When it comes to construction, maintaining quality standards is high on the priority list. Since construction companies rely on the quality of their work in terms of working capital, quality control is one of the most critical aspects of any project.
A great final product can mean repeat business and ideal cost control. However, a low-quality job can cause a construction company to damage their good reputation, incur extra construction costs, and have other negative impacts on the organization as a whole.
Poor quality work has repercussions that extend to safety and communication in addition to wasted time, resources, and materials. Adequate quality control procedures improve construction project efficiency and can even cause a ripple effect of high expectations throughout an organization.
Defining Quality Control in Construction
Construction quality control is a system of management that ensures that deliverables meet the standards and guidelines set by the client at the beginning of the construction process. This can include a number of criteria such as completing the project within the scope of work. In the end, quality is decided by the client, regulatory bodies, and EPA guidelines.
Quality control and quality assurance are two equally important arms of construction quality. While assurance refers to setting quality management expectations, quality control refers to the plans and procedures that achieve high-quality outcomes.
Issues arise in construction quality control when the factors affecting the quality are not properly identified and addressed. Quality control in construction seeks to solve problems, provide high-quality results, and prevent issues from coming up again in the future.
Construction Quality Control Approaches
There are a number of ways to approach quality control management in construction, with each having its own pros and cons depending on the needs and scope of a company’s projects. The International Organization for Standardization established a set of quality standards called ISO 9001.
These seven standards are based on the engagement of people, customer focus, leadership, process approach, improvement, evidence-based decision making, and relationship management. Additionally, there are four other main approaches to quality control management in construction:
Continuous improvement. Focuses on continuous incremental improvements to processes over time. Improvements are discovered through customer feedback and internal analytics processes.
Kaizen. A Japanese word that means “change for the better,” Kaizen refers to a philosophy of continuously looking for ways to improve that is applied to quality control management. When all members of an organization implement Kaizen to their daily practices, gradual improvements can be seen over time.
Six sigma. This problem solving framework focuses on proactively identifying and solving issues that arise. The main steps to this quality control management approach are Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.
Lean management. Waste elimination and reduction are key factors to this approach. Waste is determined by extraneous processes and materials that don’t provide value to customers or construction companies.
How to Ensure Construction Quality Control
Constructional quality control definitions vary slightly between organizations, but there are some things that all construction industry professionals must take into consideration when implementing quality control management protocols:
Define the expectations and acceptance criteria
Before implementing quality control procedures, it's important that the quality standards are clearly defined so that all parties involved in the project can have a clear understanding of what the client expects to see in the finished work. These expectations should include key acceptance criteria such as completing a project with zero defects that satisfy regulatory codes and client specifications.
Have an inspection plan in place
Inspections should take place regularly as a part of a thorough quality assurance plan at different points in the construction process. However, before conducting any inspections it's crucial that organizations create a plan that details what needs to be inspected and what an acceptable result looks like. All completed work should meet client criteria, company expectations, and any other indications brought forth by invested parties.
Create a quality control checklist
Quality control criteria and expectations can be difficult to communicate and manage across teams without a standardized quality control checklist. A checklist simplifies the inspection process, making sure that critical aspects of quality control are not looked over as well as clearly communicating areas of concern and what tasks each construction team member is responsible for.
Correct inaccuracies and deficiencies
The whole point of implementing quality control management procedures is to ensure that construction work meets company and client standards. So perhaps the most important aspect of any quality control management plan is to make time and tools available to make corrections and address deficiencies as they arise. Continuous monitoring of teams and construction sites as well as regular inspections allow for opportunities to discover work that does not meet expectations before it is completed and presented to the client.
Review and analyze problems and their solutions
During the process of monitoring progress and inspecting deliverables, issues and problems will be identified along the way. In addition to mitigating these issues as they arise, it’s a good idea to include a step for construction project managers to review how each job went and analyze how these problems can be avoided in their next construction project. When conclusions are made regarding these issues, quality control managers need to communicate to the entire crew what the new expectations and quality requirements may be for projects to come.
Tips for Creating a Construction Quality Control Plan
Here are some final tips before you begin collaborating to either create a quality control plan or make adjustments to your existing construction industry quality program.
Communicate clearly and effectively
Communication and quality control go hand in hand, and this can’t be stressed enough. Without a plan to effectively communicate policy, compliance, safety standards, and building expectations, quality control will be an endless process. Quality control should be a part of all communications and discussions about project specifications, and all contractors and involved parties should clearly understand what is expected of them.
Project managers need to identify what kind of communications, how frequent these communications occur, and the manner in which messages are transmitted across the organization. Any monitoring and surveillance activities must be clearly indicated within your quality control plan, as well as expectations placed on subcontractors and suppliers.
Communications with builders and clients must also be exceptional because clients are the deciding factor of whether or not a project was executed according to their standards. When construction project managers collect client specifications there should be a plan in place to communicate these expectations with crews and individuals that are affected.
Have a backup plan
Having a backup plan (or multiple backup plans) is often overlooked, especially when processes, suppliers, and workflows have become well established over a long period of time. But as we well know, no construction project ever goes according to plan. Having a back up plan or a series of backup plans in place and communicated to applicable teams can help avoid costly mistakes and tough client conversations.
Record any backup plans within a management system and keep a record of when and how any of these back up plans were implemented. Making sure all parties are on the same page with defined backup plans ensures quality construction.
Use technology to streamline processes
In light of the current supply chain environment that is plagued by disruption and slow communications, construction industry professionals would be wise to invest in tech solutions that can help make construction quality control management more streamlined and efficient.
Many of the practices involved with quality control management involve careful planning and execution as well as unmatched communication protocols. Technology can help construction companies enhance quality control management with features like automation, accessibility and visibility.
Analyzing data is an important part of reviewing quality control processes and making improvements along the way. Platforms that provide a holistic view of data in a single interface provides insights into new areas so that information gathered from multiple projects, vendors, and suppliers can be turned into actionable information.
According to McKinsey, inefficiencies and wasted resources are common among organizations that rely on manual processes instead of automatic data processing. Bringing technology into the construction quality control management process can reduce efforts, lower costs, and build trust between construction companies and their clients.
What is the role of quality control in construction?
In construction, quality control refers to the processes and procedures that are involved to ensure that all materials and completed projects meet high standards and criteria that are put in place during the planning stages of the process. Quality control processes ensure that customer, builder, stakeholder, and other involved parties’ expectations are met and company standards are upheld.
What is the quality control process in construction?
The quality control process in construction includes 5 key steps:
Define and communicate acceptable criteria.
Create an inspection plan.
Use checklists and notes to conduct inspections.
Correct deficiencies and verify acceptance criteria.
Analyze to prevent future deficiencies.
How do you manage quality control in construction?
Managing construction quality control requires that several teams of people are organized towards successfully achieving quality construction projects. A quality control manager will be heavily involved in every step of managing quality and inspections and will need to be communicative with teams, clients, and contractors. When acceptable criteria are established, so should the role of the quality control manager and other contacts on the project so that proper communication can be established.