Overhead costs or the General Conditions expense is the most important variable impacting the profit margin of any construction process.
While inspections and consultations can be another overhead expense eating away at your profit margin, most builders can benefit significantly from the added oversight.
In fact, for many of our clients, we find that the earlier they prioritize a quality assurance inspection, the more money they can save over the course of a project. Most importantly, they will be better prepared to handle increased volume and meet project deadlines down the road.
Let’s discuss what the role of a quality assurance consultant and inspector can play in your construction project.
What Is a Quality Assurance Inspection?
Quality assurance (QA) is a process designed to ensure that all contractors and laborers meet the desired project scope, budget, and quality standards outlined. A quality assurance inspection is simply a review of your rules, procedures, and best practices to ensure all projects meet these stated goals.
QA itself is an ongoing process, which starts from project planning all the way until project completion. The QA inspection will consist of a multi-facet review of your QA process, not limited to:
- A pre-construction phase review of all planning documents.
- A review of all document handling and submission procedures.
- Review your anticipated project budget and all materials required to stay under that budget.
- A review of your project’s scope of work and anticipated completion deadline.
- Inclusion of all subsequent inspections and a pre-construction plan of when those inspections should occur.
- An established report of quality observation guidelines to meet during each QA inspection.
- Compliance with all manufacturing instructions to ensure proper installation procedures are followed by tradesmen and contractors.
- Planning proper procedures to document all hazards and quality standards being met or not met throughout the building process.
- Continuous QA monitoring of all work progress to determine whether the project meets its intended scope, budget, completion date, design intent, and quality standards.
One way to think of a quality assurance inspection is as a proactive assessment of all procedures to ensure your project runs smoothly. This involves planning out procedures that contractors and laborers must follow to ensure proper design quality and safety on the work site.
Many people also tend to confuse the differences between quality assurance vs. quality control, the latter of which is typically done toward the end of a project. Again, QA is a proactive procedure, whereas QC is a reactive procedure to ensure the final product meets proper quality standards.
While some benefits of quality assurance inspections may seem obvious, construction managers can benefit from a quality assurance inspection in several ways.
The Importance of Quality Assurance Inspections
Meeting Project Scope and Volume
Managing multiple buildings and job sites can be difficult for builders with large construction contracts. Rather than prioritize spending on quality control standards toward the end of the project, builders could benefit from implementing the right procedures before a project begins with a quality assurance inspection.
Often, we find that many construction managers want to build the best homes for their clients but aren’t equipped with the right knowledge or have enough experience to make the right decisions. Quality assurance inspections point out builder incompetencies and help them establish repeatable processes they can use on multiple projects to keep up with scale.
For example, QA inspections can ensure that contractors meet proper regulatory compliance or follow the latest energy efficiency standards to make a greener home. In turn, this cuts down on the amount of time and money spent on fixing mistakes, allowing you to stay within scope and budget.
Budget is everything regarding construction projects, and going over budget can be a huge burden for small construction crews.
Fortunately, QA inspections can help quality managers plan budgets through impact analysis and a robust look at direct and indirect costs you incur down the road.
For example, some construction managers may only input the direct costs from switching over building materials if something becomes damaged during the building process due to poor planning. However, this plan may not include the additional labor and days necessary to repair damage to the project resulting in more indirect costs.
A QA inspection will allow you to allocate additional money and plan for potential hazards you may not foresee during your project.
Again, we like to stress the proactive nature of a quality assurance inspection, which can help you identify potential hazards before more costly repairs are required.
However, hazards are more than just obstacles to meeting your project scope; they also incorporate worker safety and material quality.
For this reason, a QA inspection may go well beyond your initial planning to outline proper safety equipment for contractors or vehicles/roads to transport materials to and fro job sites.
Overall, improving worker safety reduces liability and costs.
In addition, a QA inspection could alert you to any inefficiencies in your SWPPP or stormwater management plan for more extensive projects.
One major hazard that builders can’t ignore is regulatory compliance.
Fortunately, QA inspectors are trained to deal with document control, worker training, and QC evaluation to ensure that all construction projects meet proper federal and local regulations.
Supplements Lack of Training by Contractors and Trades
Construction projects involve a lot of outside contractors to complete projects. For this reason, builders take on a substantial risk of trusting contractors to meet intended design standards without outlining proper procedures beforehand.
Fortunately, QA inspections can help supplement any lack of training or familiarity you may have with an outside contractor by establishing proper procedures to follow throughout the construction process. Your QA inspector will help you outline any procedures that ensure that contractors follow appropriate guidelines and do not drift outside their intended scope of work.
Improved Energy Efficiency
Another area where we recommend quality assurance inspections is to ensure that projects meet proper energy efficiency guidelines.
While QC may involve different procedures, like thermal inspections, a QA inspector could provide you with benchmarks and various other improvements that could result in significant energy savings for homeowners. In turn, this promotes greater customer satisfaction and increases home value.
Reducing the Burden on Quality Control
Finally, taking a proactive approach with QA can help offset greater costs associated with QC. Typically, quality control repairs and modifications can be more costly and incur significantly more indirect costs than anticipated in your budget.
However, a QA inspection can help reduce any risks in QC and help you budget properly in the event of a major modification or change.
Quality assurance inspections enable builders to be proactive in the development process to reduce any unanticipated costs or risks down the road. While this may contribute slightly to overhead, the return on investment from a QA inspection can far outpace its costs in any given situation.
Additionally, the benefits of a proper QA process and inspection can be translated to additional projects, saving you significantly more at scale.