Quality Assurance, Quality Control, and Checklists in Construction

TEAM IM
Dec 3, 2021 4:42:47 PM

The first thing just about everyone hears when they start to learn how to build things is “measure twice, cut once.” When people say that, they’re usually talking about cutting wood for a small project, but on a grander scale, it can also be applied to quality assurance in the construction industry.

When you are working on a big project, the last thing you want to do is throw your schedule and budget out of whack because you need to go back and fix something that was left out or done improperly.

That’s why it’s so valuable to incorporate checklists into your construction quality control plan. But more than simply using checklists, you need to make sure that they actually help your teams maintain the highest possible standards of quality and compliance with safety and regulatory rules.

Here is what you need to know to make your checklists into even more valuable parts of your quality control process.

Quality Assurance vs Quality Control

Before we get into the best ways to incorporate a construction checklist into your construction project plan, it’s essential to clarify the distinction between Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC).

QC is focused on fulfilling quality requirements, while QA is focused on how a process is completed. Essentially, QA processes are used to prevent issues, while QC processes are used to detect problems.

Both QA and QC work in tandem. Ideally, your QA processes will reduce later problems with QC inspections, and your QC processes will spot gaps in your QA processes that you can then update for better results on your next project.

However, in the construction industry, jobs are tendered to subcontractors with their own teams. So the QA side of the coin is not always in your hands. You can make QA practices a part of your invitations to tender and provide guidelines for your subcontractors— but in the end, they are mainly in control of QA on the jobsite.

What is more likely is that your organization will be overseeing construction quality control and management. Through on site testing, inspections, and compliance verification visits to your jobsites, you can leverage strong QC processes to ensure that your subcontractors’ QA is up to your standards.

Choosing Digital Checklists for QC

With quality control as a focus, how do checklists optimize your processes and, more specifically, digital QC checklists? 

To start, they let your team know everything they need to look for when inspecting a jobsite. Whether their primary objective is to examine the finished product to make sure everything is done correctly or to go over a site to ensure proper safety precautions are being used during the build, a detailed list creates a template for their work and a paper record of the job that can be referred to when deciding on tenders for your next project.

But why digital?

Traditionally, a quality control inspection checklist would be on a clipboard that your construction manager or project manager carries with them throughout an inspection. But that method has some pretty significant drawbacks.

Paper is easy to mess up. Everything from checking the wrong box, spilled coffee, smudged ink, high winds, or torn pages can make your checklist useless. Not to mention the risk of losing a pen on a construction site is high. Add to these factors the environmental impact of using a high volume of paper, and it becomes more and more difficult to justify using analog checklists.

Technological advances in construction industry fields such as equipment that connects to the Internet of Things have pushed the industry into the 21st Century— why should your quality control checklist remain a relic of the past?

By embracing digital checklists as part of your quality management software, you open your business up to a host of benefits.

Optimizing Your Construction Quality Control Plan

By digitizing your quality control inspection checklist process, you can expect to reap several benefits. 

Mobile Access

Taking your checklists off the page and putting them onto a mobile device as a QC-specific, on-device mobile App makes it much simpler for your workers in the field to do their jobs. Clipboards can be unwieldy and require two hands to operate, while mobile devices can be stored in various pockets and accessed and operated with one hand— or with no hands at all if your company has incorporated hands-free tech.

Checklists as part of a digital workplace also allow for real-time data updates. That can mean that information can be updated for your inspectors from your in-office team members if it is relevant to the jobsite they are checking on without requiring the inspectors to return to the office, get an update, and head back to the site.

It also means that your inspectors can get you immediate information if your subcontractors are not complying with your quality standards or with OSHA construction standards so that any necessary actions can be taken without delay. 

And when building your construction inspection checklists through a digital workplace platform such as M-Connect: Field Services, you give your field agents the ability to include device data like location, temp, altitude, time, movement data, and import images and video to capture inspection form data providing data and visual evidence of the progress or problems they observe— all using one mobile device. Pen and paper can’t do that.

Workflow Optimization

While your standards of quality may not change from job to job, different projects have different requirements. Not every build requires the same QC checks. 

So why force your inspectors to go through a generic checklist that includes action items that may not be present on the current worksite? A construction checklist that runs through an integrated content management system can be customized to the job at hand with a few keystrokes.

Incorporating workflow automation into your QC processes allows your team to focus on those tasks that cannot be automated— tasks like inspections. The right management software will allow you to streamline those processes that take up a great deal of time with repetitive manual data entry.

For example, say you accepted a tender from a subcontractor you had not worked with before, but another potential job that they submitted a bid on is coming up. Your inspector’s notes from that subcontractor’s jobsite could be linked to their profile in your system as their work was being inspected. So you will have the most complete picture of their work as possible without needing to wait for your inspector’s notes to be entered into a file. 

You can also set automatic notifications for large issues that your field team discovers. Major OSHA violations, work that needs to be redone, subcontractors going over budget— your processes for handling these problems can be put into motion as soon as the need arises.

Incorporate Subcontractors

While QA is primarily up to your subcontractors, digitizing your quality management checklists can help you ensure that they follow your quality manual. 

By creating a portal through which your subcontractors can access your quality assurance standards and generate checklists that follow your company’s best practices, you establish a baseline of quality that can carry through every project.

This makes things simpler for your subcontractors, as well. By giving them checklists that are tailored for the job at hand, you establish clear expectations while creating an automated data pipeline that keeps you abreast of progress without the need to pull anyone away from the build.

Compliance

Your checklists can protect you from the pitfalls of compliance violations. The last thing you want is an unsafe jobsite. Digital checklists help your inspectors and construction managers spot safety violations and can link them to the proper procedures to follow when one is found.

If something happens that triggers an investigation by a regulatory organization, your checklists can also serve to protect your business from liability. You will have data and images to prove that your site was safe and that the construction met or exceeded the standards of quality put forth by city, state, and federal laws.

Limit Mistakes, Bolster Quality

Moving your quality control checklists to a digital workspace allows your teams and subcontractors to work safer and do their jobs to the best of their abilities. 

Leveraging the functions and abilities of a platform such as M-Connect: Field Services to strengthen your QC workflows and processes makes quality control a more efficient process and opens the door to a more unified QA/QC dichotomy.

And making checklists accessible via mobile and/or hands-free devices takes the risks of pen-and-paper checklists out of the equation. Your team won’t run the risk of destroying their lists because the list is in the cloud for them to pull up at any time— and with automated data synching, they won’t have to re-enter the information if they switch devices partway through an inspection.

Taking advantage of the technology available to your business is the right move for you and your teams. Talk to one of our friendly experts about how your construction quality control plan can be improved and optimized by tearing the paper away from your checklists.

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