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Construction Quality Assurance

White Paper

Construction Quality Assurance White Paper
February 2005

Written By Jon Harrison, CQE Senior Quality Engineer

04/15/05 v02

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The construction industry is unique. The pilot program assessed 21 construction companies that were to bid on a major new biotechnology facility. the application of quality assurance requires an approach that meets the needs of the industry. asking the following questions: • • • • • • Are we using contractors who do not have a quality program? For those that do. The concept was developed. project delays. to address the many cost overruns. In general. or an insurance Page 2 of 13 . construction contractors did not know what was expected in a quality program. Various case studies and initiatives have succeeded in successfully introducing quality assurance to the construction industry on a small scale. and other cost of quality issues that have become the norm on recent projects. Building owners also need to be educated as to what is quality assurance so that they can begin using their voice to encourage adaptation of this approach to protect their investments and reduce the cost of construction. it has mostly been ignored by the industry. but as a whole. The cost could potentially be reduced significantly if the industry were to embrace the concept of quality assurance that has been used with great success by many other sectors of the economy. a pilot program was initiated with a large pharmaceutical and biotechnology company to assess the current state of quality assurance in the construction industry. what is the current state of their quality programs? How do the quality programs compare to industry standards? Are their quality programs effective? What can we do to assist contractors in improving their quality programs? What will be our expectations for contractors in the future? THE RESULTS AND DATA FROM THE PILOT PROGRAM REVEALED THE FOLLOWING: Approximately 50% of the contractors did not have Quality Manuals. We started out the program. Operations Manual.perfval. in large part. Construction Quality Assurance Pilot Program In 2003. Some quality plans and/or quality manuals were merely window dressing and were not implemented at all. and therefore. Many contractors did not know what a Quality Manual was and confused it with a Safety Manual.Construction Quality Assurance White Paper White Paper Overview The construction industry has been struggling with quality issues for many years. 04/15/05 v02 www. and the cost to our economy is dramatic.

and other cost of quality issues in newspapers and industry journals on a routine basis. Those who are familiar with the construction industry are most likely already aware of this. think back over the last several months at lawsuits. project Page 3 of 13 . Management Review: Reviewing quality system data (performance) (quality metrics) to determine if the quality system is working and if it is not. or “proceduralizing” your key business processes. quality procedures). Non-conformance Tracking: To monitor and track quality issues to ensure that defects are kept from your customer.e. Crawling Walking Running Non-Numerical Data: Control and variation is also reduced by instituting systematic methods (i. Quality Procedures However. What Is Quality Assurance? Quality assurance is about being “in control” of all major areas of your business (“key processes”) so that you can assure quality. More information is provided in a separate white paper.perfval. For those who are not. Numerical Data: Control and variation reduction is established by statistically evaluating the process capability and then controlling the process via process control charts using SPC (statistical process control). 04/15/05 v02 www. finger pointing. “Control” and “variation reduction” is accomplished using various methods.Construction Quality Assurance White Paper “Cost of Quality” In Construction The need for construction quality assurance is easy to demonstrate due to the high cost of quality related issues in the industry. taking the appropriate action to improve the system. systematic methods (quality procedures) have little value if they are not properly managed by a quality system that includes: Document Control: To ensure employees have the correct procedures and the procedures are properly maintained. This is also referred to as “systematizing”. “standardizing”. which improves quality.e. lost time. quality procedures) when detected via audits and non-conformance tracking to prevent defects from reoccurring. Audits: To verify quality procedures are being followed. CAPA (corrective action and preventative action): To correct flawed processes (i. Being “in control” also reduces variation.

Check: Verify with quality audits & by documenting nonconformances.Construction Quality Assurance White Paper c. Check.perfval. If “No” was answered to any of the above questions. Start Here Do: Work systematically by following your procedures. To avoid any confusion. 04/15/05 v02 www. Deming Cycle Quality assurance is oftentimes explained by the “Plan. Do I Have A Quality Assurance Program? Oftentimes the phrase “quality assurance” is mis-used and Page 4 of 13 . you do not have an effective quality assurance program. Act” (PDCA) Cycle seen below: Plan: Documented processes via quality procedures & quality plans. the following table can be utilized as a tool to assess if you have a quality assurance program. Do. Act: Act upon the results by implementing CAPA & conducting Management Reviews.

