One of the most common problems I find with construction quality management is a lack of consistency from project to project.
It’s not that organizations don’t have quality management systems in place.
It’s that, oftentimes, there's no consistency in terms of how they approach quality from one project to the next or even from one superintendent to the next. Like franchises, you want all your projects to maintain consistent quality.
Take McDonald’s for instance, whether you like the brand (or the food) or not, you have to agree that as a franchise, the company is very successful. Why? Umm...because the food is cheap? While this is certainly true, it’s not the reason for McDonald’s success.
Consistency... just about every McDonald's has the same basic layout, menu, ordering process, and quality of food. All this standardization creates consistency for the customer, for the employees, and for the franchise owners – all with an unskilled workforce. And, it’s a consistency that’s based on what works.
The same consistent quality should apply to construction quality management in your organization. Keep in mind, most people at your organization are busy dealing with their normal workload, plus the inevitable firefighting that crops up on a regular basis.
In our fast-paced world of construction, work procedures have to make sense in a hurry, or they'll just go by the wayside. You can't expect people to always figure out things on the fly. You need some standardization so you can have consistent quality management.
Some companies may have a single, unifying quality policy for the entire organization, but may not implement it the same from one project to the next. For example, if you leave it up to each project manager to re-invent the wheel on every project, you’ll sacrifice consistent construction quality.
A much more effective approach would be to create a company-wide quality management system that you can use on all projects. Such a system might include your quality policies in a quality assurance/quality control manual, project-specific quality plan, inspection procedures, quality improvement processes, and quality system analytics. Having a standardized company-wide quality management system creates consistency across all projects.
People working on multiple projects will perform the same procedures, and these procedures will become second-nature for them. This consistency makes it more likely that the procedures will actually be executed properly.
Keep in mind that these quality policies do not have to be overly prescriptive. You’re not trying to standardize every aspect of the work; you’re just trying to create a common framework for people to use to consistently manage quality.
Your framework should be flexible enough to be adapted to different projects and teams. On the other hand, your framework should definitely be standardized enough so that any employee plucked away from one project and dropped down into another project would quickly know what to do with regards to quality.
The goal is consistent quality. It’s your brand, how do you want to franchise it?
About the Author - Ed Caldeira is founder of First Time Quality, LLC, specializing in submittal-ready construction QA/QC plan templates and custom quality plans as well as construction quality inspection and punchlist software.