A Construction Quality Control Mindset

The old adage, “Do it Right the Second Time” is not applicable for metal construction. Disassembly, reinstall, defect detection and damage correction caused by construction errors have a dramatic impact on labor, time, repair and material costs. Incorrectly installed metal roof and building systems can cause water intrusion into the building’s interior, prompt the growth of mold and mildew and be a source of many other major problems.

Weighing in on how construction companies can keep up quality

By Mark Robins

Photo courtesy of The Garland Co. Inc.

“Neglecting quality can have a serious negative effect on both branding and on the bottom line,” says Bradley Rowan, quality and training supervisor, Chamberlin Roofing & Waterproofing, Houston. “Quality control yields consistency while at the same time earns repeat business. These processes also help reduce claims, lawsuits and material wastage.”

With quality control and quality assurance, which should begin in sales and continue through completion, poor installation can be successfully solved or at least minimized. “Quality is a result of attention to detail and pride,” says Alex Manos, associate product manager, The Garland Co. Inc., Cleveland. “The pride of the engineers and technical teams coupled with an extremely involved field representative results in a high level of quality maintained throughout the job. The building owner is placing a large investment; therefore quality control on the job site is imperative to fully recognize the return on that investment.” But how can you ensure this happens?

Buying Into and Implementing QC/QA

Getting your company and your personnel to buy into and implement QC/QA is requisite. Gilbert, Ariz.-based AARA Construction Inc. instills into all of its employees that its reputation and success has come from its quality craftsmanship. “That means aside from all of the work that goes on behind the scenes of a project, from the estimating, engineering, fabrication, planning, etc., it is the final product that will get the last word,” says AARA’s president Jerry Spores. “[It is] the final product that will stand the test of time and be remembered. That is in the hands of our crews/installers.”

Photo courtesy of Quality Engineering Inc.

Photo courtesy of Quality Engineering Inc.

“One of the most critical aspects of getting employees to buy into and implement quality on the job site is by designing processes focused on the front line and empowering those in the field to act in the event they become aware of a quality-related issue,” says Nick Morrison, director of quality, Tellepsen Builders, Houston. “This starts with a preconstruction meeting where quality expectations are discussed with those directly responsible for the work and, depending on the complexity, may require a subcontractor to submit its own project specific quality plan. This empowers a subcontractor by giving it input and ownership in the process.”

Redwood City, Calif.-based DPR Construction focuses on connecting why quality is important to its mission and its core values. “We exist to build great things,” asserts Rodney Spencley, DPR’s director of quality. “Great things include great buildings, great projects, and great people and great relationships with our customers, our design teams, our trade partners and other project stakeholders. Building great things to us means delivering work the right way the first time, safely, on time and on budget. Delivering an end-product that meets our stakeholders’ expectations is why we exist, and our employees understand that having this mindset is fundamental to our success.”

A QC/QA plan should be introduced to all employees together and made clear to them what is expected. “Hold them accountable for it and reward the QC foreman and crew for achieving the goals,” says Derek Taylor, project manager, Kalkreuth Roofing and Sheet Metal, Wheeling, W.Va. “Also, have a preparatory meeting with the general contractor/owner to go over the QC plan so everyone has the same expectations of the project. Perform QC walks on a regularly scheduled basis and be transparent with the foreman and crew of the results of the walk and actions that need to be implemented from them. Get the entire crew to buy in to the plan and not use quality as a crutch for production.”

Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

Quality control starts at the top. “To get the crew to buy in you need all levels of management to believe that quality really is important,” contends Dane Hansen, vice president, White Castle Roofing, Lincoln, Neb. “You can’t have quality work be important only until it interferes with profitability. Doing quality work all the time can and will at times cut into profitability. How you respond in those moments is going to shape a large portion of how you employees work. If you let quality go out the window, you’re sending a strong message that quality really doesn’t matter. We also have our superintendents inspect their roofs during construction and upon completion. In this process quality is graded along with other criteria. We use these grades to motivate and they are part of their reviews.”

At MMS Northeast Inc., Hampton Falls, N.H., a project foreman is responsible for documenting quality workmanship with photographs that are turned into the office and kept in the project file. “During project closeout we review the photos as a training tool for our apprentices,” says MMS Northeast president Steve Moore. “[Also,] having our journeymen work one on one training our apprentices has had a positive impact on QC especially when it comes to complicated details.”

White Castle Roofing also takes job-site photos, as many as 50 photos each day with CompanyCam, a photo app for contractors. This helps it with transparency, and alerts the company of issues before they become real problems. “With CompanyCam, the photos stream to the desktop app in real time which allows us to problem solve in real time as well,” Hansen says. “The photos are editable so each party can mark out how they see the problem being solved. This ensures all parties fully understand the problem and the solution.”