and geared for the intended audience. as only 42 construction companies are certified. The reason for this is not difficult to understand as demonstrated in the following table: Construction Contractor Quality System Audit Checklist Due to the lack of a basic construction quality assurance program for the construction industry. the only quality assurance “standard” that is currently available to the construction industry is the “ISO 9000” quality system. This standard has for the most part been completely ignored by the construction industry in the U. a quality assurance program designed for construction must be streamlined. not overly-burdensome. To be effective. which is well known due to high levels of publicity. it must strike the right balance between added cost and added value. Unfortunately.S. quality system audit checklist was developed to assess a construction contractor’s quality system. 2) Stripping those elements from the standard that are not essential to construction. The checklist was developed utilizing the following steps: 1) Using the ISO 9000: 1994 standard as a guide.perfval. 04/15/05 v02 Page 5 of 13 . This assessment has been validated by an exhaustive study conducted by the European Union (EU) Construction Quality Assurance Commission.Construction Quality Assurance White Paper Construction Industry Needs The construction industry has unique requirements for developing a quality assurance programs. a construction contractor. 3) Adding quality elements that are unique to construction. In addition. user-friendly.

was utilized. The checklist can also be utilized to evaluate the quality system of construction contractors and companies that are already being utilized. the awarding of a $100 million contract at a pharmaceutical company. Example #1 Example #2 Example #3 04/15/05 v02 www. FOR CONSTRUCTION COMPANIES: The Construction Contractor Quality System Audit Checklist can be used by construction contractors to assess the strength of their current quality system. and played a key role in.Construction Quality Assurance White Paper FOR BUILDING OWNERS: The Construction Contractor Quality System Audit Checklist can be utilized by building owners to compare the strength of a contractor’s quality program relative to another company that is submitting bids on a new Page 6 of 13 . Example results are shown below.perfval. Implementation: The Construction Contractor Quality System Audit Checklist has already been utilized to evaluate the strength of construction contractor quality systems and in fact.

an appropriate checklist.perfval. Due to the need for construction quality assurance jobsite audits. Audits are essential in order to keep you from “flying blind”. building owners have not realized the importance of jobsite quality audits. 04/15/05 v02 www.Construction Quality Assurance White Paper Construction Quality Assurance Jobsite Audits In general. Audits also protect both parties. including quality Page 7 of 13 . was developed.

Construction Quality Assurance White Paper Construction Quality Assurance Job Specific Quality Plans (JSQP) The most critical element of all is to ensure that job specific quality plans (JSQP) are developed for each job to ensure that quality is being managed. Corporate Construction Quality Assurance Program Due to a lack of a standard quality assurance program that meets the needs of the construction industry. o To find & correct defects before your customer finds them.perfval. o Prevent defects from re-occurring. Utilizing a risk-based approach (to minimize the cost of a quality system). including: Assuring quality. 04/15/05 v02 www. Adding value. a JSQP template was developed. Providing the tools required to successfully: o Get the job done right the first time. Reducing the cost of quality (and increasing profit). To ensure that quality plans are written CORRECTLY and to assist in mistake-proofing the process. a back-to-basics and streamlined construction quality assurance program was Page 8 of 13 . The goal was to develop a system that captured the essence of quality assurance.

com Page 9 of 13 . manage risk. which means. if you don’t do it.Construction Quality Assurance White Paper Note: THIS more than anything is really what a quality assurance program is all about. and be signed-off by senior management. Quality Manuals in general are designed to “say what you do” and then “do what you say”. don’t say it! Quality Manuals are not sales brochures! b. Quality Assurance Manual Quality Assurance Manuals are NOT used to perform a job activity. and therefore it is unnecessary and unproductive to spend an excessive amount of time on this document.perfval. Quality Procedures Quality procedures were written to define each key process using a risk-based approach to minimize complexity. It should merely state your companies overall vision with a quality policy. describe the major areas of your business (“key processes”) that will be controlled systematically via quality procedures. To further add value and to make the system user-friendly. 04/15/05 v02 www. a “Key Concepts” section was added to the beginning of each procedure to explain why the procedure was necessary to assure quality. a. and enable the ability to keep defects from your customer.

