@2009IntroductionQuality assurance is an important issue in the construction industry and the industry has been struggling for many years to address the issue. The cost of non –compliance with the quality standards by contractors is significant in the economy and it can only be reduced if the contactors will embrace the quality assurance concept. Various initiatives have succeeded in intruding the concept of quality assurance in the industry though in small scale (Harrison 2005). Due to the uniqueness of construction industry, the application of quality assurance requires an approach that can meet the industry’s needs.
Basically, quality assurance involves controlling the entire processes involved in a business by setting standards and checking if the standards are being met on regular basis (Harrison 2005). Variations from the set standards are inquired in to so that the cause of the variance can be found and corrective measures taken to make sure that the variations do not occur again in future. It is the process in which the contractor provides satisfactory evidence to the client to show that the work he is doing will be done in conformation to the client’s requirements (Henson 1997). This article will discuss the quality standards used in the construction industry, the requirements of the standards and the systems that are used to make sure that the standards are met.
It discusses the quality assurance process and its application in the construction industry. It also gives the benefits that are accrued for using such standards to all the stakeholders in the construction industry, that is, the contractor, and the employees of the contracting companies as well as the owners of the buildings.
The use of quality assurance systems is probably the best way of ensuring that high quality standards in the construction industry. The quality standardsDue to the unique needs of the construction industry on quality assurance, an effective quality assurance program must be user friendly, streamlined to suit the needs of the industry and have the right balance between the added value and the extra cost. The quality assurance standard currently used by the construction companies is the ISO 9000 system. This quality standard is known world wide due to its publicity.
Unfortunately, the standard has been widely ignored by companies in the construction industry. In the US, only 42 construction companies have been certified for successfully applying the standard in their operations (Harrison 2005). Some of the instruments used to help companies and building owners to maintain high standards are; the ‘Construction Contractor Quality System Audit Checklist’ (CCQAC) which is a system used to verify that the quality assurance system is working and it was developed using the ISO 9000 guidelines. The CCWAC was tailor-made to suit the exclusive requirements of the construction industry.
Other tools used are ‘Construction Quality Assurance Job Audits’ and ‘Corporate Construction Quality Assurance Program’ both of which were made to assist construction companies to maintain high quality standards (Harrison 2005). The quality assurance processThe quality assurance process follows the procedures described in the Deming Cycle also known as the ‘Plan-Do Check-Act’ (PDCA) (Harrison 2005). The PDCA is known as the Deming Cycle because it was formulated by Dr. W. E. Deming. The components of the PDCA cycle are described below. ‘Plan’ involves instituting processes and the objectives necessary to achieve the desired quality.
In the situation of quality assurance in the construction industry, the objectives to be met are the standards. The standards used in the construction industry are the ISO 9001 certification standards, which are internationally recognized standards in quality management and the internal standards which are set by each country or the concerned departments. The internal standards used in many countries are mainly formulated in conformity with the international standards. ‘Do’ involves implementing the new process and in the context of quality assurance, it means that the plan of how the standards will be met is put into action.
At this stage, all the required materials have been purchased and construction work starts. The materials must be of high quality so that the overall work can meet or even exceed the required standards. The ‘Check’ stage can also be referred to as the evaluation stage and it involves measuring the new process and comparing the achieved results with the expected results to ascertain if there are any variances. The ‘Act’ stage involves analyzing the variances to determine their cause and the required changes.
At this stage, the actions can be taken against the employee who is responsible for variance if it was as a result of negligence. If the cause of the variations was as a result of poor quality materials, then the contractor must avoid using materials from the supplier to avoid any future losses. The necessary changes must be done so that the variations can be avoided in future (Henson 1997).