Quality Assurance (QA) is an essential aspect of any construction planning process.
While most construction managers are familiar with quality control (QC), quality assurance is the active management and implementation of best practices throughout the construction process to ensure that projects meet their expected budget and schedule.
Put another way, proper quality control reinforces your quality assurance efforts. However, the primary difference between quality assurance vs. quality control is that QA is proactive, while QC is reactive.
Quality assurance deals with several elements of the construction process, not limited to:
- Material and equipment management
- Safety procedures
- Environmental management
- Regulatory compliance
While the project manager typically handles quality assurance, it often makes sense for managers to hire outside help to guide them throughout the construction process.
To demonstrate the importance of Quality Assurance, we’ve outlined a few common problems in construction management and ways QA addresses these issues.
Most Common Construction Issues
There are several issues prevalent throughout the construction industry, not limited to:
- Improper Risk Management
- Communication Issues
- Cash Flow
- Managing Subcontractors
- Document Management
- Hiring Skilled Labor
- Meeting Schedules and Deadlines
- Regulatory Compliance and Fines
While some of these issues are innocuous, others can be costly in the long run.
According to OSHA, around 20% of all worker fatalities occur in the construction industry.
Conversely, between 10% to 25% of final construction costs occur from errors. This amounts to billions of dollars lost yearly because of improper planning and poor execution.
While QC may catch some of these errors before projects are sent for final approval, proper QA processes ensure they never happen so you can stay within budget and scope.
Let’s review five ways QA solves some of these common construction errors.
5 Ways QA Addresses Common Construction Mistakes
1. Improved Operational Efficiency
Operation efficiency can be defined by a few outputs, including:
- Total profit (revenue- costs)
- Quality (QC)
- Customer Satisfaction
- Time Efficiency (i.e., ability to meet schedules)
- New Customers
Most importantly, we want to ensure that construction projects are completed to spec, under budget, and promptly.
Fortunately, QA is an active process followed across the construction process, from the planning and procurement phase to the final inspection. During the initiation and planning phase, a QA manager can provide realistic timelines, a cash flow analysis, and a cost-benefit analysis for any required materials to ensure they stay within budget and maintain high quality.
Additionally, QA managers can help you evaluate and manage subcontractors, find skilled labor from different labor pools, and provide easy pathways to ensure workers become certified in required tasks.
QA managers can ensure that any issues are resolved before they become too costly or time-consuming to fix by providing active management during the construction and post-construction phase.
In essence, by becoming more proactive in our planning and execution of projects, we can avoid costly errors that slow down our project efficiency.
2. Provide Best Practices Designed to Meet Regulations
From documentation to the latest worker safety standards, QA managers can provide a wealth of knowledge to assist construction managers in navigating the latest regulations.
In turn, this helps managers avoid costly fines and costly fixes while providing a bevy of additional benefits, such as improved worker safety and communication.
3. Reduce Communication Issues
Unfortunately, communication issues are often listed as one of the most common between language barriers and all moving parts at a construction site.
Not only does poor communication put operational efficiency at risk, but it also jeopardizes worker safety and the quality of the final product.
Investing in a QA manager or QA software will ensure proper transparency across worksites and equal access to necessary information.
QA managers can school managers and workers on proper terminology and establish clear chains of command to ensure all commands trickle down evenly to workers.
4. Improved Worker Safety
As previously stated, worker safety is a massive variable when calculating the efficiency of a construction zone. Worker accidents are most often the result of poor procedures and communication.
QA managers emphasize these measures to ensure workers are properly educated and follow best practices that help them avoid accidents.
Special QA processes may include worker safety related to material handling, equipment management, and even transporting materials to and fro worksites.
5. Improved Consumer Satisfaction
Finally, active QA management will provide a high-quality finished product that meets customer satisfaction.
Unlike QC, which may be more concerned with noticeable aesthetic aspects, active QA management ensures that buildings are created to the highest standards and help avoid structural errors that will disgruntle customers after projects are complete.
In turn, by providing a safe and sturdy product for your customers, you are more likely to acquire new ones through a positive reputation and word-of-mouth advertising.
How to Implement Better QA Into Your Construction Projects
To help you understand the process of quality assurance better and implement some QA procedures on your worksite, we’ve outlined a few common steps all QA processes should incorporate.
. Integrate and Review Proper Standards
All construction processes should meet a baseline of quality standards, such as SOP, ISO, and HACCP standards, among many others. These standards should also include local compliance measures and be reviewed periodically by a QA manager to ensure they are being followed properly.
2. Establish a Communication Chain of Command
Regardless of whether you use software to communicate, establishing a proper chain of command to communicate and monitor actions at job sites will ensure that communication errors are avoided.
3. Lean on QA During Initiation and Procurement Phases
Material purchasing and planning are vital to staying within budget and ensuring a high-quality final build. Lean on QA managers to ensure you purchase the best products for your budget and will not suffer from purchasing insufficient or poor products later on.
4. Implement Active Testing and Review
Optimal QA management entails active involvement from QA professionals throughout each phase of construction all the way to QC. Be sure to implement proper tests and compliance measures at each stage, especially during the construction phase, to ensure projects are built to spec.
5. Create a Smooth Handoff Between QA and QC
Improve operational efficiency by giving QC professionals full transparency and open communication into all QA processes you’ve implemented.
6. Find a Qualified QA Manager
As QA is a vital part of the construction process, we highly recommend hiring a professional QA specialist to assist you with proper implementation, testing, and oversight. A QA manager may be experienced in both QA and QC management to help guide your projects from beginning to end.
While it may be an added cost, a qualified QA manager will save you money and help you mitigate onsite risks.
- Quality assurance (QA) is a proactive measure designed to improve operational efficiency.
- Active QA management can address several common construction errors, even before they occur, such as communication gaps, cash flow errors, and even hiring the right subcontractors.
- Most construction sites should work with a QA specialist to acquire the most benefits from the QA process.
- Who is responsible for quality assurance in construction?
The project manager is responsible for quality assurance management, although many outsource this responsibility to trained professionals who can provide a fresh perspective.
- What’s the difference between quality control and assurance?
While we separate QC and QA as two separate processes, they fall under the umbrella of quality assurance or quality management.
However, the primary difference is that QA is a proactive measure implemented from planning to finishing, while QC is a control mechanism only applied to the end of projects for final approval.
- What are the primary principles of quality assurance?
Quality assurance may mean different things in different fields, but its primary principles include:
- Quality assurance planning
- Active quality management
- Quality control