Hansen agrees training has a positive impact on implementing QA/QC. “You can have the best quality control program, but if you don’t train new and existing employees well or if quality cedes to profit it’s not going to matter,” he adds.

Incentives for QA/QC

One way to boost QA/QC in metal construction is by offering employee incentives. Charles J. Kanapicki, PE, ASQ CQM/OE and CQA, senior vice president, Quality Engineering Inc., Clayton, Calif., says incentive programs can mirror those implemented with safety such as accumulating points for purchasing company or project logo clothing and/or work-related items.

Photo courtesy of Chamberlin Roofing & Waterproofing

At Tellepsen Builders, incentive programs are based on a subcontractor’s quality performance during the work. Compliant and non-compliant observation data is collected by Tellepsen’s quality specialists in the field. “This data is compiled monthly and used to create a quality score specific for each subcontractor,” Morrison says. “Scores below a certain threshold are considered quality risks and influences a subcontractor’s ability to bid work with us in the future. Similarly, special consideration may be given to subcontractors with high quality scores for future work.”

To ensure QA/QC, AARA uses employee recognition and acknowledges employees in front of their peers. “We will call out those that are making the effort and being proactive in the field, those that make it a point to communicate,” Spores says. “Competitive pay scale and monetary bonus is another great incentive for recognizing those employees that are instrumental in our successes. If you were to ask employees what motivates them to be exceptional, most of them will tell you recognition and financial reward.” Similarly, Kalkreuth has employed a journeyman in charge of QC to ensure it was delivering a quality product. “The incentive for him was that he received a small raise but also received recognition from the GC and owner in the monthly QC meetings,” Taylor says.

Chamberlin has an internal quality control department that monitors work being performed at job sites, as well as views and inspects quality control reports submitted by foremen and superintendents. Every quarter, recognition and monetary rewards are distributed for the top reporters as well as the crew working onsite; good performance is also recognized during annual reviews. “Conversely, resistance to quality performance and reporting is nipped in the bud for obvious reasons,” Rowan says. “Small problems tend to balloon into bigger ones and negative employees can ‘poison’ the minds of other employees who are engaged and focused.”

At DPR, there isn’t a standardized incentive program for implementing a quality process on the job site. However, “Being able to produce work with predictable results and no big surprises throughout the project life cycle builds team trust with customers,” Spencley says. “These results produce repeat customers, which is a significant incentive to our employees. Our employees understand that delivering the work right, whether it is about delivering the estimate, invoices, the model or a firstinstalled review to our customers’ expectations, is also about their own—and DPR’s—brand image.”

Company Culture and QC/QA

While being difficult to measure, Hansen argues that company culture is the most important aspect of achieving quality work consistently. ”If the culture is to do quality work and that’s all that’s acceptable, then you’re going to get quality,” he says.

Morrison contends that even the bestdesigned quality programs will have little impact without buy-in, support, and regular reinforcement by executive management. Kanapicki contends nothing is more intrinsic to culture than language. “Therefore, the company’s language with respect to quality has a great impact on employees, clients, interested parties, etc.,” Kanapicki adds. “If the company truly supports and incentivizes a culture of quality, the talk will reflect the walk.”

Spires says AARA’s company culture was built on quality over 40 years ago focusing on efficiency, consistency and doing the job right the first time. “Our employees know that they work for a company that is held to a higher standard. Our expectations for our employees are that they deliver quality work consistently from one job to another. We frequently share our triumphs and acknowledge those employees that had their hands in each project. The success of AARA relies on our most powerful asset: our employees.”

“Company culture and quality are interrelated with each other: when the culture of a company possesses an ideology of high quality—i.e., ‘Deliver More,’ as in Chamberlin—it will be recognized and held out by all employees in the organization,” Rowan says. “The quality driven culture then serves as a compass in their daily job duties and responsibilities, which also aligns with that of the company.”

Photo courtesy of AARA Construction

Integrity, enjoyment, uniqueness and ever forward are core values that comprise DPR’s company culture. Spencley says these core values directly influence and affect quality control on the job site. “For example, our core value of integrity means we do what we say we are going to do. We enjoy and take pride in what we do. For each project, stakeholders can define quality and what value means to them differently and we honor this uniqueness. Finally, our core value of ever forward means we are constantly looking to improve how we can better deliver value to our customers more efficiently and effectively.”

A strong company QA/QC culture must extend beyond the company headquarters. “The thought, pride and accountability that goes into designing and manufacturing the metal roofing systems must be replicated by the manufacturer’s field representative,” Manos says. “Whoever is representing the manufacturer at the job site should be extremely involved with projects and work closely with the installers to ensure every step and detail is properly carried out at each stage of the project. Whether it is the storage of material or the smallest detail of the roof system, the field representative is responsible for upholding a high level of quality. The project should be meticulously photographed, and periodical reports should be generated to confirm every detail meets quality standards.”

Photo courtesy of The Garland Co. Inc.