All construction projects have quality expectations, and there is no shortage of blame to go around when quality suffers.
Here are three top excuses and how to deal with them so that poor quality becomes a learning event instead of a blame event.
1. Materials Discrepancies
Chalmers University of Technology studied the frequency, causes, and effects of late material deliveries on construction projects of multiple types. The research found that 44% of materials deliveries are late, have incorrect quantities, or have quality defects. While other industries have robust inspections of their suppliers’ performance, that is seldom the case in construction.
Construction companies organize their procurement around each project. The suppliers often change from one project to the next, and construction has a greater share of unforeseen events when compared to other industries. So while adopting a manufacturing supply chain scheme does not seem optimal, you can still improve materials deliveries by starting with communication.
It is key to collect data on material deliveries. Once you have data, you can start deciding which vendors to use and which to avoid. With Procore, you can set up a delivery discrepancy form and push it out to all people who receive materials. They can have the form on their mobile devices so it is always handy. As they receive materials, they can check off discrepancies and return the forms to the back office, helping you keep a running tally of delivery errors.
Once you know the scale of the problem across vendors, you can take the next step of improving vendor communications. By making vendors understand you place a premium on zero delivery defects, they can start working with you to make it happen. A central tenet, though, is to take your gaze away from maintaining the lowest price of the material itself and consider how the improvements in deliveries will reduce rework and boost productivity. The cheapest concrete or lumber will usually come with the greatest indirect costs. Those indirect or hidden costs can go as high as twice the material invoice price.
When suppliers know specifically where their service and products are falling short, they can focus on specific improvements. But they won’t know unless you inform them.
2. Had to Hurry
Hurrying can work out okay when you have highly skilled people doing tasks they are very familiar with while using the correct materials, best tools, best safety practices and all the right approvals. Last but not least, the intention to deliver the very best quality possible.
You will find three chief causes of hurrying up.
- Changes in what’s required
- Lack of resources
These causes can all be addressed through careful planning. Yes, you can plan to prevent mistakes. When you build accurate estimates and schedules, you reduce mistakes. When you arrange all the required supervision, materials, tools, equipment, and specifications to be in the hands of those doing the work, you have planned to prevent mistakes.
Careful attention to scheduling reduces resource shortages. Keep your attention on the original schedule and remember to review the schedule, updating it as needed. A careful scope review can help prevent changes long before a shovel hits the ground. Find all the places where the owner’s dream isn’t realistic given the budget, the design, and the existing conditions. Advise the owner. Work with them and the design team to address your concerns before construction begins.
3. That’s Not What You Wanted?
Miscommunications and assumptions have an outsized impact on quality. A large part of that problem arises simply because people have different perceptions of what makes up quality. Without the quality goal spelled out in very specific terms, there’s a good chance somebody will think sub-quality is good enough.
Try to include the specifications in the work packages. Make sure supervisors know the levels of finishes and where to use them. For instance, a designer will normally only specify a level three drywall finish where you’d apply a texture, while a level one finish would normally never be used in a living room. Supervisors need to know these types of quality details. Use training, and include photos to show what you expect for the result where possible. For quality details of an entire room, consider using mockups to include the fixtures.
The other aspect of missed quality is owner ignorance. Often, people who are not builders themselves don’t know the materials and finishes that are available and are not aware of how everything fits together.
The architect might specify a gold-tone lockset because it fits aesthetically with the design. The owner, leaving it to the designer, doesn’t even notice it until it’s installed and they realize they don’t like it. Here, a mockup could also help communicate the quality of the final product and prevent last-minute changes.
The goal is to have an informed owner, and often it’s the contractor who must take the initiative to ensure the owner understands what quality they are buying.
With so many opinions on what makes up quality, it is one of the toughest project aspects to keep afloat. But when your team, the owner and the design are all on the same page, you’re in for some smooth sailing.