Total Quality Management
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Total Quality Management

Industrial Construction is growing. When I first started working in construction, in the early ’80s, the discussion about multibillion-dollar construction projects was pretty much focused on the nuclear construction sector. Now it’s very common to hear about multibillion-dollar projects in every construction sector. Project values are on the increase in renewables, power, and even in the smaller sectors of petrochemical and midstream. A method to get these projects done is by using a full EPC company instead of piecemealing it out using subcontractors. Managing multiple subcontractors brings its own set of problems from a quality standpoint. Full EPC companies are better in terms of Total Quality Management which leads to better productivity and cost savings.

With the industry shift, comes more sophistication and quality requirements from clients. No longer are quality programs solely driven by the clients’ QMS program but, more often, clients want to know what contractors have established within their own QMS program. This “skin in the game” approach by clients has driven the need to establish more vigorous training for Quality Professionals. The construction culture is changing to incorporate a TQM or Total Quality Management approach to quality. The ability to deliver quality products and services to both our internal and external clients can be directly related to the ability to prove quality oversite was established, and that the folks performing that oversite were ready and qualified. The "one certification fits-all" approach is no longer viable. 

Many dynamics may influence the effectiveness of a project quality management program. Some barriers to successful TQM system implementation at construction organizations involve the very nature of the construction process. The projects are unique, locations vary, and work volume fluctuates. This is especially true if the work being done involves barriers such as more than one shift, quality personnel changes, labor-intensive work, a transient workforce, projects are subject to delays, key supervision routinely changing, extensive supply chain, and differing visions, values, processes, and disciplines.

Silos are often set up which can be driven by department, skills, certifications, or poor visionary leadership, but the biggest factor is the lack of comprehensive training that covers all disciplines. Typically, most companies buy into the notion that CWI certification covers all disciplines. The term CWI stands for Certified Welding Inspector. This certification and the training that goes into getting it is based on welding inspection alone. Granted, this training does provide the building blocks for other training. Nonetheless, Certified Welding Inspectors, in general, lack the skill set for Total Quality Management. 

One of the key tools in setting up a Total Quality Management program is the ITP (Inspection and Test Plan). In a full EPC project, with most disciplines being represented, this ITP document would have typical inspections and tests for each discipline. The Civil discipline, for example, includes:


  • Civil lab inspection, soil compaction requirements, and soil lift height identified
  • Concrete testing, which includes slump tests, concrete test cylinders, air entrainment


  • Truck ticket review, mix design review, concrete truck drum rotations checked, concrete temp checked, batch time vs concrete delivery checked, water level, etc.

This is just one discipline. What is the takeaway from that? A person trained in one discipline, say welding, for example, will not be adequate to perform these inspections or even to provide oversight to these activities when done by others, like a third party company for instance. To ensure that the resulting quality of the work will meet expectations, the workforce must be trained and qualified. This training should cover all disciplines. Another alternative is to assure that those hired already have this training. 

A good program to use as a platform is SNT-TC-1A. Developing training that is structured around a visual acuity model is very advantageous, which is what SNT-TC-1A offers. Another model is to just develop a curriculum that best fits your business model. If that is the power sector, then it would need one type of model. If it is the Petrochemical model, then it would be adjusted to fit that industry. Either way, developing a training structure is the best and least expensive way to get your quality professionals the training they need to tackle whatever requirements a client will put before them. 

As a Quality Director, I strive to train teams across all disciplines. For example, we have developed a Quality Management Academy that directly correlates to the work and clients we specifically support. This training includes 30 hours of classroom training, labs, and self-study with “Check your Learning” quizzes at the end of each module. I like to make it very interactive by using a Jeopardy-style game that brings in a competition aspect by having teams compete against each other for the correct answer (see Exhibit 1). Labs are built around specific disciplines. For example, consider structural steel, training includes the different bolting systems that we deal with but also performs hands-on training with a Wilhelm-Skidmore (see Exhibit 2) and teach our Quality Professionals by practical application. 

Exhibit 1
Exhibit 2

Construction Industry Institute (CII) research (publication 10-2) estimated annual losses due to rework in industrial construction at $15 Billion. CII also estimated that losses could be as much as 12% of the total project cost. That is staggering. Installing work incorrectly has a clear tie back to lack of training on those installing the work, but also on those inspecting the work. That last line of defense for any EPC is called Quality Assurance, and with $15 Billion of re-work, it shows it is not working when it counts. I believe a lack of training is part of the reason why. 

Failure to meet project quality requirements can have several negative connotations on the project delivery process. It creates extra work for the parties involved. It also can build a perception of the poor quality of a given contractor, which consequently has the greatest impact on the contractors’ ability to get work. Having Quality Professionals, trained in Total Quality Management will help mitigate rework and help build a quality culture that any client would appreciate and support. Training is the key to achieving this and having pleased and repeat clients is the outcome.

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