3.1. Management of Quality in Construction Project

3.1.1.      Quality in Construction

Construction projects are a balance between cost, time and quality. It is possible to have high quality and low cost, but at the expense of time, and conversely to have high quality and a fast project, but at a cost. If both time and money are compromised, then quality is likely to suffer. High quality is not always the primary objective for the client; time or cost may be more important. It is only realistic to specify a very high standard of quality if the budget and time is available to achieve that standard.

Quality in construction projects encompasses not only the quality of products and equipment used in the construction, but the total management approach to completing the facility per the scope of works to customer/owner satisfaction within the budget and in accordance with the specified schedule to meet the owner’s defined purpose. The nature of the contracts between the parties plays a dominant part in the quality system required from the project, and the responsibility for fulfilling them must therefore be specified in the project documents. The documents include plans, specifications, schedules, bill of quantities, and so on.

Quality control in construction typically involves ensuring compliance with minimum standards of material and workmanship in order to ensure the performance of the facility according to the design. These minimum standards are contained in the specification documents. For the purpose of ensuring compliance, random samples and statistical methods are commonly used as the basis for accepting or rejecting work completed and batches of materials.

The contractor’s obligation is to carry out and complete the works in a proper and workmanlike manner as described by the contract documents. This means the contractor must carry out the works with reasonable skill and care, to the reasonable satisfaction of the owner.

The survey of Quality of Construction by FIDIC (Federation Internationale des Ingenieurs-Conseils, the International Association of Consulting Engineers) confirmed that failure to achieve appropriate quality of construction is a problem worldwide. Lack of quality in construction is manifested in poor or nonsustainable workmanship, unsafe structure, delays, cost overruns, and disputes in construction contracts.

Defects or failure in construction facilities can result in very large costs. Even with minor defects, reconstruction may be required and facility operation impaired.

Chung (1999) has described the quality of construction as follows:

The quality of building work is difficult, and often impossible, to quantify since a lot of construction practices cannot be assessed in numerical terms. The framework of reference is commonly the appearance of final product. “How good is good enough?” is often a matter of personal judgment and consequently a subject of contention. In fact, a building is of good quality if it will function as intended for its design life. As the true quality of the building will not be revealed until many years after completion, the notion of quality can only be interpreted in terms of the design attributes. So far as the builder is concerned, it is fair to judge the quality of his work by the degree of compliance with the stipulations in the contract, not only the technical specifications but also the contract sum and the contract period. His client cannot but be satisfied if the contract is executed as specified, within budget and on time. Therefore, a quality product of building construction is one that meets all contractual requirements (including statutory regulations) at optimum cost and time. (p. 4)

An implicit assumption in the traditional quality control practices is the notion of an acceptable quality level, which is an allowable fraction of defective items. Materials obtained from suppliers or work performed percentage should be within the acceptable quality level. Problems with materials or goods are corrected after delivery of the product. In contrast to this traditional approach of quality control is the goal of total quality control. In this system, no defective items are allowed anywhere in the construction process. While the zero defects goal can never be permanently obtained, it provides a goal so that an organization is never satisfied with its quality control program even if defects are reduced by substantial amounts year after year. This concept and approach to quality control was first developed in manufacturing firms in Japan and Europe, but has since spread to many construction companies. Total quality control is a commitment to quality expressed in all parts of an organization and typically involves many elements. Design reviews to ensure safe and effective construction procedures are a major element. Other elements include extensive training for personnel, shifting the responsibility for detecting defects from quality control inspectors to workers, and continually maintaining equipment. Worker involvement in improved quality control is often formalized in quality circles in which groups of workers meet regularly to make suggestions for quality improvement. Material suppliers are also required to ensure zero defects in delivered goods. Initially, all materials from a supplier are inspected and batches of goods with any defective items are returned. Suppliers with good records can be certified, and such suppliers will not be subject to complete inspection subsequently.

Total quality management is an organization wide effort centered on quality to improve performance that involves everyone and permeates every aspect of an organization to make quality a primary strategic objective. It is a way of managing an organization to ensure the satisfaction at every stage of the needs and expectations of both internal and external customers.

In case of construction projects, an organizational framework is established and implemented mainly by three parties: owner, designer/consultant, and contractor. Project quality is the result of aggressive and systematic application of quality control and quality assurance.