04/15/05 v02 Page 10 of 13 . Getting building owners to recognize the criticality of quality in addition to safety and lowest bid. HOW CAN CONSTRUCTION QUALITY ASSURANCE HELP ME? Fact: Quality assurance and quality tools add value wherever they are applied! The key to unlocking this value is to determine what level of investment is needed in quality assurance for your business. To become a smarter company. Building owners should also ensure that jobsite quality audits are periodically conducted to ensure that quality is indeed being managed and that unnecessary risk is not accumulated that could jeopardize the project delivery. Achieving more accountability in the management of government contracts. “Systematizing” work methods to ensure that the job is “done right the first time”. Each was developed with mistake-proofing techniques in order to allow a construction company to begin building quality into the process. To protect the business from liability risk. Getting everyone in the company involved (quality is everyone’s responsibility). the value of the audit will most likely be significantly diminished). but being aware of some of them ahead of time can make you better prepared to overcome them. Here are a few: Changing the company culture to learn how to work systematically. Training project managers how to manage quality. Overcoming “60’s style construction” mentality. Managing quality to assure quality and to keep defects from customers. Using these techniques will allow you to provide a better quality product to your customer and be a more profitable company at the same time.perfval. BUILDING OWNERS: Building owners can utilize construction quality assurance to assess the capabilities of the construction companies with whom they conduct business by ensuring that a quality system audit is conducted by a qualified quality assurance professional (if the person is not qualified. Gaining executive buy-in and commitment. Quality Checklists and Forms Quality checklists and forms were developed. There can be many obstacles along the way. Overcoming Obstacles Implementing a construction quality assurance program is not always easy. CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTORS: Construction contractors can utilize quality assurance in many ways. including: Standardizing best practices to maximize productivity. where “it’s only wrong if we get caught”.Construction Quality Assurance White Paper c. Overcoming the “let’s just get it built” mentality. To reduce the cost of quality to increase profits.

and they are not going to change anytime soon. assuring quality. management review) and/or specifically with control charts (where needed). because the essential elements of quality assurance and quality tools have been known for several decades. if you have a strong quality assurance program. and should already be controlling them via the quality assurance program in general (quality procedures. applied systematic methods. which must be learned. The result will be a much smarter company. and it is good. particularly for a company which may have a staff of civil engineers and/or certified project managers. it is a worthwhile investment to periodically utilize a qualified quality professional to impart the knowledge and to assist the company in developing and maintaining the quality system and “quality toolbox”. continuous improvement. training. Stick to the basics that add value. right-off-the-shelf.Construction Quality Assurance White Paper Six Sigma & Quality Assurance Six Sigma! Six Sigma is a popular program that has received much attention. and so on in order to improve and/or correct flawed processes. just-add-water-and-stir. Quality assurance is about control. Nevertheless. you should already be “mapping out” your key processes to gain better understanding & control. 04/15/05 v02 www. The fact is. canned. and so on. Control charts are then used from that point on (when needed) to monitor the process and to sustain the gains. document control. Do I Need A Quality Consultant? Quality assurance in and of itself is not that difficult. risk management. however. Bechtel Engineering has published several articles about how Six Sigma helped them. applied due-diligence. It involves process mapping. Six Sigma is essentially basic quality engineering (applied statistical methods) that has been simplified and re-packaged to gain broader acceptance. statistical analysis of data.) This sounds good. Therefore. Admittedly. Quality assurance is a thought process as much as it is a system.” (Note: “Five months of training” does sound like an excessive amount of time to learn process mapping and basic statistical methods. mistake-proofing. keeping defects from your customer. there is much more to quality than most people ever realize. quality metrics. “Six Sigma” does have a better “ring” to it. One example went like this: “Black belts undergo five months of training … a team … studied the process for testing 49 waste tanks for corrosion … based on statistical analysis of the data … the process was revised to reduce unnecessary testing … saving millions $$$. or downloaded-off-the-internet quality systems just don’t work.perfval. and should already be collecting & analyzing data from your quality system (quality metrics) (statistical analysis) to improve and/or fix flawed Page 11 of 13 . internal audits. but it should not be confused with quality assurance.

LLC.htm Construction Quality Assurance http://www.perfval.Construction Quality Assurance White Paper Summary The value of quality assurance and quality tools has been demonstrated for many years.asp?TrackID=&CategoryID=679 04/15/05 v02 www. The construction industry could clearly benefit from mastering these By utilizing quality assurance and quality tools in the correct proportion these benefits can be realized with significant return on investment for all parties. please contact Performance To learn more about how construction quality assurance can benefit Final report (August 1999) Page 12 of 13 . References The European Way to Excellence in Construction. or logon to our website at