When it comes to winners and losers in the digital age, one of the biggest potential winners is your construction quality control plan. As projects move from paper plans and drawings to digital and mobile, quality assurance and control can become faster, more effective, and better at mitigating risk than ever.
Yet many companies fail to fully realize the potential benefits—either because they lack a clear plan to get started, or because they don’t have what they need to get to the next step. In this article, we describe the best-in-class four-step process for reaching the next level in QA/QC program for your jobsites.
For a more thorough exploration, enroll in the ConTech Academy Quality Management in the Digital Age free course.
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4 Steps to Evolve Your Construction Quality Control Plan
Investing in digital construction processes can be overwhelming, but it becomes much easier when you realize that you don’t have to do it all at once. A stepped approach allows you to make the right amount of change for you at this time, and to evolve over time. From wherever you are now, you can move forward by taking one of these four steps.
- Implement a Centralized Document and Issue Management System
- Bolster Your Inspections Tracking Process (ITP) with Digital Checklist Inspections
- Correlate Inspections to Your Look-Ahead Plans
- Perform Collaborative Inspections with Your Trades and Subs
Step 1: Implement a Centralized Digital Document and Issue Management System
Maintaining a central single source of truth for digital documents and issue management is key to the success of digital QA/QC. It ensures that everyone is working off the most up-to-date set of plans and drawings, and that issues don’t slip through the cracks. It also improves time to resolution.
Software suites like BIM 360 make it simple to centralize your system and maintain information in the cloud, where any authorized person can access the latest data at any time. To be effective, focus on ensuring your database fulfills three key criteria:
Make sure everyone on the job has access to the plans, drawings, issues log, and other documents whether they’re in the office or in the field. Technology like BIM 360 Docs can place plans, drawings, and other data directly in the hands of personnel via their mobile devices. This ensures that anyone who needs it, has it when they need it.
Empower all relevant team members to mark up documents, make changes, and add issues to the log, quickly and easily, on an as-needed basis, from their digital devices. A good system includes version tracking and real-time updates that become immediately available to everyone as soon as changes are made. Notifications settings should enable workers to receive push updates, also in real-time.
Permissions settings should allow you to set privacy controls, provide access on an individual or role level, and manage workflows to ensure the right stakeholders gain access to collaborative files at the right time and in the right order.
This centralized document and issues management system is key to a successful digital QA/QC system. If you’re serious about getting it right, be sure to check out our guide.
Step 2: Bolster Your ITP with Digital Checklist Inspections
During the inspections tracking process, the person responsible for the site inspection traditionally makes note of only non-conforming issues. In a checklist-driven environment, the inspector notes both conforming and non-conforming items, according to a predetermined checklist. This marks a shift from a re-active to a pro-active culture.
To understand the importance and power of the checklist, consider how another complex industry was transformed by checklists. Atul Gawande, a surgeon and the author of The Checklist Manifesto, significantly reduced the error rate of surgeons in one hospital by implementing a checklist system. When the state of Michigan began using a checklist for central lines in its intensive care units, its infection rate plummeted 66% in just three months.The same or similar system is now in use in hospital systems across the United States.
The reason it works is that in a complex environment, it’s easy to make assumptions about what has already been done, while only noting mistakes that are immediately obvious. In this situation, small things can be missed, which lead to bigger problems. Construction companies gain substantial benefits from implementing inspection checklists, and putting them in the cloud for all relevant team members to access.
A best-in-class digital checklist program allows you to:
- Easily document nonconforming elements
- Positively affirm and document conformance (cover your rear)
- Ensure the right things are checked, no matter who conducts the inspection
- Include best-in-class knowledge from the entire company so your most junior teammates benefit from the most senior
- Improve speed and quality of documentation
- Track quality program performance including inspection coverage (risk) and conformance rate, in order to identify trends and areas for improvement
PRO-TIP : Get checklist templates and other resources as part of our free video course: Quality Management In The Digital Age
Step 3: Plan Inspections in Your Coordination or Look-Ahead Planning Meetings
Inspections are often managed in a reactive manner, as the need arises. Planning them in advance can significantly improve efficiency and reduce rework. Best-in-class digital QA/QC plans associate specific inspections with schedule milestones. To do this, take time during your coordination or look-ahead planning meetings to:
- Determine what work will be inspected
- Assign responsibility for inspections, including hold & witness and sign-off points
- Determine how each item will be inspected, including sample size and level of detail
- Build the checklist, or source it from a corporate library when available
- Make checklists available in an accessible central repository, and provide access for all responsible parties. Use permissions to manage workflow.
Step 4: Perform Collaborative Inspections with Trades and Subs
Historically, a construction quality control plan relied on inspections from the site manager to catch any mistakes made by trades and subs. This approach lacks accountability for the subs and provides lots of opportunity for problems, as a superintendent can’t be everywhere at once. A best-in-class digital QA/QC program is transparent and collaborative in nature, making clear who owns what, and holding each team member responsible for their performance. To achieve a high level of collaboration with trades and subs:
- Clearly communicate expectation of collaboration, and include subcontractor and trade inspection and collaboration responsibilities in their contracts.
- Involve trades and subcontractors in the process of checklist-building during look-ahead meetings, asking them to take responsibility for the accuracy and alignment of the checklists with the project requirements for their portion of the project.
- Enable trades to perform checklist inspections prior to your inspection. Ensure they each have access to the central digital repository, and have them document their inspection checklists within the central system.
This approach ensures subs and trades take ownership for their own QA programs, while simultaneously improving your ability to hold them accountable to it.
A Recipe for Success
A well-constructed digital QA/QC program provides major benefits to the construction company and project, by reducing rework, increasing customer satisfaction, and creating thorough documentation in the event of disputes or litigation. For more on how to set up a successful and actionable digital QA/QC program, we recommend Quality Management in the Digital Age, a ConTech Academy course. The course provides additional detail on the four stages, as well as step by step guides to:
- Set metrics for success
- Create a project quality dashboard
- Develop a culture of continuous improvement
The course will help you plan, execute, report, and then set the foundations for a culture of continual improvement of your digital construction quality control plan.
We look forward to seeing you there!