When it comes to construction quality management there are two common approaches and you’re likely either doing one or both of these.
In this article, we explain an alternative to these that is far superior and will help your projects stand out from the rest as well as all of the other details you need to know about quality management.
“Poor quality can increase the cost of a building by up to more than 50% and can delay a project by up to 50%,” according to a study in Frontiers in Engineering and Built Environment.
What is quality management in construction?
Before we get to the practical tips, let’s briefly examine some of the basics. Quality Management involves the processes to make sure standards are met.
This is a concept coming from manufacturing as let’s face it–you’re delivering a product.
QM = QA + QC
We can break down quality management into two parts: quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC). QA could be considered more about the ongoing process and QC more about the end product.
QA has to do with relationships with clients, that they feel they can rely on your ‘brand’ for quality outcomes.
One of the nine fundamental shifts McKinsey expects in the construction industry is Customer Centricity and Branding:
“Similar to brands in other manufacturing industries, such construction brands will encompass, among other aspects, product and service quality, value, timing of delivery, reliability, service offerings, and warranties.”
QC involves meeting specs, be it your own internal indicators or external ones.
But they’re not unrelated. QC numbers should be feeding back into your QA plans. You build your reputation (and therefore your brand) by hitting the key QC indicators.
Quality management issues cause snags in the closeout of your project. And in a Dodge Autodesk Analysis, 60% said problems with the closeout affected their margins negatively.
Quality Management vs Defect Management
Defect management is part of quality management. It involves managing defects on the site as the project is being carried out. If defects are not addressed, they become quality issues.
Quality management is tackling quality issues at the end of the project before it is handed over to the client.
Some of the main causes of quality issues are:
Defects due to materials
Sometimes the materials arrive damaged, and sometimes they are just low-quality.
When problems arise from defects in materials, you need a system that moves up the chain immediately once a defect is identified.
In a survey of site operatives, 70% of the respondents measured the poor quality of building elements as being high and frequent.
Defects due to humans
According to Qualityze, human error accounts for over half of all construction defects. It might be a one-off glitch, or a regularly occurring mistake–either way, you’ll need to get to the bottom of it and root it out.
When a material is defective or there are defects due to humans, you need a way to document that and report it so that you and your managers are aware.
Looking for quality construction software to help you with construction quality management? We discuss the best options in this article: 'Buyer's guide to Quality Construction Software Solutions'.
Typical approaches to quality management
So what do you do once you catch these defects? The chances are, you’re taking one of the following approaches to quality management:
- Snagging tools
- Excel checklists and document management systems
While these do allow you to digitise quality management, they have some crucial flaws.
Relying on Excel checklists often results in a dump of unstructured information and additional time required to collect, process and make sense of this data - by which point the original data recorded is no longer up to date.
Alternatively, the use of snagging tools is better than paper-based systems, but they work to simply ‘document the car crash’ instead of stopping the car crash from happening in the first place.
They tell you what has gone wrong but fail to give foresight into these quality issues and help you to understand the root cause.
Here are some of the main reasons why the traditional approaches to quality management are flawed:
- They’re not connected to your actual construction site.
- They aren’t carried out ‘in the moment’ as your project is being executed, but rather as an afterthought.
- You can’t learn from them to improve quality over time.
- They don’t foster collaboration between different parties.
In a nutshell, these approaches are reactive, not proactive - they simply document quality issues rather than working to prevent these issues from arising in the first place.
The better way to do quality management
So, if Excel checklists and snagging apps won’t do the job, what is the better way to do quality management on your projects?
We’ve partnered with some of the biggest contractors in the construction industry to help them get to the root of their quality issues and implement systemic change.
Below we outline the five most important best practices for construction quality management:
1. Do quality management right in the moment, not as an afterthought
There has to be a way for subs on the ground to perform their own checks based on your own and external specifications and then make that information transparent and available to you immediately.
As this is happening, you want to be able to look at everything continuously at the micro and macro level.
Use a system to help you stay on top of things in real-time, instead of running to put out fires (or worse, trying to track down where the glitches are coming from).
2. Combine status management and task management with quality
Status management, task management and quality are all connected.
Taking a holistic approach that views these as parts that work together and equally have a knock-on effect on one another will allow you to manage quality far more effectively than looking at each of these parts in isolation.
This will allow you to immediately see quality issues as a task is completed so that it can be fixed sooner rather than later.
It will also enable you to understand the different factors that can play into creating quality issues in the first place so you can prevent these going forward.
3. Predefine what you want to control around quality
Set up processes and sequences you can reuse and/or adapt. You want to include not only industry standards, but also your brand standards.
Be specific and clear, with each task being integrated into a workflow that your subs can check off as each job is completed. They need to know what you expect from the beginning, to cut down on closeout issues.
4. Identify quality patterns in your projects so you can learn from mistakes (root causes)
Embedding your quality management into your wider workflow will give you insights to enable you to identify the root cause of quality issues.
This is key to effective quality management as understanding the root cause of quality issues will allow you to work to prevent it from happening again.
This will help you to take a proactive approach to quality management rather than a reactive one.
5. Put collaboration at the heart of quality control
The industry has a bad reputation for the disconnect between off-site and on-site. Not only do you want to improve communication, but also that everyone can see and feel that they are collaborators in delivering a quality project.
Build a culture around the fact that they own the quality management of their piece of the puzzle and assuring it is all put together well.
The easiest way to better quality management…
Sablono is a construction project management solution with built-in quality management that was founded on the best practice quality measures outlined above.
While digital checklists and snagging tools help to document issues, Sablono helps to prevent issues from happening in the first place. Here’s why Sablono is the best solution for construction quality management:
Understand the root cause of your quality issues
Sablono includes root cause analysis and the ability to create standardised sequences so that you can prevent making the same quality mistakes and easily scale best-practice techniques across your project.
You get insight into tendencies like particular activities that have high rejection rates, so that you can tackle those, reiterate what works, and smooth out your workflow. Sablono helps you to spot issues in advance and learn from your mistakes.
One version of the truth
Instead of just a series of fragmented feedback, everything is interconnected, and you can get a helicopter view of this “golden thread” of information running through your whole project.
Sablono combines task management, status management and quality so you can understand how all of the different parts of your project influence your plan.
Real-time, connected quality control
Sablono features real-time quality management that’s connected to your actual job site. The Sablono app can be used on the field by trades where they can report on predefined quality measures as they complete tasks.
You then get automatic notifications so you can tackle any potential problem immediately.
Integrated construction quality control and quality assurance
Take your quality management to a granular level, with digital QA’s linked to each unit. There’s no sign-off without the sub providing all the relevant information and corresponding picture proof.
This ensures tasks are completed right the first time so that you avoid issues piling up.
Foster collaboration and project ownership
Sablono connects all the different parties on your project and helps you to clearly define responsibilities and deadlines.
When you connect your subcontractors to the app, they can report on the status of quality and notify you immediately of any issues.
This means that everyone is responsible for managing quality on projects for greater transparency and accountability.
To conclude: construction quality management explained
We’ve shown you why you should steer away from the traditional approach to quality management in construction, which has proved itself to be ineffective. And, more importantly, we’ve outlined why a solution like Sablono is the better way to carry out quality management.
Get a demo to see how Sablono can provide you with a proactive, systemic approach to construction quality management.