Construction projects being unique and non-repetitive in nature need specified attention to maintain the quality. Each project has to be designed and built to serve a specific need. TQM in construction projects typically involves ensuring compliance with minimum standards of material and workmanship in order to ensure the performance of the facility according to the design. TQM in a construction project is a cooperative form of doing the business that relies on the talents and capabilities of both labor and management to continually improve quality. The important factor in construction projects is to complete the facility per the scope of works to customer/owner satisfaction within the budget and to complete the work within the specified schedule to meet the owner’s defined purpose.

Oberlender (2000) has observed:

Quality in construction is achieved by the people who take pride in their work and have the necessary skills and experience to do the work. The actual quality of construction depends largely upon the control of construction itself, which is the principle responsibility of the contractor. … What is referred to today as “quality control,” which is a part of a quality assurance program, is a function that has for years been recognized as the inspection and testing of materials and workmanship to see that the work meets the requirements of the drawings and specifications. (p. 278)

Crosby’s quality definition is “conformance to requirements” and that of Oakland is “meeting the requirements.”

Crosby’s philosophy is seen by many to be encapsulated in his five “Absolute Truths of Quality Management.” These are

  1. Quality is defined as conformance to requirement, not as “goodness” or “elegance.”
  2. There is no such thing as a quality problem.
  3. It is always cheaper to do it right the first time.
  4. The only performance measurement is the cost of quality.
  5. The only performance standard is zero defects.

Deming was perhaps the best-known figure associated with the quality field and is considered its founding father. His philosophy is based on four principal methods:

  1. The Plan–Do–Check–Act (PDCA) Cycle
  2. Statistical process control
  3. The 14 principles of transformation
  4. The seven-point action plan

Juran’s philosophy is perhaps best summed as “Quality does not happen by accident; it has to be planned.” Juran’s philosophy of quality is “fitness for use or purpose.”

Chung (1999) states, “Quality may mean different things to different people. Some take it to represent customer satisfaction, others interpret it as compliance with contractual requirements, yet others equate it to attainment of prescribed standards” (p. 3). As regards quality of construction, he further states, “Quality of construction is even more difficult to define. First of all, the product is usually not a repetitive unit but a unique piece of work with specific characteristics.Secondly, the needs to be satisfied include not only those of the client but also the expectations of the community into which the completed building will integrate. The construction cost and time of delivery are also important characteristics of quality” (p. 3).

Based on the philosophies of quality gurus, quality of construction projects can be evolved as follows:

  1. Properly defined scope of work
  2. Owner, project manager, design team leader, consultant, and constructor’s manager are responsible to implement quality
  3. Continuous improvement can be achieved at different levels as follows:
    • Owner—Specify the latest needs
    • Designer—Specification should include the latest quality materials, products, and equipment
    • Constructor—Use the latest construction equipment to build the facility
  4. Establishment of performance measures
    • Owner
      • To review and ensure that designer has prepared the contract documents that satisfy his needs
      • To check the progress of work to ensure compliance with the contract documents
    • Consultant
      • As a consultant designer, to include the owner’s requirements explicitly and clearly define them in the contract documents
      • As a supervision consultant, supervise contractor’s work per contract documents and the specified standards
    • Contractor—To construct the facility as specified and use the materials, products, and equipment that satisfy the specified requirements
  5. Team approach—Every member of the project team should know that TQM is a collaborative effort, and everybody should participate in all the functional areas to improve the quality of the project work. They should know that it is a collective effort by all the participants.
  6. Training and education—Both consultant and contractor should have customized training plans for their management, engineers, supervisors, office staff, technicians, and laborers.
  7. Training and education—Both consultant and contractor should have customized training plans for their management, engineers, supervisors, office staff, technicians, and laborers.

3.1.2.      Quality Assurance vs Quality Control

According to the American Society for Quality (ASQ), the two terms are defined as:

Quality Assurance is the planned and systematic activities implemented in a quality system so that quality requirements for a product or service will be fulfilled, while Quality Control is the observation techniques and activities used to fulfill requirement for quality.

3.1.3.      Quality Control for Construction

Quality assurance is a set of planned and systematic actions to ensure that products and services comply with specified requirements. It not only involves checking the final quality of products to avoid defects, as is the case in quality control, but also checking product quality in a planned way in all the production stages. It is the development of work and product design procedures to prevent errors from occurring in the first place, based on planning backed up by quality manuals and tools.

A project quality plan (PQP), sometimes referred to as a Quality Assurance Plan (QAP), is a project-specific plan that describes the activities, standards, tools and processes necessary to achieve quality in the delivery of a project.

