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Avoiding construction project rework through digital quality inspections

By Linda Schwefel
January 10, 2022

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?

Construction engineer performing a digital quality inspection using a tablet

Digital quality inspections can:

Empower employees to follow the latest processes for quality assurance

Catching problems early makes them easier to fix. For instance, in building foundations, timely detection of a bad concrete pour is crucial. Identifying the issue a day after pouring is better than weeks or months later, preventing structural collapse from foundation defects.

When all field employees share the same work process checklist, errors, whether in judgment or omission, are minimized.

Open lines of communication between workers on site and supervisors – wherever they might be

Labor shortages worsen supervisors’ challenges of overseeing multiple locations simultaneously. By sharing images and videos of job conditions and work performed, supervisors gain insight into on-site issues. They can also offer direction effectively. Digitized inspection processes enable supervisors to promptly communicate changes and instructions to on-site workers, whether for job specification revisions or addressing problems. This streamlined approach enhances efficiency in managing dispersed teams.

Deliver location-based insights natively with all records and reports

Even if quality inspections reveal missteps, they’re useless without defect locations. Directions like “rebar defect behind the cement mixer with a bald eagle” frustrate supervisors searching the site. Digitized inspections capture precise coordinates at defect locations, aiding rapid remediation.

In summary, consistent digital quality inspections are crucial to prevent costly rework in terms of time and money. However, the cost of rework extends beyond finances; it can also damage your reputation. Construction companies with a history of substantial rework and its associated negative impacts on job performance may face rejected bids and challenges in securing 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.”

We can help

Fulcrum’s field inspection management platform guarantees process consistency and provides real-time quality inspection data to the appropriate teams. This reduces the risk of costly and time-consuming rework. To assist qualified companies in beginning their digital inspection journey, Fulcrum offers to digitize an existing quality inspection form or checklist for free. This creates a digital inspection process ready for field testing. Sign up today!