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How to Imporve Quality in a Construction Company

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How to Improve Quality and Productivity in a Construction Company

GM588 Final Project

Introduction

During eight years ABC Construction Company has normally focused in construction of buildings within the commercial, industrial and multifamily markets in the Southeast of the United States. Normally, the company was used to deal with small and medium companies requiring short-term work, taking from one day to a month to complete. In the last year customer composition has changed; ABC Construction has now large architectural, commercial and public utilities as customers, and some of them are requiring all contractors and subcontractors to set up a quality management initiative that meets their own quality management systems. Their contracts are medium to long-term work, extending over a year or longer.

ABC Construction employs around sixty people, including temporary workers who work on a one-time project basis. With over $6 million revenues, ABC Construction is classified as a small business per the U.S. Small Business Administration (Table of Small Business Size Standards Matched to North American Industry Classification System Codes, Sector 23-Construction, Subsector 236-Construction Buildings, http://www.sba.gov/content/table-small-business-size-standards).

After all these years without a formal quality management system, ABC Construction has started making plans to implement a quality management system that meets customer needs and expectations, as well as requirements of customer's quality systems.

In today's global economy, competition is becoming ever more intense. Many service companies are trying very hard not only to satisfy their customer's needs but where possible to exceed them. This can only be achieved through cost reduction, improvement in service performance, increased customer satisfaction and a constant effort towards world-class service organizations. In order for ABC Construction to survive and grow in the future, it is essential that the company delivers high quality services at reasonable costs.

Problem Statement

The main challenge facing ABC Construction is finding the best approach to start the quality process in response to the growing pressure from their customers and the need to grow in the future. They fear a conventional approach of a quality management system would not suit best their small company, as most of the quality manuals and documents are focused for large companies. From experience learned from other construction companies about their size, implementation of a quality initiative was very encouraging at the beginning but over a time period became burdensome, and many of these companies desisted from implementing a quality system mainly because the right approach was not adopted (Kerzner, 2009).

Company's upper management understands that they need to implement a quality management system to remain competitive, retaining their market share, and also being able to respond to the ever changing competitive demand; however, there are several factors which may cause some resistance in the implementation of a quality management initiative within ABC Construction, such as misconception of the cost of implementation, organization stability required to obtain long-term results, and project diversity.

Implementing a quality management system alone cannot ensure long term business success. It has to count on full leadership commitment and total employee involvement in accordance to the quality management philosophy and principles (Evans &Lindsay, 2011). Being a small company with all of its resource limitations, the implementation and sustenance of a quality management system can be seen as an extra cost and not an investment at ABC Construction. In a construction company the building site of a project is transitory as compared to the main office, which means that the organization needs to form quality team(s) and provide regular training to all employees, regardless of their permanent or temporary status. Also, all projects constructed are different, which means that project diversity is a difficulty that needs to be identified and classified from the beginning of the process; as result, quality must be addressed to those features that meet the personalized needs of the customers as well as the organization's goals to meet the challenges of the future.

A quality management system has to have the potential to change attitudes, culture, and work procedures at ABC Construction in a way the organization has never experienced before. On this process the company needs to form high performance teams where employees interact and work in cross-functional teams. Processes and documentation shall meet both customers' stated and implied needs.

Literature Review

Unlike the production of goods, which can be taken from the production line if they do not meet specifications, construction product is in a form of a project, which once built it cannot be taken away and replaced by a new one on the same project. A project is a unique representation of customer needs and requirements and it is constrained by schedule, cost and performance. These three are inextricably linked such that altering one will undoubtedly have an effect on the others. Required performance can be said to represent quality, according to Crosby, (1984), who describes quality as simply: "conformance to requirements."

The overall concept of a quality management system in a project driven organization like ABC Construction is shown in Figure 1 (Stebbing, 1993). Company quality system includes a company quality manual and procedures that are developed based on the company and customer's requirements. According to Stebbing, it is important to understand the quality manual and procedures in order to develop a project quality plan, which is a project-based quality approach where different parties work together to achieve the quality of the construction work.

Figure 1. Organization Quality System and Plan (Source: Stebbing, 1993)

The fundamental procedures should address the functions of project's administration, finance, document control, record storage, retention and retrieval, planning, corrective actions, audits and customer relations.

In general, the process of construction projects can be divided into five stages: conceptual design and planning, detailed design, procurement, construction, and final inspection, which includes commissioning and project close-out. From this basis, Hill (1987) classifies the quality aspects of construction projects into

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