A primary source of discrepancy with respect to the physical quality of a facility may be attributed to a gap between the understanding of what the client expects to obtain as opposed to what they actually receive in the completed project, as determined or perceived by the end user. Some of the deficiency may be attributed to the work of the designer, but more than likely, much of it stems from construction defects.
Building defects may result from a whole host of factors. Some are unintentional, such as supervision or workforce errors. The bulk of the discrepancies in quality generally result in deficiencies or defects that originate from the contractor or construction manager's project delivery process and/or the supply chain partners. Some of the problems may occur in the following areas.
Quality standard. When there is a difference between the specified quality and what the contractor delivering the project believes they are obligated to achieve.
Project delivery systems. The contractor's operational systems utilized do not support or enable the proper production and quality of the work.
Supervision. The quality of the oversight of both the contractor as well as the subcontractor's project staff is not in line with project (owner) requirements and/or expectations.
The craftsperson's capability, knowledge, motivation, and attention to detail are not aligned with the production and quality requirements of the project as they go about putting the work in place.
The above factors contribute to increased construction cost, extending the project completion time, resulting in countless time-consuming rework, disputes, and possibly legal action, as well as delaying the owner from enjoying the benefits of timely utilizing the facility with its associated negative impact. If the latent defect manifests itself after turnover, then that impacts the owner from full utilization of the facility and its related time and cost impact. It also disrupts the contractor's operation by having to expend time and resources to address the problem, which also impacts their operation negatively. It may also negatively impact the design team as well.
For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the practices and procedures utilized to direct, oversee, and control the quality of the work of all the craftspeople as they go about performing the tasks involved during the project.
It is incumbent on the owner to ensure, along with the assistance of the architect, that there is a clear understanding of the project quality standards by the contractor team before any work starts on the project. Depending on the circumstances, this may need a detailed discussion and possibly the need for a review of samples or examples (other projects completed by the contractor or others), which results in a mutual understanding. This should be documented.
After the commencement of the work on the project, mock-ups may be necessary to resolve issues, confirm the level of quality, and establish a sample for comparative purposes. In some cases, the owner and/or the designer may need some form of documentation from the contractor that the work is going in place in accordance with the specification requirements. Depending on the situation, the owner or designer may gain the reassurance of this by visiting the project shortly after a new subcontractor commences work or a different phase of the work is undertaken to ensure that workers putting the work in place are doing so in accordance with the project specifications. This will go a long way toward reducing the possibility of defective work from being put in place.
Project Delivery Systems
The project delivery systems employed by the contractor must enable the project staff as well as the craftspeople employed to perform the work in such a way that they not just meet but are able to exceed the project's contract production and quality requirements. This requires that the work be planned in such a way that it ensures the availability of the proper tools and equipment to enable the workers to effectively and efficiently perform the work. It also must provide for the flow of the proper material in the right quantity to be available to the workforce at the appropriate time and place.
The contractor's method of selecting vendors and suppliers needs to be able to include some mechanism for identifying the effectiveness of their quality management practices and procedures, as well as the resulting outcomes. This would also apply to all the subcontractors they prequalify and eventually hire to work on their projects. The contractor may also need to take into account the quality management systems of the vendors and supplies of the subcontractors they select and hire for their projects. This area needs some elements that deal with the competence of the workforce.
The contractor should make sure that every firm providing work or services to the project ensures their staff and workforce is not only fully aware of the project's quality requirements but also any and all work being put in place meet the contractor's expectations. This would apply to their assignment of competent and qualified staff, as well as a capable and skilled workforce with the appropriate tools, equipment, supplies, and support. This whole area may require some form of main office oversight to ensure as well as confirm that quality gets the attention it requires.
Fundamentally, projects are completed utilizing two essential elements: the systems devised to both support and enable the workforce to perform the work. This requires planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling the operation. The second is the craftsperson performing the work. This requires that every one of them is experienced, knowledgeable, and capable to properly perform the work, as well as being informed, attentive, and motivated as it relates to the quality of the work. This requires that supervision match the worker's capability to the task requirements as well as demand so as to enable goal attainment.
Prior to the commencement of any of the project work, staff should ensure that, given the number as well as the capability of the workforce designated for that particular task, they are able to perform the work within the scheduled allotted time for that planned activity. Such an approach will ensure that all work assigned will be able to be performed without having the workforce be rushed, which more than likely will potentially negatively impact the quality of the work put in place.
