How Quality Managers Can Work with Superintendents to Improve Quality



Construction superintendents are responsible for the overall success of a project, which includes scheduling, inspections, subcontractor management, job-site safety, staying within the budget, and yes, quality control. Many companies also appoint a quality manager for each project to prevent quality deficiencies from occurring. Too often, superintendents view quality managers as the enemy and expect a contentious relationship. However, as a quality manager, you can actually be the superintendent’s MVP. Here’s how:

If you’re thinking of a construction team like a sports team, you can easily say that the superintendent is the head coach and the subcontractors are the players. Where does the quality manager fit in? Naturally, the assistant coach. The objective of the role is to support the superintendent so that the construction team can perform at the highest possible level. The quality manager is there to help them build it right the first time and prevent problems before they arise.

In a sports team, the assistant coach doesn’t just drop in at the championship game and make suggestions or criticize the plays that have already been decided. He or she works with the players and regularly consults with the head coach to help make improvements throughout the season. The same is true for quality managers. They shouldn’t just pop in to do inspections when the work is already done. They should help prepare the construction team to be successful at achieving first-time quality from day one.

Pre-Construction and Preparatory Meetings

Quality managers should be involved in the pre-construction meetings at the beginning of each project and at the preparatory meetings that happen before each phase. The quality manager’s role in these meetings is to discuss the quality expectations and where issues might arise.

A good place to start the discussion is to ask for the quality concerns that the superintendent, project owner, engineers, and other stakeholders have for the project. Their collective knowledge is an invaluable resource for identifying possible quality issues and how they can be prevented.

The Quality Manager should come prepared with a risk analysis of possible issues. For example, high-frequency items like windows or electrical junction boxes can cause more issues and take much more resources than a one-time task. Another possible risk area that quality managers must watch for during a construction project is when a new type of material or a new technology is being used. When necessary, they can provide additional training for subs and crews or proactively arrange for a product manufacturer to come to the site to provide training.

This is also a great opportunity to clarify that the quality manager’s role is to provide support to ensure the success of the project, not to create delays or rework through the inspection process. In order to prevent this type of scenario, quality managers should work closely with the team to create checklists (before the project starts and before each phase) that include heightened awareness checkpoints so that all stakeholders know that their areas of concern will be closely monitored during the inspection process.

Subcontractor Management

The quality manager should also share these heightened awareness checkpoints with subcontractors so they are aware of the items that will be addressed during inspections. After subcontractors have confirmed that their work is complete and compliant with project specifications, a good practice is for the quality manager to perform key milestone inspections to verify that all requirements have been met.

Quality managers and superintendents should stay in communication about subcontractor performance to discuss who deserves praise and who might need extra training to complete work to specifications. Nobody can be in two places at once, but if QMs and supers are on the same page about quality expectations, they can share information to help keep subs on track. Quality managers can also lighten the superintendent’s load by taking the initiative to coach subcontractors who are not performing well.      

Throughout the Construction Process

During construction, the quality manager keeps the collective attention on upcoming possible issues that should be avoided. The QM should use all available venues including toolbox talks and production meetings to go over what issues inspectors will be looking for. Quality control takes on a whole new meaning when you present it as a coach that is very interested in the team performing well on game day.

Daily job-site walks are another opportunity to look for emerging work-in-process issues and have the subcontractor take care of corrections as part of their normal quality control process. Handle these job-site walks as informal, helpful coaching because you want the subcontractor to successfully pass your official inspection with first-time quality work.  

Learn from mistakes—and quickly! No amount of planning can anticipate all possible deficiencies, so when issues do happen, quickly take action to prevent them from happening again. If a mistake is made on the first window, a little job-site training on how to install the window correctly can go a long way. To make sure all the other windows are done right, alert the inspectors and add the item to the checklist software template as a heightened awareness checkpoint so it is verified on every window.  

Quality Managers are Team Players

If first-time quality is a priority for your company (and it should be), quality managers must be much more than just punch-list managers. Rather than just documenting issues after they arise, they should be involved in the entire process, starting with pre-construction.

When this doesn’t happen, preventable issues can spiral into significant problems by the end of the job, which leads to frustration and tension between everybody on the team. This might be a familiar scenario, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Quality managers play an important part in achieving first-time quality, but in order to do this successfully, the role must be clearly defined, they must be involved throughout the entire project, and they must have the right tools to be proactive. If you’d like to learn more about how FTQ360 can help you integrate quality management processes into everything you do on the job, request a live demo today.   

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