Quality Manuals and Quality Plans define the arrangements that an organization has determined will best manage its works. Quality Manuals are generally used to define the arrangements for the whole organization, whereas Quality Plans are prepared to cover specific situations, such as a project or element of the works.

The Corporate Quality Assurance is the representative of the project in the higher management and has the overall responsibility in the implementation and maintenance of the Quality Management System of the company. The Corporate Quality Assurance reports generally to the company CEO/General Manager, depending on the organization’s structure. The role of a corporate quality assurance:

  1. Responsible in the preparation, implementation and maintenance of company’s QMS
  2. Prepare company’s QA manual, control and supervise all amendments and revisions
  3. Control and distribute all company quality documentation
  4. Monitor all quality related activities at the site
  5. Supervise all internal and external quality audits
  6. Verify site Quality documentation submittals
  7. Attend Client quality management meetings
  8. Prepare and control project quality management plan and documentation prior to project commencement
  9. Review quality inspection personnel qualifications and training requirements
  10. Monitor disposition of all issued NCR
  11. Coordinate all QA/QC activities with Site QC manager
  12. Coordinate all quality related correspondence with the customer’s representatives
  13. Action and close all clients complaints
  14. Control all achieved documentation upon completion of projects.

3.1.4.      Quality Manual

A quality manual is an organization-wide document that provides the reader with a complete understanding of the expectations of the organization. It considers the risks that the organization is likely to face from both inside and outside the organization and defines how it will deal with those risks. In some cases, the organization will decide that the risk can be mitigated by implementing a process that is intended to manage the behaviors of staff at all levels. In other cases, the organization may decide that the potential for the risk manifesting is so low that it will note it and keep a weather eye out. A quality manual can also be used to indicate to those outside the organization that suitable arrangements exist. This provides confidence that there is a robust management system in place that is effective and usable by staff, customers and other interested parties, especially when endorsed by a reputable registration body to an international standard, such as ISO 9001:2015. It should be recalled that ISO 9001:2015 does not specifically require a quality manual. This is to permit an organization to use web-based maintained documentation that has no manual as such, but covers all the requirements of the standard,

The Project Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) ensures the quality of the site construction, installation and commissioning are consistent with the company’s policy requirements together with national and international standards and the customer specifications. The Project QA/QC reports functionally to the company’s QA Manager but administratively to the Project Manager, depending on the organization’s structure. Responsibilities include:

  1. Implement the QA/QC management systems at site
  2. Coordinate Quality inspections
  3. Perform relevant QA/QC documentation
  4. Participate at site Quality Audits
  5. Control all Non-Conformance Report and remedial actions
  6. Review specifications and standards
  7. Complete and coordinate approval of site’s QC technical submittals
  8. Coordinate with Site Manager all Quality issues
  9. Coordinate and Chair QA/QC Weekly Meetings
  10. Elaborate inspection and test programs
  11. Assure all technical documents relative to site Quality control are current

3.1.5.      Quality Plan

When a quality system is applied to a product as complex and unique as construction, a specific quality plan must be drafted by applying the company’s quality management system to the specific project. The plan must be drafted by the contractor before the start of the construction works and will be reviewed throughout its execution.

The quality plan is applicable to the materials, work units and services that have been specifically chosen by the construction company in order to comply with the quality requirements stipulated in the contract. The quality plan is drafted for the construction works when a preventive strategy is needed to guarantee the construction quality, even though there might also be a quality manual, in compliance with the ISO 9001 standard requirements.

The construction company determines the need to prepare execution documents, work instructions, inspection regimes, process files, action plans, etc., for the execution and control of processes, depending on the complexity of the activity, the qualifications of the personnel and the experience of the team. The plan establishes the resources required and associated documents (lists, purchasing documentation, machinery, equipment, etc.).

The control activities (verification of compliance with specifications, validation of specific processes, monitoring of activities, inspections and tests), which the units, materials or services undergo must also be established. These activities can be defined through inspection, testing plans, action plans and where applicable specific tests (for example, load tests for structures).

Quality control (QC) is the part of quality management that ensures products and service comply with requirements. It is a work method that facilitates the measurement of the quality characteristics of a unit, compares them with the established standards, and analyses the differences between the results obtained and the desired results in order to make decisions which will correct any differences.

