What is “Quality” in a Construction Project…?

In the 60′s and 70′s, there has been a real revolution in the mass production of products like cars with the introduction of Lean Quality Management.

What was the concept behind that?

You may do mistakes but when you do them, try to learn something from these, so you don’t do them again! As simple as that…

Download the Inspection & Test Plan Template (ITP) for Construction Projects – in Excel Format

So…when there is a faulty break in a car that was produced out of the production line, there is no point of just replacing that break with new one.

The revolution that the Japanese introduced was that the whole production line had to stop, the team who was responsible for that break analysed what went wrong and find a solution in order to avoid that mistake again.

They were probably losing some hours of production but the long term benefit from not having any more faulty breaks at the end of the line, was all what made the difference…

This is pretty easy to apply when there is a “production line”, repetitive jobs, identical products to be manufactured and after all a long term planning and commitment.

Deming has simply put it as :

“Long-term commitment to new learning and new philosophy is required of any management that seeks transformation”


Alright…a Construction Project usually lasts only for some years…maybe even months in some cases and there are no customers that need to be satisfied.

There is only one customer in most of the cases.

Is there really any point of long term planning in a short-term and quick Project oriented industry as Construction industry?

And if there is any point finally …how are we supposed to implement tools that have been invented for other industries…?

With so much pressure for finishing a Project on time and on budget there is really no time for learning from our mistakes. So in Construction industry you actually have to build it “Right First time”…but how do you do that…?

“Right First Time” is an ambiguous phrase that people in Construction keep on using and declare commitment.

It’s actually like stating: “I don’t do any mistakes. I am perfect. I have to be perfect.”

We are asking from the people on and off-site to be perfect.

Who are they finally? Gods…?

There is no argument that this should be the ultimate goal, but trying to build something that has never been built before (and that is because every project is unique) without any mistakes, it’s a task that has never happened in human history and probably it will never happen.

In a way we have to accept the fact that there will be mistakes, there will be NCRs and we have to be there to find solutions.

So, what is “Quality” in the Construction industry and what we should try to achieve after all?

The answer is simple: make your Client happy!

In construction industry this is quite straight forward in most of the cases and it can literally be summarised in 4 bullets:

  • safe
  • on time
  • on budget
  • with no defects
    (we can probably add one more bullet here regarding sustainability satisfaction)

So, “Quality” in Construction shouldn’t be about taking concrete cubes, opening/closing NCRs or adding paperwork and bureaucracy for the already busy Engineers on site.

Quality In Constriuction should be about proper planning, budgeting, risk analysis and building excellent relationships with the Client’s representatives on a daily basis.

Basically…anything that can make your Clients happy and create a sustainable business.

Download the Inspection & Test Plan Template (ITP) for Construction Projects – in Excel Format

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Pavlos Inglesis
I am a Chartered Civil Engineer (CEng-MICE) and a Chartered Quality Professional (MCQI CQP) working in the construction industry for about 20 years. My specialty is Quality Control and Quality Assurance Management in Construction Projects. I have worked on projects in the Middle East, and Greece and am now based in the UK.

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