Poor quality ruins a reputation and it costs money to repair. Frequently contractors remain long after the project has been completed to repair defects. Sometimes contractors have to return long after they left the project site to repair problems caused by their poor workmanship.
Poor construction quality
Think about it… would you want to return to a completed project to rectify defects? Would you employ a contractor again after they delivered a substandard project?
Many of our construction projects were the second, third, or even the tenth project that we executed for the client. Often we won new projects because of referrals from pleased clients we had worked for, or because our new client visited projects that we had completed for other clients and they were impressed with our workmanship. We had a reputation for delivering quality projects on time. In fact, clients were prepared to pay a premium to employ us at a higher price than our competitors.
Regrettably though, sometimes we did have quality problems on our construction projects which we had to rectify. We made embarrassing mistakes which we shouldn’t have made. These mistakes cost us money to fix and tarnished our reputation.
When there are quality problems on construction projects, project managers are sometimes quick to make excuses or blame their team. Usually these are the same excuses: “the construction schedule was too tight so the work was rushed,” or “we weren’t paid enough to ensure good quality,” or the favorite excuse, “you can’t get good people nowadays,” or “there’s nobody with the right skills available.”
Now, as mentioned above, poor quality costs money, so saying that delivering good quality will cost money is rubbish. Doing the work right first time is definitely cheaper than fixing problems later. Likewise blaming a tight construction schedule doesn’t stand up, because it takes time to rectify faults.
Who is to blame for a lack of construction skills?
Invariably those contractors using this excuse do little to no training – they simply expect to find people with the right skills on the street. But, it’s not just about training, it’s also about attracting and retaining skilled and competent workers. Regrettably, many contractors have poor employment practices and are content to employ almost anybody they can afford. It takes time and effort to train and mentor people, then retains them. But this effort is more than rewarded because trained and skilled people are more productive and they will produce good quality work.
I’ve also had engineers, supervisors and superintendents tell me that they weren’t responsible for the poor quality on their section of works and that it was the quality manager who was responsible.
Also, I see people blaming their tools, materials, equipment, the supervisor, or fellow workers for a poor quality product.
Who is responsible for quality?
A top-to-bottom commitment is required for quality. A construction project will not achieve the required quality standards if individual workers are not committed to producing a quality product. At the same time, even if the workers are committed and well-trained, the project will not achieve the desired quality if the supervisors, superintendents, quality engineers, and the project or construction manager aren’t committed to producing a quality product.
All workers and staff must take responsibility for producing the best quality product possible.
In saying this, management must also be mindful of how they influence the quality of the workmanship on the project, and what they can do to improve the quality culture, like sending craftsmen or supervisors on appropriate training courses. They should also continually look at the construction process with a critical eye, to see if changes would improve the quality of the end product. Maybe the construction materials or equipment are genuinely substandard, making it difficult for the workers to achieve the desired quality.
Management needs to take care when selecting subcontractors and suppliers. The selection process mustn’t be purely based on price alone but must consider the quality, resources and the product that the suppliers and subcontractors can deliver. Even one bad supplier or subcontractor can jeopardise the construction project.
The saying goes that bad workmen blame their equipment. But, even good workmen struggle to produce good quality work if they don’t have the right equipment. Equipment that isn’t right, that’s old, or that has blunt cutting edges, will slow work and could impact quality. Management must ensure that the right equipment is procured. But importantly, operators and those using the equipment must look after it, ensuring that it isn’t damaged or stolen and that it’s correctly maintained.
Poor quality construction work should not be accepted, and construction project managers must not pass by substandard work without taking action. This action may be to simply chide the responsible party for minor defects, but with serious breaches of quality, consideration should be given to implementing disciplinary procedures against the parties responsible.
Each construction supervisor or superintendent is responsible for everything within their section of works, including the quality of work and the materials used. Every section manager should be responsible for the quality of their section of the works. The quality engineer, or quality manager, is appointed to assist the supervisors and section managers to monitor and record the quality, and to ensure the required quality systems are implemented and followed.
Conclusion – what it takes to achieve good quality construction
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