Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC) sound very similar but describe two different parts of the quality management process. In construction, QA and QC are not only done by different parties but also at different times and with different goals. Still, both concepts are often mixed and confused. To clear things up and to understand how and what Sablono could be used, let’s look at both concepts in detail.
The quality management systems standards (ISO 9000) define both, QA as well as QC:
Quality Assurance is a part of quality management focused on providing confidence that quality requirements will be fulfilled.
Quality Control [on the other hand] is a part of quality management focused on fulfilling quality requirements.
So much for clearing things up… Only if you read very carefully you might find the small but significant difference: QA focusses on providing confidence that requirements will be met while QC makes sure that those requirements actually have been met.
But how do you apply that to the AEC industry? Let’s imagine the construction phase of a running project – each day tones of site activities are performed by workers on site. As I see it, the project team now has two options: Either regularly inspect the quality of the work performed through QC checks, analyse the information gathered during this process and use that information to eliminate/minimise potential issues throughout the rest of the project. On the other hand, management could create a somewhat general QA plan based on past projects, keep a record of all the issues found and simply look back at it at the end of the project. The second one creates a disconnection between QA and QC, where quality issues are not properly identified, quantified, and only mitigated after QC check (only if done properly). Ideally, there should be an integrated QA/QC relationship where issues are easily analysed and used to create a workflow where they are systematically eliminated/minimised saving your project a significant amount of time and money.
Now, if that is the better option, why do we see so many project teams working with completely independent QA & QC systems? And, why do most of the digital issue tracking tools nowadays still focus on that old workflow – instead of rethinking how construction projects should be executed? I think that is because a really integrated QA/QC workflow would take more than just a snagging tool, for example:
- You would need strong collaboration between all project partners since issues would need to be reported not only by site inspectors but by anyone who is working on site. They also would need to be documented in one central database which is accessible to anyone. This ensures that information is available much faster, leading to shorter delays until issues are fixed and the construction process can get back to normal.
- To ensure that those issue lists created keep being handy and a sophisticated root cause analysis can be done, issues should be reported connected to those site activities which they rely to. Only then will project management be able to recognize patterns and initiate means to solve potential root causes.
- Based on those insights project management should be able to (re-)define Quality Assurance checklists, which in turn can be used to avoid future re-occurrences of known quality issues. Obviously, those checklists should be handled by the same tool, making sure that all project related information is kept in one central place.
Sablono has never aimed to be a snagging or issue management tool. Still, our collaborative progress management platform can and should be used to manage issues during the construction phase. To us it seems like, there is a big difference between how quality and obstruction issues should be treated while the project is still running and afterwards. If the project is still running those issues should first be solved as quickly as possible to ensure a smooth construction process. Second, they should be analysed to understand the root cause and avoid repetitive occurrences. Other industries have effectively implemented important practices such as the Pareto principle in their quality programs, which states that 80% of the problems are caused by 20% of the causes. Introducing such a process to your construction project means to introduce a properly integrated QA/QC workflow. And Sablono will help you doing that.
Don’t you also feel it’s time to stop sugar-coating simple Quality Checking as Quality Assurance because it sounds better? Give Sablono a try in your next project!