Construction often feels like a game of hot potato with who’s responsible for getting the job done right. We delicately word our contracts to strike just the right balance between vague and air-tight, and we formalize processes for documenting and approving even the slightest changes to the design, scope, or cost. After all, it can be very expensive when things don’t go as planned - Arcadis estimates that construction disputes cost $33M globally in 2019.
But no matter who gets the blame for project issues, rework and disputes can cost you (as the owner ultimately responsible for project success) and your extended project team money, time, and energy that would be better spent working collaboratively to get the project done. Navigant Construction Forum found that as much as 9% of a project’s total cost is attributable to rework; and that rework typically extends the schedule by almost 10%. How much of your contingency is getting eaten up by rework, and how much revenue are you losing when you have to delay opening by weeks or even months? And how much of that stress and cost is alleviated by ensuring that it’s officially the contractor’s fault?
When it comes down to it, the project owner ultimately pays the price for quality issues, whether through increased construction costs, lost revenue, or the ongoing cost of managing a building with problems. That’s why savvy project owners know that it’s not enough to assign blame after something goes wrong; it’s better to implement proactive measures to avoid quality problems from materializing in the first place.
Luckily, as the owner, you are the ultimate authority on the project and therefore best positioned to make decisions that ensure high quality project delivery. Here are four simple ways you can take increased ownership over your projects’ quality.
1. Analyze historical data to identify themes
When you look back at past project performance, you may be surprised at the trends that emerge. Rework and issues that, at the time, seemingly came from nowhere may take on a new light when you start to see recurring themes around trade, timing, involved parties, or other factors.
While historical analysis is arguably the most important step in determining proactive next steps, it can be the most difficult. For many companies, construction data is still notoriously inconsistent, siloed, and even inaccessible. It’s impossible to identify trends if your data cannot feasibly be aggregated and compared.
Thankfully, construction has passed through the digital age and into a world where you can gain insights from data standardization (and therefore reporting) across projects.
In Procore Analytics you can use Benchmark Reporting and Root Cause Analysis to analyze performance of historical projects to create more accurate cost assessments and determine underlying issues. For example, determine which projects are more likely to slip because of quality control issues.
2. Implement basic quality control processes
Once you know where quality issues have historically tended to threaten projects, you can arm your teams with proactive steps to take countermeasures on the next job. But even in the absence of historical data, start implementing simple procedures that will put your teams on the offensive against potential issues.
Standardized audits or checklists have been around for a long time, and for good reason. By providing a clear list of items to look out for, checklists can guide the project teams to think through and evaluate all of the quality impact factors before initiating work or moving onto the next step. As an owner, you can require your contractors to assess quality at critical steps in the project. This can go a long way toward reducing in-the-moment oversights on items that should be second nature. Ideally, checklists should be easily accessible from the field so there are no excuses for skipping one, and should enable digital data collection so you can add to your dataset on where things have (almost) gone wrong.
Within Quality & Safety, the Inspections tool enables you to digitize and mobilize your quality-related checklists and audits, and collect data that will ultimately start feeding your Analytics reports. When a quality-related issue is identified, the team can document it and assign accountability using the Observations tool.
Many project owners are also moving toward a stage-gate or phased approach to project development. By defining key checkpoints at which the team should pause and verify completeness, correctness, and compliance before moving forward, potential quality issues are more likely to be caught and addressed early on. Implementing a stage gate process requires a way to organize documentation, stakeholders, and requirements into a clear sequence and then track completion or approval status.
Action Plans is Procore’s solution for organizing information, requirements, accountability, and verification methods into a phased sequence. With Action Plans you validate quality criteria at critical milestones throughout the project, and ultimately avoid putting the cart before the horse.
3. Foolproof project information access
By some estimates, 52% of rework is caused by poor project data and miscommunication - you do not want your project teams guessing whether information is correct or complete, or worse, not seeing it at all. By establishing a robust “single source of truth” where all project stakeholders will access the most up-to-date information, you can avoid unnecessary communication errors.
In order to be effective, your system of record should be easily accessible to the entire project team, including from the field. This way, there are no excuses for being out of the loop on critical information.
Ideally, the project information system will also have built-in controls on information access. For example, automatic version control can keep everyone on the most updated information (and not accidentally looking at an old drawing). Establishing a notification process to alert stakeholders to key changes is also critical, in case any team members have already reviewed and noted old information.
Within Project Management, the document and drawing control features keep the entire project team working off the most updated and complete information, no matter where they are. Procore offers unlimited document storage and sharing with robust permission controls, and has dedicated features for documenting and sharing critical information such as RFIs.
4. Establish clear expectations and accountability
The quality control processes and information you provide will tell your stakeholders how you expect them to ensure a quality build and what quality looks like. But as a project owner, you are likely relying on many different external parties to execute the work. That’s why it’s critical to make sure all stakeholders understand who is ultimately accountable for validating quality throughout the process.
Ideally, accountability should not just be words on a page, but should also be delivered in a timely and interactive manner, in order to reduce the chances that someone “didn’t realize” it was on them. Some teams accomplish this through a full time job description. But you don’t necessarily have to go that route, if you can establish an accountability system that can clearly assign different individuals to a task at hand, based on their role.
Accountability is embedded throughout the Procore platform. For example, tasks can be directly assigned to individuals or companies, who are automatically notified (and re-notified) to complete the item until they provide the required follow up. Responsible parties have a complete view of their “to do” list whenever they log into Procore, so they won’t lose track of any critical steps. And you’ll have a bird’s eye view of what items remain open, and who is responsible.
Because the cost of quality problems is so high and the risk is on owners, it’s not worth leaving quality management up to chance or assuming the contractor will handle it all - especially when there are really simple things you can do as the project owner to steer the entire team toward a high-quality build. By leveraging data, implementing processes, streamlining information access, and establishing accountability, you can take quality into your own hands and buffer the risk on your projects.
Request a free demo of Procore’s solution for quality and control.