Recently I wrote an article ‘The True costs of Poor Quality Construction’ and how poor quality results in many hidden costs that contractors don’t fully understand.
Many readers took the time to comment on the article and I am grateful for their feedback. Several people blamed the client for squeezing the contractor to provide a cheap price. There were other comments that clients were lowering the quality bar and were more accepting of poor quality. Now there is no doubt that in some cases clients award the contract to the contractor with the cheapest price – irrespective of whether the contractor has the experience, resources or knowledge to deliver a quality project. Disconcertingly, some also pointed out that in some countries corruption of the tender process also lead to unsuitable contractors being awarded projects they weren’t capable of delivering to the required standards. Further corruption meant that the client’s representatives ignored the poor quality. Some contractors just aren’t capable of producing a quality project and clients should take responsibility for appointing incapable contractors who then produce poor quality work. But ultimately contractors are responsible for producing quality work that satisfies the project standards and specifications, irrespective of what their price was. A contractor who blames their keen price for their poor quality is unacceptable.
A client who accepts poor quality because they think that is the norm or can’t be bothered to ensure their contractor produces good quality deserves to live with a poor-quality project. But they are doing the construction industry a disservice and they’ll probably be the first to blame the contractor when things go wrong.
I published another article ‘Does Anyone Care about Quality Anymore’ which explored the decline of service and quality and what we as customers and clients could do.
There should be no excuse for poor quality work.
Why do contractors produce poor quality work?
There are many reasons for poor quality work which includes:
- Failing to employ people who have the required skills, and not training employees. Some contractors employ people because they are the cheapest, and in some cases just to fill a vacancy. Few checks are made to ensure the person has the required skills or that they’ll be a productive member of the team. Most construction companies are poor at mentoring and training their people. They think it’s a waste of money, that the person will want a pay increase when they acquire additional skills, that the person will be more employable elsewhere and leave the company, or that the company will inevitably have insufficient work and they’ll have to terminate the newly trained person. Yet, I’ve had immense success training people, not only has productivity increased, but quality has improved, people have become more motivated and clients have become more pleased with our work. Yes, there will be some workers that will leave and there will be some workers that expect pay increases. Yet, if every construction company was training people the whole industry would become more skilled and there would be less shortage of skilled people and construction quality would improve.
- Not insisting that employees produce good quality work. Far too often Project Managers and Supervisors ignore poor work. They either don’t see it, they hope the client won’t notice, or they are so focussed on finishing the work that they ignore poor quality in the rush. This is totally unacceptable. Workers who are allowed to produce poor quality will continue to produce poor quality on that project, as well as on projects in the future. Poor quality work sets a poor example which others will follow. Never walk-by poor quality work without correcting it. Equally important is to compliment people for good quality work.
- Management don’t have the required skills and knowledge to know what good quality work is. Unfortunately some managers have poor training and skills and have developed their careers working for companies with a culture of poor quality. They don’t know what acceptable quality is. We owe it to our inexperienced staff to mentor them correctly. Project Managers and Supervisors that except poor quality shouldn’t be tolerated.
- Failing to understand the specifications and standards. Some Project Managers fail to read the project specifications, or don’t understand the specifications.
- Inadequate planning. Planning should start before work begins. Planning involves selecting the best construction methods and ensuring that the contractor has the right resources with the required skills to carry out the construction activities when they are needed. Planning also means allowing sufficient time for the tasks.
- Contractors don’t have pride in their work. Far too often employees don’t take pride in their work.
- Contractors employ subcontractors and use suppliers purely based on them providing the cheapest price and not whether they can produce the desired quality. Contractors depend on their subcontractors and suppliers who are often an integral part of the success of their projects. Far too often suppliers and subcontractors are used who don’t have the experience, skills or the resources to produce quality work.
- Contractors failing to institute a proper quality management system. A good quality management system is one that provides the means to check and record the quality of the work, and is a system to record defects and ensure they are repaired in the correct manner and aren’t repeated. However the quality system does not take away the duty of employees to do the work correctly in the first place, and it also doesn’t mean that because something has been ‘ticked-off’, checked, or signed-off that it is in fact correct. Qualified people have to check that all the work meets the specifications and the quality standards.
- Poor communication. Employees, subcontractors and suppliers must understand what is required from them and what the quality standards and specifications are. Sometimes contractors don’t understand the client’s expectations and standards.
- Company management isn’t focussed on good quality work, rather only concerned with profits. Construction companies require a culture of good quality which spans the whole company from management to every worker and across all departments.
- Contractors fail to learn from their mistakes. Often contractors repeat the same mistakes on the project and again on the next project. It is important that we learn from our mistakes (and from our successes) so that mistakes aren’t repeated. It’s important to find the reasons for poor quality and mistakes and develop solutions to avoid the same thing happening again.
- People aren’t accountable. No one admits they were careless or that they produced poor quality. There is often an excuse – normally that they were too rushed, the client needed the work done urgently, or that they weren’t given the right tools or resources. Our employees must be held accountable and the person responsible for the poor work should be the person who fixes the problem. It’s poor practice to have someone else, a snagging (punch-listing) team fix up other employees’ poor work. Make someone demolish their poor work and redo it, and they’ll seldom repeat poor work. It’s embarrassing to be bashing down work that you’ve just completed!
- Employees rely on quality managers and advisors to ensure work is to the correct standard and quality. I’ve had on several occasions engineers and supervisors blame the quality manager for their own poor quality work. Quality managers and advisors should be there in an oversight role only and to ensure that the quality system and paperwork is implemented correctly. The supervisor and engineer responsible for the work are still responsible for the quality of the work.
- Laziness. Unfortunately some in the industry are just too lazy and couldn’t be bothered to produce good quality work. These people should be booted out the industry.
It is possible to produce good quality work. However it takes skilled people and commitment from all parties to ensure that the work satisfies the specifications and meet the quality standards. Contractors who produce poor quality work will be punished, it will ultimately cost them more, and their reputation will suffer.
We all need to take pride in our work. We should never accept poor quality work and service, and we all should be training and mentoring the next generation.
What will you do to ensure good quality work on your project?
This article is adapted from information in the author’s popular books: 'Successful Construction Project Management: The Practical Guide' and 'Building a Successful Construction Company: The Practical Guide' and 'Construction Project Management: Tips and Insights'
'Construction Claims: A Short Guide for Contractors' has just been published. These books are available on Amazon and other online book stores.
Paul publishes articles regularly on LinkedIn and his website.
Paul writes regular articles for other websites, gives lectures, mentors, and is available for podcasts and interviews.
© 2017 This article is not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission from the author.