Tomorrow’s Engineer: Quality Control (March 2001)
Mix this dilemma with a changing industry where consulting engineers have begun to overshadow their architectural counterparts in so many of the new business opportunities. Simultaneous with this booming economy, design-build (D-B) has resurfaced as the process of choice for so many building programs. While D-B was passing the more traditional building processes – plan-bid-build and construction management – as the delivery process-of-choice, D-B transformed into program management, a single-source concept that includes programming, engineering, construction, and facility management.
Quality Control: A No-BrainerWith this bustling economy and booming building program, one thing that has not changed has been the need to provide quality control with each job.
Why quality control? Well first, customers have always wanted a quality project for their investment and that didn’t mean the project had to be expensive to be high quality. Secondly, without quality control, many of the customers that a firm served in the good times will simply keep on looking for a better company to provide better services in the future. There never is business loyalty or rewards for mediocrity. The only time companies get away with this marginal performance is in a booming economy when everyone is busy. As business activities slow down, customers will certainly take a fresh look at what they have been getting for their money.
So what is the point of all this? Quality control will be coming into fashion again soon, and it is imperative that everyone revisits the basics of good management. At our office we are redefining production quality control into two categories: guidelines and deliverables.
The guidelines are the standards by which we will program, engineer, estimate, build, and/or support facility operations. The guidelines simply consolidate what we want to continuously use as our value-added tools. Those tools may be a standardized pipe-sizing chart where we have assessed the value of flow and pressure drop to first-cost and life cycle cost. Another guideline may be a facility condition index that we set as the benchmark for determining a customer’s building condition index – quality control through guidelines based on experience, repetition, and industry standards.
The deliverables are standardized products that we outline in a menu of issues and needs. Whether it is addressing independent commissioning, facility condition survey, and/or building program management, a time-proven list of events is a very simplistic means to show the customer what they will get for their investment at the beginning of the project and not at the end of the job. Quality control through a table of contents at the start of the job demonstrates experience, consistency, time-tested success, and value.
In the past, quality control was data collection, data analysis, solution, solution implementation, monitor and measurement, and then standardization with continuous improvements. Guidelines and deliverables we see as the next generation of “standardization with continuous improvement” or better stated: quality control. So get ready; with the new millennium comes the rebirth of the quality process.