3.1.6.      Cost of Quality in Construction

Quality of construction is defined as

  1. Scope of work
  2. Time
  3. Budget

Cost of quality refers to the total cost incurred during the entire life cycle of construction project in preventing nonconformance to owner requirements (defined scope). There are certain hidden costs that may not directly affect the overall cost of the project; however, it may cost the consultant/designer to complete the design within the stipulated schedule to meet owner requirements and conformance to all the regulatory codes/standards, and for the contractor to construct the project within the stipulated schedule meeting all the contract requirements. Rejection/non-approval of executed/installed works by the supervisor due to noncompliance with specifications will cause the contractor loss in terms of

  • Material
  • Manpower
  • Time

The cost of quality is constituted by the cost of conformance (COC) (the cost of doing things right) and the cost of non – conformance (CONC) (the cost of doing things wrong). The CONC is useful as it can be related to an organization’s monetary business volume and the percentage contribution thereto can be computed. The cost related to the achievement of quality is comprised of the cost of conformance and the cost of non – conformance. Non – conformances result in rework. Each person within the contractor’s team needs to be made aware of the price of non – conformance associated with the poor habits that they have picked up. By ensuring that each person is aware of the cost that they are incurring to the contracting organization and incentivizing them to improve, they will try to reduce the PONC as much as possible.

The contractor shall have to rework or rectify the work, which will need additional resources and will need extra time to do the work as specified. This may disturb the contractor’s work schedule and affect execution of other activities. The contractor has to emphasize the “Zero Defect” policy, particularly for concrete works. To avoid rejection of works, the contractor has to take the following measures:

  1. Execution of works per approved shop drawings using approved material
  2. Following approved method of statement or manufacturer’s recommended method of installation
  3. Conduct continuous inspection during construction/installation process
  4. Employ properly trained workforce
  5. Maintain good workmanship
  6. Identify and correct deficiencies before submitting the checklist for inspection and approval of work
  7. Coordinate requirements of other trades, for example, if any opening is required in the concrete beam for crossing of services pipe

Timely completion of a project is one of the objectives to be achieved. To avoid delay proper planning and scheduling of construction activities are necessary. Since construction projects have the involvement of many participants, it is essential that the requirements of all the participants are fully coordinated. This will ensure execution of activities as planned resulting in timely completion of the project

Normally, the construction budget is fixed at the inception of the project, therefore it is necessary to avoid variations during the construction process as it may take time to get approval of an additional budget resulting in time extension to the project. Quality costs related to construction projects can be summarized as follows:

Internal Failure Costs

  • Rework
  • Rectification
  • Rejection of checklist
  • Corrective action

External Failure Costs

  • Breakdown of installed system
  • Repairs
  • Maintenance
  • Warranty

Appraisal Costs

  • Design review/preparation of shop drawings
  • Preparation of composite/coordination drawings
  • On-site material inspection/test
  • Off-site material inspection/test
  • Pre-checklist inspection

Prevention Costs

  • Preventive action
  • Training
  • Work procedures
  • Method statement
  • Calibration of instruments/equipment

3.1.7.      Measurement of the Price of Non-Conformance (PONC)

Measurement is the only way in which the contractor can assess how well it is doing in its quest for a quality product. Each time a mistake is made the contractor should keep a record of the cost of rectifying the works. It is more difficult to measure the loss of credibility with the employer or professional team. The contractor would have made an allowance in the tender for time spent by the site agent with the client to go through the project quality checks and hand over of the works.

The contractor should also have priced the cost of a finishing team in fixing up the snags as a result of the final inspections. This amounts to the costs that were allowed and what constitutes conformance to requirements. Any additional work done over this allowance is due to the contractor’s non – conformance to the requirements.

All the re – work costs (PONC) must be added up on each project and the PONC for each project should be noted. The PONC of all projects could be displayed on the contractor’s notice board, website, in a marketing brochure, or discussed at company meetings to make sure that everybody knows the seriousness of the pursuit for quality and that improvement from each employee is expected on each of their subsequent projects. Monitoring can be done on an ongoing basis and is not restricted to the end of a project.

The cost of quality is constituted by the cost of conformance (COC) (the cost of doing things right) and the cost of non – conformance (CONC) (the cost of doing things wrong). The CONC is useful as it can be related to an organization’s monetary business volume and the percentage contribution thereto can be computed. The cost related to the achievement of quality is comprised of the cost of conformance and the cost of non – conformance. Non – conformances result in rework. Each person within the contractor’s team needs to be made aware of the price of non – conformance associated with the poor habits that they have picked up. By ensuring that each person is aware of the cost that they are incurring to the contracting organization and incentivizing them to improve, they will try to reduce the PONC as much as possible.