subcontractor costs.
9. Not Understanding the Costs of Rework or Second-Time Quality
The longer it takes to get the job done right, the more expensive it is. The costs of wages, additional materials, and longer timelines add up for both you and the client. A quality management process that strives for first-time quality ultimately leads to happier clients and higher margins for you. Building it right the first time is always faster and costs less than building it and then repairing it.
10. Siloing Quality Managers and Project Managers
Creating silos between departments or individual roles will only impede construction quality control. Critical information doesn’t make it from the jobsite to the quality manager to management, and allow problems to fester. Quality should be integrated into everything the company does yet silos sabotage the quality management process and prevent improvements.
Many of these common construction quality control mistakes can be avoided with a combination of creating the right culture and providing the right systems and tools. FTQ360 can help with both. Our free resources can help you learn how to make quality management a top priority throughout the company, and our software system can help you implement the necessary processes to achieve your first-time quality goals.