Quality Audits are an integral part of any Quality Management System and a fundamental requirement of ISO:9001 Standard.
However, in Construction industry things may differ a lot regarding the Audits Schedule and Audits Strategy.
This is because normally in a construction project there is no long term planning (if we are only talking about a Project and not for a Construction Company).
A project lasts only for some years and the kind of Audits that need to be performed, has to be decided mainly through a risk analysis at the early stages of the project.
So, the types of Audits that one can find in the construction industry (or in a Construction Project if you prefer) are:
– Prequalification or Pre-selection Audits : audits that the organization or the Project is performing in order to assess the system of a subcontractor or supplier (including Designers) before a contract is signed with them
– Third-Party Audits for certification purposes : this is when a third party accredited organization is invited (….or “hired” basically) to audit a construction project in order to give the ISO:9001 Certificate (many times required by the Client)
– Project Internal Audits of the quality management system of the Project: these are usually performed by the quality personnel of the specific Project (Quality or QA/QC Department) and they are aiming on auditing the internal processes that have been set up for this Project only. This category also includes Audits on Subcontractors and Designers.
– Specific Internal Audits from the parent company : these are audits that are performed by (usually) the Quality Department of the parent company (Contractor or other). They are basically aiming on monitoring the performance of the Project according to the corporate procedures. These are very common in Joint Ventures as well, where each partner monitors the project’s system and performance.
– Audits by the Client or Client’s representatives (Project Managers) : these are Audits requested by the Client or Client’s representatives in order for him to make sure that all contractual requirements regarding the quality management system of the Project are in place. Usually during the Audit, the Contractor is represented by the Project’s Quality Department. Construction industry is pone of the industries where the “customer” has the chance to perform audits during the production of the “product”.
– Internal “Mini-Audits”, “Surveillances” or “Works-Audits” : these are usually short audits from the Quality Department of a Project to ensure that the approved documentation (Method Statements, Inspection and Test Plan, Procedures etc) are followed on site. Sometimes these are also performed as “Quality Tours or Walks” and it’s not uncommon these ones to be performed (or witnessed) by the Client’s representatives as well.
– Other Audits : these are mainly unplanned audits that the management requests after an incident . They can basically belong to any of the above categories.
Apart from the unplanned Audits that might be requested occasionally, all of the rest should be well planned in advance through an agreed Audit Schedule. In many cases, the Audit Schedule of a Contractor has to be approved by the Client’s representative (it’s a requirement in many contracts).
Audits is one of the main tools for monitoring the performance of the Quality Management System of a construction project but they are overlooked sometimes.
There are cases that the audits are used by the management not as a proactive (or performance monitoring) measure but as an investigation tool when something is already wrong…
The ouput of an audit is the Audit Report where the following points might have been identified:
- Nonconformities (NCRs)
The definitions of the above, might change depending on the system and the relevant procedure but the most important for the Auditor is always to provide objective and factual evidence on any finding (we can also probably add “Corrective and Preventive Actions” on the above list of audit outputs but these are more “actions after findings” rather than “findings”).
THE AUDIT REPORT
The final Audit Report that will be issued, needs to be worded very carefully because important decisions are often taken after an audit.
It also needs to include all the important information and evidences.
Click the link below to download the Audit Report Template for Construction projects:
Especially, when the Audit is to a Subcontractor there might be many hidden surprises waiting for you during the audit, so it it must be well prepared in advance.
Click the link below to download the Audit Checklist for Subcontractors.
It will help you get prepared before an Audit to a subcontractor that works for you on site:
However, because we are talking about Construction industry here, the Auditor should always use common sense and consider carefully the implications of conformance or not to a (sometimes silly or controversial) requirement. Moreover, it is extremely important for the auditor to judge any case in direct comparison to what is happening in other similar cases within the project (very important while auditing subcontractors and Designers).
At the end of the day, we have to be practical, flexible and always judging according to the associated risks because nobody on site should lose time with nonsense arguments that don’t really add any value to the Project .
What are the challenges that you come across during an audit in construction industry?
Is it easy to audit in construction industry?
How often do you audit processes, subcontractors, suppliers or departments in your project or company?
Share your experience (good or bad) in the comments section below.