All builders tout a commitment to quality. It’s advertised in their marketing, in their sales pitch and in their core values. Some deliver on that promise; others simply talk a good game. Those who are seriously committed to building a best in class project have an efficient construction schedule. But they didn’t stumble onto efficiency by accident. They’ve implemented five production applications to ensure a quality-built project.
- Establish Process Standards - To achieve a consistent level of quality, builders look to standardize the many processes that make up their construction schedule. Standardization formalizes routine procedures that the Subcontractors and crews must follow to complete their individual jobs. This can detail the types of materials used, installation procedures and, most critically, what constitutes job completion. A simple example of a jobsite standard is the requirement that the subcontractor crew picks-up all trash and sweeps the building before they leave for the day. A more complex standard would be the requirement that the lumber company bundle the wood in a specific order so that the pieces used first are placed on top the stack. Another standard is identifying a specific drop point on the jobsite for the delivery truck to follow, to keep the wood dry and out of the way until it’s ready to be used. These standards spell-out the builder’s expectations, formalize procedures for completing the work, and create performance accountability.
- Use Checklists and Inspections - Once standards are in place, checklists and inspections ensure those standards are met. QA personnel, field supervision and subcontractors alike can use checklists to verify that all the steps within their specific job have been completed. That in turn reduces callbacks and rework. Checklists also reinforce best practices and doing the job right the first time. Using checklists during inspections are critical too. Many builders rely on their jobsite Superintendent to determine if a subcontractor’s completed work is a quality job or not. That opinion can vary wildly from job to job. Inspection checklists throughout the building schedule remove the Superintendent’s opinion. Checklists set the standard, and it becomes each Superintendent’s job to ensure the Builder’s definition of quality is being met. Variation from job to job is eliminated, and the builder delivers a consistent level of quality on each project.
- Track construction defects - Warranty is the obvious gauge of a quality-built building. And, even average builders tie warranty claims to a Subcontractor—only to have the problem pop-up again elswhere. To eliminate the root cause, the builder should use the capabilities of their quality assurance program. The QA system communicates concerns to the Subcontractors, and takes measures (such as updating checklists and inspections) to prevent the mistake from happening again. However, warranty is fixing a problem after the fact; punch lists and call backs are quality gauges occurring in real time. Monitoring recurring issues in these two areas reveal the level of quality within a specific stage of construction. Like warranty, they should tie back to the QA program to update checklists and improve inspections. Purge recurring items on punch lists and reasons for callbacks to not only save the time and money, but eliminate potential warranty claims.
- Invest in training - Training presents a key opportunity to ingrain quality achievement into the core of the construction team, but a lot of builders find an ongoing development program too expensive and time consuming to implement. Despite these reservations, continuous education is essential for continuous improvement. Toolbox talks on quality topics can provide just-in-time training to work crews that is both simple and cost-effective. Ongoing training ensures the building team has consistent experience using checklists, performing inspections, and recognizing the expected level of quality. It’s also important to provide background knowledge, relaying the company’s history from a quality perspective. Illustrate past building defects, how they were resolved, and where the company stands today in achieving its quality goals. While the initial implementation of a QA process my get some pushback, those sceptical team members turn into raving QA fans when the process catches a critical error in time to correct it, and consistently keeps the schedule running smoothly. That makes the education well worth the investment.
- Make the commitment - Like so many average builders, it’s easy to talk a good game. It’s difficult to deliver. A quality builder must make a commitment to earning that title. And, that commitment means a constancy of purpose. Committing to an effective QA system begins at the top, and the company leaders must reinforce its use at every opportunity. The QA tools must be used consistently across all jobsites and by every Superintendent. It’s all or nothing. Unless the Builder views quality building as a hard and fast rule, the construction team will inevitably slip back into old habits, cut corners and invent work-arounds —all at the expense of quality.
Even the average builders proclaim a commitment to quality. To really deliver on that promise, the builder must have a construction team that truly understands what quality is and how it is measured. That begins with implementing these five applications, and then consistently carrying them forward to every new construction project.