The organizing of the work of the project should take into account factors that may contribute to poor workmanship, such as issues with access, appropriate tools and equipment, sufficient room to perform the work, the access and flow of material, and any other deficiency in the management of the work as well as workforce.
Supervision must ensure that the person being selected to perform the work has the capability, knowledge, and motivation that matches the task's demand. Any mismatch may increase the need for possible added manpower and greater oversight to remove the possibility of contributing to the potential risk of a deficiency in the quality of the work.
Depending on the craftsperson's capability, should it not quite meet the task demand, then the supervisor will need to conduct more oversight and provide guidance as well as coaching to ensure the craftsperson is enabled to meet the production goals.
The number of checks and the amount of time required to ensure the achievement of the quality of the work being put in place is a function of each craftsperson's knowledge, capability, and experience. Therefore, supervision must allow sufficient time for checking the work of every craftsperson in order to allow for providing feedback or coaching as may be required.
In construction, when considering hiring a craftsperson, one of the key considerations should be the ability of that person to perform the work for which he or she is being considered. Some of the things of interest to the person conducting the interview may be that candidate's capabilities, knowledge, expertise, and/or experience, temperament, motivation, and attitude toward teamwork, as well as pride in the quality of their workmanship, to name a few. It is likely that the person conducting the interview may find some deficiencies, but in general, the candidate may be acceptable.
If the organization has a centralized hiring practice, the deficiencies must be brought to the attention of the supervisor for whom that craftsperson is being hired. If the interview is conducted at the project by the superintendent or foreman, then it should be company policy that there be sufficient oversight as well as coaching to bring that worker's deficiencies up to an acceptable level.
If the craftsperson works for the company and is being assigned to a project whose supervisor is not familiar with that worker's capability, knowledge, expertise, and/or experience, then the supervisor must make an assessment of that worker's capabilities to ensure that the person is able to perform the work at an acceptable level, and any and all deficiencies must be addressed in accordance with company policy. In either case, to ensure adherence to company policy involving the quality of the work, there should be some level of management oversight to ensure that these steps are being effectively followed on every worksite.
The company should have a process for continual evaluation of all craftspeople's workmanship so as to ensure the workforce is performing the work to the company-required standard. There should be some form of management oversight to ensure that work is being put in place in accordance with company expectations to ensure that this gets done. Every time a worker starts a new assignment, the supervisor should check the work put in place to ensure that the work meets project expectations, with regular follow-ups to confirm. This will reassure everyone that quality standards will be met.
Any deviation from company standards should be immediately addressed with project supervision for self-performed work and with subcontractor's site supervision for their work. There ought to be a defined process to ensure that corrective action is taken, which should be confirmed as well as ensured with regular follow-up inspections.
Every time a worker starts work on any site for the first time, whether they have worked for the company before or they are a new hire, the supervisor must spend a little time to assess their capability and ensure that they are able to meet the task demand and quality expectations.
If there is any doubt that the worker may not be fully aware of performance expectations, the supervisor must take the time to discuss this and ensure that the worker fully understands the company standards and the supervisor's expectations.
The supervisor should take some time to observe workers performing any task to ensure that they meet the company-expected performance criteria. It should be company policy that every time a worker is assigned to a task that is different from what they have been doing before, that the supervisors in charge ensure that the worker is performing the task properly. If there are better ways to do this, then the supervisor must provide the necessary coaching in order to improve the worker's performance.
Following are some things to keep in mind when assigning tasks.
Match capability to task demand. It is important to ensure that the worker being considered for a particular task has the necessary knowledge, skill, and capability, as well as the motivation to not only meet project expectations but, in all probability, exceed them.
Supervision must ensure that the worker is provided with the necessary information, equipment, and material in a timely manner to be able to meet expectations.
Discuss the expectations related to the task, and allow a reasonable amount of time for the performance of the task.
There is a correlation between defects and project delivery characteristics. Some problems may be attributable to deficiencies or flaws in organizational or operational systems due to the lack of alignment among various policies, processes, or procedures. Some worker-created defects may result from how supervision executes their responsibilities, such as deficient planning, flawed organization, improper task assignments, or ineffective oversight and control, which may cause the worker to create them.
Some defects may arise from how supervision interacts with the workforce. This relates to the supervisor's personality, attitude, leadership style, traits, skills, the nature of the leader-member exchange involving communication, empathy, respect, trust, etc., all of which may create a potentially hostile work climate and influence the worker's perception, distrust, and motivation.
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