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By Erica Sweeney
April 24, 2017
In construction, quality is everything. It’s what makes one build run smoothly, while another encounters issue after issue. Most of all, it’s what distinguishes a top-notch construction company from a mediocre one. Companies that produce the highest-quality work and continuously learn and grow will see their reputations soar and their project loads surge.
Strong processes for ensuring quality allow companies to meet their clients’ needs and offer products that they can stand behind, says Eddie Martinez, director of safety and risk at MCM, a family-owned construction company headquartered in Miami that specializes in government work, including public schools, roads, bridges, and other civil and general construction projects.
Quality encompasses many aspects of a construction project, including schedule, budget, safety, workforce, attention to detail, and more. The focus on quality benefits everyone involved in a project and ensures that the build is completed successfully.
Companies that use project management software for quality control can easily identify problems at any stage of a build and develop real time solutions. Jobs can be performed faster and teams communicate more efficiently––ensuring a quality build. This instills a sense of confidence in project owners, mitigates risk, and helps businesses grow.
Solid quality control starts with company culture, Martinez says. Having a streamlined process to track quality and taking a proactive approach to finding solutions to issues take quality control to the next level.
“Every person in our company is in charge of quality,” he says. “That’s the type of culture that we have. Just like safety, everyone is in charge of safety. We don’t have a designated person.”
MCM has quality control managers and emphasizes company-wide training in quality control, Martinez says. Quality is tracked through daily reports, observations, and punch lists using project management software. All the data collected generates valuable metrics that can be used to identify problems and develop company-wide policies to prevent recurrence of the issues.
“When you talk about quality, you talk about getting metrics,” he explains. “We track metrics, look at trends, and put together policies or lessons learned to control those trends and control our quality.”
Project management software has made tracking issues of quality and resolutions much easier. When Martinez started working in the construction industry 20 years ago and a quality issue came up, he said companies sent notifications via certified mail or fax, and used Excel spreadsheets to track everything.
Technology makes reporting much easier. Technology also holds everyone involved with the project accountable and lets companies be proactive in their approach to quality control. Everyone is encouraged to report any quality issues they encounter so that everyone on the team can take advantage of the lessons learned. Martinez says project managers, superintendents, and others can often identify and resolve issues before they turn into full-fledged problems.
In any situation, once an issue is identified, corrective action can be identified. Leadership teams can generate many different quality-focused reports. Martinez says MCM often sends out lessons learned memos or holds meetings to address a quality control issue to ensure it doesn’t recur.
“You invest in technology, so that the technology can give you a roadmap on how you can improve things,” he says. “But, it’s all what you make of it. If you don’t put the right information into the technology, you’re not going to get the right information out. By having everyone participate in quality and inputting information into our system, we will get better metrics in order to improve quality.”
Communication is one of the biggest challenges in business, and Martinez says quality depends on effective communication. That’s where project management tools particularly come in handy.
Photo and observation tools can be used from the jobsite. Data is available in real time, so everyone stays in the loop and surprises rarely arise. Information can be sent and tracked much faster, which creates project efficiencies—essentially, it’s the ability to work smarter, not harder.
Working more efficiently and keeping the lines of communication open create better-quality projects, which, in turn, drive repeat business and referrals. Quality and quality control processes are what distinguish one contractor from another.
“There’s no contractor out there that produces low-quality work that’s going to get repeat business,” Martinez says. “The best warranty is total client satisfaction. Overall customer service, which includes quality, is what distinguishes us from other contractors.”
MCM regularly leverages its quality systems and processes with potential clients. The company also has ISO 9001 quality management certification, demonstrating its commitment to quality. Martinez says MCM’s certification and its quality control plan are good for business.
Project owners look for this high level of quality control management when hiring contractors. Quality is also paramount in government contracts, which are most often awarded to contractors with the “best value” rating, which factors in quality control ratings, safety, experience, and cost, Martinez explains.
“What gets measured, gets reviewed, and what gets reviewed, gets approved,” he says, summing up how quality control directly leads to business growth and marketability.
While technology makes work and life easier, Martinez says it’s important to not forget the human element of construction. That’s what quality feeds off of.
“We’re all human,” he says. “Humans make mistakes, but humans are capable of learning and correcting. That cycle is how quality works.
“You have all this technology, and it’s all great, but there’s nothing like picking up the phone and speaking to someone about an issue. That’s still an important step.”
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