Few words make a construction contractor’s heart sink faster than “rework” – redoing or correcting work that was not done correctly the first time. Construction work is all about margins – margins for time, employees, and profit – and these margins are notoriously thin. When something must be redone, or worse, dismantled and then redone, all of these margins quickly evaporate resulting in missed deadlines, cost overruns, and projects failing.
A revealing study from one large contractor for the years 2009 to 2015 showed that the cost of construction rework reduced its mean yearly profit by more than 28%, while broader studies found that the cost of rework was typically 2.4% - 3.15%. In an industry with typical margins of 6%, the burden of costs associated with rework can be devastating.
The most frequent cause of rework is quality deviation, when an end product does not fully satisfy all specifications. Clearly, something far less than a total failure can still be a quality deviation requiring rework, and this deviation may occur during any step of the construction process. The causes of this quality deviation are many, including defective materials, inadequate supervision, substandard work, and communication failures, in particular when workers in the field don’t have access to project information.
Recognizing that rework is costly, and that issues necessitating rework are best caught early so they don’t have a serious impact on budgets or schedules, what can be done to maintain quality standards throughout a construction project’s implementation? Two words: quality inspections. Wait, make that three words: consistent quality inspections. Okay, four words: consistent digital quality inspections, because what good are inspections that are siloed because every worker has his or her own clipboard and checklist?
So, what can consistent digital quality inspections do to help keep your quality standards up to snuff?
Empower employees to follow the latest processes for quality assurance. It’s a lot easier to fix problems when you catch them early on – for example, if bad concrete pour occurs in a building foundation, it’s much better to discover the problem the day after the pour than weeks or months later, when foundation defects cause structural collapse. When every employee in the field is following the same checklist for work processes, there is far less room for errors, both in judgment and in omission.
Open lines of communication between workers on site and supervisors – wherever they might be. Labor shortages can only serve to exacerbate the issue of supervisors trying to be in multiple places – and oversee the workers in each of these places – at the same time. When supervisors are able to see what workers see through sharing of images and videos of job conditions and work performed, they are able to better understand issues on site, as well as provide direction for any issues. In addition, digitized inspection processes allow supervisors to instantly push changes and instructions to workers onsite in the case of job specification revisions, or even just to provide further guidance to address problems.
Deliver location-based insights natively with all records and reports. Even if consistent quality inspections reveal quality missteps, the findings are of little use if the location of the defects are not also revealed. Directions such as “there was a rebar defect in the sidewalk by the vacant lot behind the cement mixer with a bald eagle on the mixer” adds insult to injury, particularly to the supervisor who must try to find the needle in this construction site haystack. With digitized inspection processes, exact coordinates are captured at the precise place of the worker observation of quality defects for quick remediation.
To sum up, consistent, digital quality inspections are key for avoiding rework that will cost both time and money, but that’s not all: the cost of rework can also be measured in hits to your reputation. Construction companies that have a history of significant rework, and all the negative consequences to job performance, will find that bids are rejected and that it’s harder to come by new projects. With an increase in construction-related bankruptcy filings no doubt at least partially fueled by pandemic disruptions, material scarcity, and worker shortages, keeping a close eye on your margins – and managing the risks associated with issues requiring rework – remains critical. Consistent, digital quality inspections ensure that your construction company remains solvent, and not another cautionary tale revealing that there really is no business that is “too big to fail.”
Fulcrum’s Field Inspection Management platform ensures process consistency while making quality inspection data available to the right teams in real-time, reducing the risk of expensive and time-consuming rework. To get qualified companies started on their digital inspection journey, Fulcrum will digitize an existing quality inspection form or checklist at no cost, creating a digital inspection process ready for field testing. Sign up today!