Critical areas of risk for capital projects include schedule and financial, safety and environmental, and quality. Such risks must be minimized and mitigated using proper management procedures throughout the capital project life cycle. While all projects have driving factors such as schedule and cost, managing quality risks in construction should also be considered just as essential.
Quality management in construction includes the policies, procedures, and processes put in place to provide proper quality control and quality assurance at construction sites. While tests and inspections at construction sites are key components to effective quality management, there is much more that goes into ensuring quality throughout construction for capital projects.
Below, we detail common factors that impact construction quality, the ramifications of poor quality management, and best practices for managing quality risks in construction.
Common Factors That Impact Construction Quality
To best understand how to minimize, mitigate, and manage construction quality, it is important to understand how quality issues arise. Some of the most common factors that can negatively impact construction quality in capital projects include:
- Materials and components: Defective, damaged, or poor quality materials
- Management: Insufficient management support and/or involvement
- Scope: Scope growth resulting from construction or engineering errors, a lack of work processes, or last-minute changes
- Number of contractors: Hiring numerous contractors and/or subcontractors who have varying approaches or processes for managing quality
- Supervision: Inadequate or non-existent supervision on-site
- Contracts: Poorly written or ill-defined contracts
- Suppliers and vendors: Issues with suppliers or vendors, such as inconsistent quality across materials or replacement of components with other brands or materials
- Processes and procedures: Poorly written, inadequate, or non-existent processes and procedures
- Workmanship: Unskilled or untrained workers
Ramifications of Poor Construction Quality Management
Improper management of quality risks in construction can have significant consequences to capital project success. Impacts from poor quality management include:
- Having to rework due to change orders.
- Schedule and cost overruns.
- Poor quality products or workmanship.
- Additional future maintenance costs for project owners.
In more severe cases, improper quality management can result in:
- Project shutdown.
- Property damage.
- Health, safety, and environmental incidents.
- Unsatisfied project owners and stakeholders.
Best Practices for Managing Quality Risks in Construction
Quality standards are usually established during the planning stages of capital projects based on schedule and budget requirements. However, contractors must also manage quality during construction to ensure the determined standard is met. To ensure quality throughout the construction phase of a capital project, there are several best practices to keep in mind, including Total Quality Management (TQM), quality assurance and quality control, and quality alignment.
Total Quality Management (TQM)
TQM is a proven method that is often utilized to ensure effective collaboration, improve work quality, achieve business objectives, and reduce overall costs. The fundamental principles of TQM include:
- Customer focus.
- Employee involvement.
- Process centering.
- Integrated system.
- A systematic and strategic approach.
- Fact-based decision-making.
- Strong communication.
- Continuous improvement.
In addition to the above principles, TQM includes inspection and test plans that establish the frequency of inspections for disciplines that will occur throughout the construction process. Implementing the concept of TQM from pre-contract through project completion can greatly reduce quality risks in capital projects. Contractors should employ TQM across the entire organization, including all teams, departments, and functions that are engaged in quality management to ensure cohesion and consistency.
Quality Assurance and Quality Control
The standard for project quality should be defined early on and must be properly monitored and managed during project execution. To ensure the established level of quality is maintained, contractors should follow proven procedures for quality assurance to produce detailed specifications for inspections and proper documentation. Depending on the specified degree of quality, such inspections may need to occur on a more frequent basis.
Quality control throughout construction should be clear and well-documented. This documentation may include how quality standards will be achieved and maintained as well as who is responsible for meeting such standards. This documentation produces the foundation for procedures and processes that ensure the completed project is consistent with the predetermined standard of quality.
Communication and Quality Alignment
Communication between all teams, project owners, and stakeholders is critical for managing quality risks in construction. Contractors who place focus on superior communication and collaboration across all teams are often better aligned and more capable of maintaining quality. Including quality planning in kickoff meetings enables alignment and communication regarding project scope, inspection and test plan specifications, and execution plans for quality execution across all teams and disciplines.
Additional Considerations and Best Practices
Beyond the above best practices, other considerations that can improve quality management include:
- Hiring multi-disciplinary inspectors to ensure quality inspectors have an understanding of the full scope of project requirements.
- Working with trusted vendors and suppliers.
- Preventing scope growth through strong work processes and project controls, as scope growth may impact overall project quality.
The H+M Focus on TQM, Work Processes, and Continuous Improvement
At H+M Industrial, we are committed to providing superior quality through all project stages to meet your standards. We employ TQM with a strong focus on work processes and continuous improvement within our organization and across all employees.