A quality control plan audit for a construction project is the “check” part of the “Plan-Do-Check-Act” (PDCA) process. The purpose of the audit is to see whether your quality plan is working as intended. The best quality plan on paper isn’t a lot of good if it isn’t implemented correctly.
A QC plan audit doesn’t have to be an exhaustive process. Instead, you’ll basically be spot checking. If you find poor quality results or areas of your plan that aren’t being followed, then you can dig a little deeper.
For example, a part of any quality plan is a schedule of inspections and tests. During your QA audit, you’ll look to see whether those inspections are actually being done and whether they are being done correctly (in accordance with the procedures specified in the quality plan), resulting in good reports and detection of any nonconformance.
The goal of the audit isn’t just to generate an audit report (although if no problems are found that may be the outcome). The goal, rather, is to generate an action plan to improve quality. What this will consist of depends on the circumstances and the type of problems that you find.
Who Should Conduct the Quality Audit?
This depends on the size of the project. For a small project, a senior manager can conduct the audit. The company’s quality manager should audit medium-sized projects. For the largest projects or when something has clearly gone wrong (or when the customer requires it), a small independent team sent from the corporate office can conduct the audit. An independent audit firm may also do your quality audit.
Procedure for the Quality Plan Audit
You should audit your quality program about once a month. It’s not necessary to audit the entire operation under most circumstances. Instead, choose an activity that was completed recently or shortly before the time of the audit. Go into the field and verify that the work was completed to the specifications. Knowing what work has been completed, verify that the inspection forms and test reports were prepared in according to the inspection and test plan.
In addition to work procedures, your auditor(s) should check to make sure all paperwork is being done correctly. Your quality plan likely requires that reports be filed where there are nonconformance and when other issues arise such as problems with materials. While you are on the jobsite, look for marks that inspectors made to indicate corrections. Check to see that they completed the appropriate reports and that they are being filed correctly – with a good match between the reports and the conditions found in the field.
Any gaps in procedures or reporting are signs of a problem and call for deeper investigation. That’s the point of the audit: to find any problems in the implementation of the quality plan and, when they’re found, to take corrective action.
In all cases, you want to see two things. First, that the correct procedures, as specified in your quality plan, are being followed; and secondly, that they are being followed consistently.
You can use the checklist below, along with your project-specific or site-specific quality plan, to do a thorough audit. (Click here to see a sample of a site-specific quality plan.) Your observations will either validate compliance or show deficiencies.
|Quality System Audit Checklist|
|YES||NO||Project Quality Coordination and Communication|
|A project startup meeting was conducted to communicate project goals and expectations.|
|Before each scheduled work task, a preparatory meeting was conducted to communicate requirement details and coordinate work activities.|
|Employee qualifications were evaluated based on previously identified requirements including licensing requirements, training qualifications, responsibilities, and authority for each job position.|
|Field employees were trained on quality standards and procedures for their job position.|
|Employee capabilities were validated before employees were assigned to carry out quality job responsibilities.|
|Employee qualifications, quality practices, and performance are being reviewed on an ongoing basis as part of the employee performance management process.|
|YES||NO||Qualification of Subcontractors and Suppliers|
|Outside organizations’ qualifications were verified based on licensing requirements, compliance with specific quality standards, quality responsibilities, qualification of personnel and quality improvement processes.|
|Subcontractor and supplier quality performance is being evaluated on an ongoing basis.|
|YES||NO||Project-Specific Quality Standards|
|All relevant regulations, codes, and industry standards are available on jobsite.|
|Specifications for materials that meet contract as well as regulatory requirements are available on jobsite.|
|Quality and certification requirements for materials and equipment that affect quality are available on jobsite.|
|Measuring devices that affect quality were calibrated to special requirements when applicable.|
|Contract and published standards were supplemented with company quality standards as required to reduce quality risks and assure quality results.|
|YES||NO||Inspections and Test Plan|
|Inspections and tests were performed to contract specifications and industry standards.|
|Inspection and test results were recorded for each quality inspection and test.|
|Inspection and test samples were sent to independent laboratories that are certified by nationally recognized accreditation agencies.|
|YES||NO||Work Task Quality Inspections|
|Required quality work task inspections were performed at key milestones during the project.|
|All quality inspections and quality control activities were performed for each work task as required by the contract, industry, and company policies.|
|The full series of quality inspections (including before work begins, at first article completion, while work is in process, and at completion) were performed for each construction task.|
|All materials were inspected before use.|
|The results of each work task inspection was recorded. A copy of the inspection report is available for review.|
|YES||NO||Quality Control of Corrections and Nonconformances|
|Nonconformances and rework items were marked clearly to identify them for correction.|
|Corrections were made in a timely manner and validated for their effectiveness.|
|Customer approval was received before accepting any nonconforming items.|
|Nonconformance items were noted for future prevention.|
|Standards and specifications were updated to address the causes of nonconformances.|
|A review was done of the effectiveness of actions that were taken to prevent nonconformances.|
|YES||NO||Project Completion Inspections|
|Senior managers, independent of production, performed a rigorous inspection at project completion.|
|All deviations were corrected and reinspected prior to submittal to the customer for final review.|
|Management participated in the customer’s final inspection and quickly addressed issues that were found.|
Usually, a “trigger” event found in a quality plan audit results in deeper investigation to determine why the plan wasn’t followed correctly. When you find problems, the next step is to generate your corrective procedures. In other words, take corrective actions.
The source of the problem may lie with company personnel, subcontractors, or suppliers. On the other hand, it may result from an error of management, poor leadership or faulty communication. Finally, on occasion the quality plan itself may be unrealistic or inappropriate in its approach to the specific circumstances and problems of the project and require amendment. Depending on which of these is true, remedial action may consist of:
- Additional training for personnel in correct procedures to follow and/or disciplinary action.
- Communication with superintendents and other employees to deal with problems that haven’t been properly addressed.
- Reconsideration of some element or elements of the quality plan to make it more appropriate to the project being undertaken.
After completing your audit, you’ll want to create an audit report. I’ve included an Audit Report Form for you to download and use along with you checklist. Your audit report should describe what you reviewed, your findings, and your corrective action plans, in any. If possible, you should review your audit report with the project manager before leaving the jobsite. Click here to download your QC Plan Audit Checklist and Report Forms.
A quality plan is only as good as the people implementing it and their ability to work together. Until it’s properly implemented, the plan is only a blueprint. To make it actually work for your company, you need to make sure that the plan is being carried out as designed and intended. A monthly quality audit is a good approach to making sure of that and to making the plan work the way it should.