Creatively Creating a Quality Control Checklist
The memory-invoking, cost-effective, educational truth behind engineering checklists.
Almost from the start of my HVAC career, I have made it a standard practice to create checklists, use checklists, and continuously improve upon them over the years. Long before I was introduced to quality control (QC) and continuous QC initiatives, checklists have been among my most valuable of business tools. When I did have the opportunity to participate in QC training and then sit on two QC steering committees, I came to the realization that I had been providing a level of QC all along to my job assignments — long before I could even spell QC.
I initially created my first checklist, a drawing things-to-do list, when I was an entry-level draftsperson — back when one actually drafted using No. 2 and No. 4 mechanical pencils and long before CAD (I won’t insult your intelligence by spelling out the acronym). My reasons for creating this list were as follows:
1. Don’t keep everything in your head: As an entry-level draftsperson, it’s easy to forget standard drafting tasks, such as room names and numbers, showing fire dampers in fire walls, etc.
Comment: There are so many repetitive tasks that it just made sense to me to put these into a checklist rather than rethink and/or forget the tasks on a job-by-job basis.
2. Continuously improve the list: The more I used this list the longer it became, but it still fit on an 8 ½-by-11-inch sheet of paper.
Comment: This led me to creating an equipment room checklist as I learned how to lay out HVAC equipment, piping, ductwork, etc., and this checklist also grew with repetitive tasks as I learned more about equipment room design.
3. Nothing was forgotten if I had my checklists tacked to my work area wall.
Comment: With the checklists posted, the engineer I was working with could visually check the status of the work as well as look at the drawings.
4. Great educational tool: As I learned and recognized all the tasks that had to be completed, these checklists became very useful learning tools for me and for anyone who followed my lead and used them.
5. Cost-effective: With “nothing getting forgotten,” the checklists were both effective tools for managing time and costs.
Comment: Time was not wasted routinely thinking about what had to be done, and equipment and devices were shown and not forgotten on the drawings, e.g., fire dampers that could lead to an eventual design-contractor dispute based on what was shown versus what was not shown.
So how does one go about creating a checklist?
First, one should think about whether a checklist is necessary for the application in question. A QC analysis tool is to ask the “Five Whys.”
Why do I need a checklist? Because there are numerous repetitive tasks, like showing fire dampers that occur on every drawing of a particular type of sheet metal floor plans.
Why do I need a checklist? I need to prioritize what gets shown on the drawing, such as “show terminal units first.”
Why do I need a checklist? I can have a list of “non-thinking” things to do that I can delegate to a less experienced draftsperson with little explanation, e.g., fill in room names, room numbers, column letters, column numbers, the title block, etc.
Why do I need a checklist? I can indicate the percentage of the drawing that has been completed for the engineer to review, and he/she will determine the status of the work.
Why do I need a checklist? I can show/coordinate with other trade requests, e.g., show concrete pads, equipment weights, etc.
Depending on the type of checklist, such as a field observation-equipment checklist, other information and assignments can become very standardized, including photos of the equipment, the equipment label, its location, and the contract specification requirements associated with this equipment that is not shown on the contract drawing, e.g., hanger requirements, piping detail, etc.
Certain checklists, used initially for complete field observation reports, can be reused as part of the engineer’s final punch list. They’re capable of indicating the actual installation with punch list things to confirm on this checklist, e.g., shut-of valves, able to access and service coil, etc.
Continuous improvements to one checklist can often result in the creation of a new checklist to continue on the process from drafting to design, field observation, punch lists, facility manager’s equipment installation databases, and more.
Today, more than 50 years later, I’m still using checklists to save time and money on projects.