After you deploy your construction quality assurance program, it’s important to make sure it’s working and that people are using the systems properly. In addition to making sure all your hard work isn’t for nothing, keeping your quality program on track also helps you justify the costs, demonstrate ROI, and get closer to the ultimate goal of first-time quality. Monitoring progress also keeps field personnel engaged and ensures compliance with the quality program.
What Should You Monitor?
The goal of monitoring is to make sure the systems are working as intended. When you defined your inspection process, you determined:
- Who should be doing inspections: QA, superintendents, subcontractors, etc.
- What inspections they should do: checklists for specific tasks and phases.
- When those inspections should be done: daily, weekly, milestones, etc.
- How the inspections should be completed: pictures, notes, checkpoints, etc.
These are exactly the things you should be monitoring. If your quality assurance program is healthy, the right people will be performing the right inspections at the right times using the right methods. If any of these elements break down, you need to know about it so you can address it.
How Do You Monitor It?
Some of the steps you can take to determine how well your quality program is working include:
Verify That Inspections Are Being Done
You know which inspections should be completed, so this is just a matter of making sure they are getting done. If you have an inspection and test plan (ITP), use it to automatically check the actual inspections against the scheduled ones. If you don’t have an ITP, you can verify compliance manually. You can do this on a rolling weekly basis by reviewing construction progress to determine what should have been inspected last week. Then, match actual inspections and verify what got done and what was missed.
Evaluate the Quality of Inspections
An inspection is only valuable if it generates high-quality information. This means using checklists correctly, taking pictures, entering thorough notes, and using the quality system to address issues. When reviewing inspections, check for:
- Marking an item as FTQ only if it didn’t have to be corrected
- Pictures, when required show good detail
- Pictures that are clearly labeled
- Notes that are clear and communicate observations and issues
Look for Pencil-Whipping
If inspectors don’t understand the importance of inspections or if they are just assuming that everything is fine, they will go through the motions of performing an inspection without actually evaluating the item. You can identify this habit when:
- All items are marked “yes” or “FTQ” with few or no issues noted
- Items are physically marked on the jobsite but not noted as deficient in the system
- No notes or pictures are included
Review reports on a regular basis to look for these signs of pencil-whipping.
Track Closing of Deficiencies
When your quality program is working, deficiencies will be identified, recorded, and closed in a timely manner. Monitor this by:
- Ensuring that there is a record of deficiencies in the quality system
- Tracking the time to close deficiencies
- Making sure items cited in inspections are closed in the system
Identifying deficiencies is just one step in the inspection process. They must also be fixed and marked as corrected so you can ensure that items are being closed out quickly.
What Should You Do When Issues Arise?
A construction quality program is only as good as the people using it, so it’s important to address issues as they arise. If you find problems with field staff not meeting your quality management expectations, don’t ignore them.
Do a daily scan of inspection reports so you can get a feel for both the deficiencies reported and the quality of the reports. Every few days, call an inspector to discuss what you see. This lets them know that you are paying attention, which can help reduce pencil-whipping and improve inspection quality. When necessary, provide coaching to demonstrate the correct way to perform an inspection. Make sure inspectors understand why these processes are in place, and explain the many benefits of a construction quality program.
Maintain the Momentum
After you have worked out the initial kinks of rolling out a quality management program, continue to review inspection reports on a weekly or monthly basis to ensure everyone is staying on track. Schedule self-audits to make sure inspections are getting completed and deficiencies are getting closed. This is also an excellent opportunity to identify the top recurring issues that should be prioritized in your checklists.
The better the system functions, the more people will be engaged. When keeping your construction quality program on track, don’t forget to tell people what they’re doing well so they keep doing those things. Celebrate the successes, and let field personnel know when you have achieved first-time quality.