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Wed May 18 2022

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Digitised defects resolution is integral to quality control

3 May Long-term quality is the most sought after result in construction

It’s the ultimate marker of your skills and professionalism. And because long-term quality has the longest-standing impact on your clients, owner-operators and occupiers, it has a huge bearing on your reputation – nothing secures repeat and new business like high quality.

More’s the necessity of avoid the greatest threat to long-term quality – defects. Far too common and far too costly, it’s estimated that defective construction costs the UK construction industry at least £20 billion every year. 

Defects have become normalised as inevitable in construction, with teams accustomed to rework as a fact of life. And because the industry generally accepts this, our efforts to mitigate them aren’t where they should be.

Yet if there’s an industry that demands a smaller margin of error, it’s construction. Whether it’s cost, safety, regulatory standards, time, reputation (or all the above) defects can be crippling in construction.

Imagine how different construction would be if we replaced a culture that accepts defects as the norm with one that doesn’t. It would be a true game-changer, which is why we should all be aspiring to achieve exactly that: a zero defects culture and practice. It's undoubtedly very ambitious – and fairly audacious – but it’s also achievable.

According to the Chartered Quality Institute Construction Special Interest Group, better quality management could save the UK construction industry up to £12 billion. But for a zero defects culture to thrive, several problem areas need to be overhauled.

Human error and outdated processes and tools may be the scourge of quality control in construction; but new digital technologies on the other hand are its saviour.

A single source of quality control truth

In less than a generation, the construction project site has changed from what was essentially a technological desert to a place where every worker has high-powered information and communication technologies at their fingertips.

Smartphones have played a major role in that evolution; their near-universal adoption within the workforce is a serious force in the digital transformation of the industry. They’ve given construction management technology providers the hardware foundation for a new generation of cloud-based solutions that are dramatically improving site processes, data capture and analysis, prediction capabilities, and quality control.

Digital tools empower firms and their teams to apply a more consistent and methodical approach to quality control by providing a single source of truth – updated in real-time – on what’s happened and the responses in reaction.

Where outdated and ineffective quality control processes are a common source of defects, digital quality control can help ensure that each stage of a given project – from design to commissioning – meets quality standards, code compliance and product performance. Digital quality control processes empower teams to incorporate regular checks and balances into their workflows to ensure that flaws are identified and quickly resolved before completion.

Take for example, Procore’s new Quick Capture tool. Using smartphone familiarity as its starting point, Quick Capture takes the tedium out of compiling a snag list, meaning it’s never been easier, or quicker, to record snag items. Using Quick Capture, a site worker simply takes out their phone, hits record, films the defect and describes what needs to be fixed. The tool even transcribes the description, meaning the site worker doesn’t have to spend time filling out the accompanying form.

And this is just a taste of how smarter technology can influence quality. As adoption accelerates, businesses will move to an ever more holistic view of what quality looks like across their sites. So many things become possible when everything is connected.

Digitised defects resolution – a simple process by design

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An efficient defects resolution process is a key component in any successful quality control, with identifying deficiencies in the first place half the battle. The rest is putting clear steps in place to ensure that defects are rectified and ready to be re-inspected and signed off.

Any project manager will tell you that the most valuable feature of a robust defects resolution process is visibility, and construction management solutions enable this by ensuring that comprehensive data capture is a non-negotiable.

This means that when a report is filed it will always come with imagery of the defect, a written description, the exact location of the issue, the time and data of the inspection and the identity of the person reporting it. With all of this information available from the off, wasting time tracking it down retrospectively no longer becomes an unnecessary, yet very common, hurdle. 

As soon as the report is submitted, the person in your firm responsible for the work is notified and prompted to assign a colleague to fix the defect. Once that work is completed, the inspector is notified so it can be re-inspected. Assuming the defect is no longer a defect and is now compliant, the issue can then be marked as approved and closed. All of this information is then stored in an accessible place, and the learnings from it are put to good use to ensure that similar future issues can be avoided altogether.

The process is very simple because that’s exactly how it’s been designed – one of the keys to successfully enabling better quality management with technology is not to add complexity to the process and to make the technology itself easy to use.

A zero defects culture enabled by the right technology

UK-based workplace design and development firm, BW: Workplace Experts, are building a zero defects culture, with the company maintaining a goal of delivering every project defect-free at practical completion.

Working to achieve that goal, the firm recognised the need to come away from their information silos and find a way to gather consolidated, actionable, detailed and trustworthy insights on every project.

A key focus area for BW: Workplace Experts soon became the need for clearer insights on the root cause of any project issue, and so the search began for technology that could provide one accurate, timely source of truth that could be shared seamlessly across the business. This would minimise the risk of errors and rework, and preserve a clear project history for future teams to learn from.

This search led BW: Workplace Experts to Procore and a game-changing 360-degree view of its projects. Now, if a defect happens, BW: Workplace Experts can track the cause, the steps needed and taken to resolve it, the average days spent on the issue, who was involved, and the eventual solution. All this data is recorded to inform the process if a similar issue arises again, and ultimately help the firm reach its defect-free goal.

Maximising the quality your team can provide

As long-term quality only becomes more in-demand, your business’s ability to consistently deliver will be critical to its reputation and profitability.

Digital quality control has the power to nurture the necessary culture of quality across your firm and put it on the road to a zero defects future. Bringing true visibility to your defects resolution process, in particular – together with actionable learnings from every one of your projects – is essential to maximising the quality your team can provide.

This article was paid for by Procore

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