To those who are not familiar with the “Quality” vocabulary, NCR stands for: “Non Conformance Report “.
(personally I prefer the terminology “NonConformity Report” which is actually what is written in the ISO:9001 but discussing quality terminology is way out of the scope of this post…)
So what is an NCR in construction?
You may probably find some very fancy definitions on the internet but because we are talking about Construction Industry it’s always better to simplify things and be practical.
We can simply describe it as a Report which outlines:
- what went wrong (this is the “nonconformity”),
- why it went wrong (Root Cause) and
- what can we do in order to avoid that from happening again (corrective action).
As simple as that!
Subscribe to the Newsletter and Download the Inspection & Test Plan Template (ITP) for Construction Projects
So, what can go wrong in a Construction Project?
But let’s try to make a list of what can go wrong (from a “quality point of view” only) in a construction site/project:
- Something was not built as per the approved Design Drawings or it’s not within the tolerances specified in the design drawings
- The approved methodology (Method Statement) was not followed during the construction
- The approved Inspection and Test Plan (ITP) was not followed
- Any other approved documentation was not followed (Quality Procedures, instruction from the Client etc)
- A different material than the approved one was used on site
- A test on a material or anywhere else failed
- A Design failure
- There is no available documentation to cover an activity (Method Statements, Design Drawings, ITPs, Risk Assessments etc) or the existing documents do not describe the activity sufficiently
and the list can go on and on according to the specific contractual requirements, applicable standards or legislation.
So, who decides what is a nonconformity (or non conformance) on site?
It shouldn’t be a decision of one person or entity. It has to be a fact with no debate at all.
If everything in terms of design, requirements and specs are crystal clear since day 1 of a Project, then there shouldn’t be any discussion at all.
However, dodgy contracts, last minute requests, unfortunate conditions and mainly bad planning and poor risk analysis can lead to endless discussions and arguments between Contractors, Designers, Project Managers and Clients during the construction phase.
As a result, Contractors are pretty resistant on raising/opening a NonConformance (NCR).
There are many reasons of why a Contractor doesn’t want to raise/open a Nonconformity and record an analysis of what went wrong:
- There might be severe financial implications. It’s not uncommon that a nonconformity can lead to significant claims and compensation events.
- There is a “blame” culture around the NCRs. People don’t like it when they have to recognize that they didn’t do their job well (especially if we are talking about construction people with many years of experience on their shoulders). An NCR is actually admitting that (more or less) they didn’t do what they should have done and that they have to correct it or even change the way they are used to do things on site.
- A nonconformity might be blocking the progress of the works especially when it is directly linked with the next construction stage and it has to be closed before moving on. This might be catastrophic for the Contractor if we are talking about an activity that is on the critical path.
- Depending on the Project, there might be quite a lot of administrative work to be done for every NCR. There are many Clients that require an in-depth root cause analysis, documents and forms to completed and objective evidence to be attached for each NCR. During the rush of the construction phase and when the clock is ticking , all of these may sound as a “luxury” and more like a paperwork exercise that everyone wants to avoid.
It is extremely important to keep a record of what went wrong and what we did (as a Team) in order to correct it, not only to avoid recurrence but also to keep an important evidence for the as-built/completion packages.
However, nonconformities and associated risks in Construction Industry are inevitable and this is something that everyone agrees without any doubt even before the construction begins. This “agreement” is called “Factor of Safety” and it’s the main tool for any Designer to cover himself with all the uncertainties on site during the construction.
Construction industry is probably the only industry where the customer (Client) has such an active role during the “production” and he is most of the times requesting or even enforcing the opening of an NCR from the Contractor.
Most of the times, the Project Managers or Client Representatives need to approve the closure of an NCR as well.
Hang on….Is this according to the ISO:9001?
Not exactly, but if we consider “Customer Satisfaction” as a priority then we have to agree that it follows that concept.
What kind of NCRs do you usually face on Site?
How do you solve the debates with the Client’s representatives (if you are a Contractor)?
How do you follow-up and request NCRs if you are representing the Client?
Share your experience in the comments below!