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10 Factors That Affect Construction Quality Management–And How to Address Them

Creating a Strategy to Improve Construction Quality Management

Every contractor and construction firm has the intention to offer the best quality services, but many obstacles can pop up along the way to interrupt these plans. A single mistake is all it takes to trigger a series of events that can lead to expensive rework and more serious penalties if the structure’s safety is compromised.

Improving construction quality management starts with an understanding of the factors that can impact both safety and quality.

Learn more about the costs and other impacts of poor construction quality management in our ebook “Quality in Construction: Maintaining Quality on Construction Projects for Better Outcomes.” Download it today, and read below, to explore the relationship between quality control and safety practices.

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1. Damaged and Low-Quality Materials

Too much water or sand in a concrete mix, lumber cut from undersized trees and improperly graded steel can all result in widespread construction quality issues. Not only do these materials fail early, they also create construction safety hazards by reacting unpredictably during the building process. Workers are often hurt when sparks are generated during cutting when they’re not expected or as a structure collapses due to a lack of weight-bearing ability. Ordering only from trusted suppliers and assigning a quality control officer to check every shipment of materials is the only way to verify a project is properly supplied.

2. Supplier and Vendor Failures

Even when the materials themselves aren’t to blame for a quality issue, problems with suppliers and vendors can raise costs and lower quality levels. Replacing the requested building supplies with other brands and materials that don’t offer the same quality can result in unhappy clients and time-consuming rework requests. Set clear expectations with all suppliers and perform random checks to verify they’re still adhering to the contract. Finding new vendors may feel like a distraction in the middle of a construction project, but it can significantly improve construction quality management.  

3. Subcontractor Mishandling

According to some studies, over half of construction defects can be attributed to human error. If a subcontractor hires employees without the right skills and fails to train them, workmanship errors occur that can go unnoticed for years. Screening subcontractors and other labor providers is essential to verify they’re supplying skilled laborers that can catch their own mistakes. However, construction firms and project managers still need to follow up with independent audits of subcontractor performance to find any problems as early as possible.

4. Failure to Document Changes and Practices

Some quality issues aren’t directly related to a mistake or design change, but rather to the lack of documentation of the change. If a material is substituted for another with a completely different maintenance and replacement cycle, failure to update the final documents can result in improper handling from the maintenance team. Use a digital file management system that simplifies the process of updating project documentation so that there’s no reason to delay updates to drawings and other related files.

5. Last-Minute Changes

When essential features are still being engineered or discussed at late stages in the construction process, these last-minute changes often lead to serious quality issues. For example, a last-minute change in the design of the tie rod supports for a suspended walkway led to a deadly collapse at the Kansas City Hyatt Regency in July 1981. Set deadlines by which designs can’t be altered anymore or make arrangements to extend the deadlines and set aside plenty of time for verifying and testing any changes to the existing designs.

6. Scope Creep

Construction projects often start out much simpler and smaller than the finished project. So how does a basic bridge or retail center turn into a multi-lane highway or a three-story mall? This kind of unplanned expansion is often referred to as scope creep. While it’s natural for all projects to change with time as new facts are discovered about costs, time constraints, and site limitations, the problem comes when the expansion in scope leads to cutting corners to stretch a limited budget and time frame. Managing the scope of a construction project ensures the contractors can maintain the same level of quality over the entirety of the work.

7. Miscommunication Between Teams

Studies of the construction industry in Saudi Arabia show that project managers feel that communication issues are the number one cause of quality issues. As one of the fastest growing construction sectors in the world, concerns common to the industry in SA are largely universal. Miscommunication leads to misapplication of new techniques, mismatched materials, and a lack of secondary and tertiary testing to discover existing problems. Tools like PlanGrid are ideal for increasing communication between all of the various teams working together on a single construction project.

8. Complexity of Designs

Unnecessary complexity is the enemy of high-quality work. While some level of complexity is unavoidable in cutting-edge infrastructure and commercial construction projects, designers should minimize complex techniques and unusual features whenever possible. Simplified designs are also more affordable, offering the construction firm a better profit margin even while they’re producing the highest quality work.

9. Lack of Project Management System

A project management system determines the ideal intervals for testing the work completed so far for errors and omissions. Without a management system or plan for quality control and assurance, most construction firms wait far too long to perform essential checks on their work. Implementing a project management system based around mobile apps is a flexible and fast way to bring current projects under control.

10. Ignored Audits and Testing

Some construction companies stick strictly to their third-party testing and auditing plans, yet ignore the results of the tests and continue on with flawed designs or existing quality issues. This is often due to a lack of proper designation for quality control, causing reports to bounce from project manager to lead engineer without a clear workflow for addressing the material. Determine who’s responsible for reading the audit and test reports and making recommendations for rework or repairs to the contractors so that important information on quality issues isn’t overlooked.

Start Improving Construction Quality Management Today

Need more tips on how to keep construction quality levels high on all projects? Download our free ebook titled “Quality in Construction: Maintaining Quality on Construction Projects” for Better Outcomes for a deeper dive into the topics of quality control and workflow management.

Download Now

Further Reading:  Building 101: What Is a Change Order?

Eric Thomas

Eric Thomas is a Content Marketing Manager at PlanGrid. He develops PlanGrid’s content strategy and creates assets to educate their customers based on his experience working at Gilbane Building Co. and Truebeck Construction. He has more than six years of marketing experience and a Bachelor's Degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University.

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