Adopting a new construction quality management software solution can feel overwhelming or even unnecessary, especially if you already have a collection of spreadsheets that helps you manage quality. However, it’s important to ask these three key questions:
- Do your spreadsheets actually help you improve first-time quality (zero-defect work)?
- Do your field supervisors spend 50 percent or more of their time reacting to and dealing with defects and issues related to poor-quality work?
- Are you seeing many of the same punch list items repeatedly?
If answering these questions has you wondering whether your current spreadsheet-based quality system is working for you, then it’s time to explore quality management software. The following comparison can help you evaluate the two options.
The Spreadsheet Problem
When your quality system consists of using spreadsheets to track deficiencies and punch list items, that’s not quality management. That’s punch list management, which only helps you deal with defects in a reactive way. This means that you react to issues after they have occurred, even though many of them were easily avoidable. As such, spreadsheets do nothing to help you improve first-time quality work or stop the same defects from happening time and again.
The cost of working this way is unpredictable, but it is predictably high. Does any of this sound familiar? You can predict staffing costs for handling typical levels of construction issues, but projects still go over budget. You include buffer days in project schedules, but timelines still slip. Budgeted variance purchase orders are burned through way before projects are complete. None of these scenarios makes the client happy about doing business with you.
You could look for a more efficient way to use spreadsheets, or you could upgrade to a punch list program and optionally deploy it on your mobile devices. However, the only change is that you can work faster and handle more punch list items. Quality does not improve.
Continuing to use spreadsheets as a quality management system is buying into the popular belief that nothing much can be done about poor quality, except to deal with issues as you find them. Fortunately, there is a better way.
The Quality Management Software Solution
Quality management uses a very different strategy by taking a proactive approach to improving first-time quality work and preventing defects from happening in the first place. With quality management software, you can systematically improve quality using the knowledge and experience of your field staff along with the data from past punch lists and inspections.
Quality management software lets you analyze data such as subcontractor performance, the issues that recur most frequently, the most costly issues, and more across multiple projects. For example, you can look at the last five (or 10 or 20) projects and see which subcontractors delivered the highest percentage of first-time quality—zero-defect work with the lowest number of issues. How quickly did the subcontractors respond to callbacks and/or complete their rework? If you were considering two subcontractors for a job, how long would it take you to go through your spreadsheets to determine which one delivered better quality and whether that low bid really saved you any money?
Quality management systems that are supported by quality management software help you examine why deficiencies occur and fill in the missing pieces. The aim is to get ahead of deficiencies and prevent them from happening in the first place. It is a simple enough strategy—build it right the first time. You may not be at 100 percent at first, but as you learn from mistakes, each step gets you closer to first-time quality.
Once your quality management system is under way you will see:
- People strive to miss fewer details.
- Punch lists have fewer and fewer issues, especially repetitive ones.
- Field supervision spends more time preventing and less time reacting to issues.
- Projects run smoother and on schedule.
- Costs go down and profits go up.
It’s easy to revert to the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, if you are using spreadsheets you might be working with a broken system without even realizing it. Spreadsheets are one method for reacting to quality issues, but when it comes to construction quality management and process improvement, they simply aren’t enough. Software specifically designed for managing first-time quality in construction is essential. One way to see what you might be missing in your spreadsheets is to watch a demo of quality management software in action, so schedule yours today.