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Quality doesn’t happen by accident. It is the result of a series of decisions and deliberate steps. Moreover, it represents the cumulative effect of individual actions, all of which must be supported by a culture committed to consistent process implementation and continuous improvement.

Project Communication and Engagement
Achieving quality begins with team-wide clarity on contract documents and drawings. Construction companies should have a formalized system that includes upfront, early engagement with each project team. This ensures that elevated specification requirements are discussed and understood. Consistent onboarding practices for new hires is critical—but keeping employees up to speed is just as critical and this involves ongoing effort. Companies should remain diligent with annual training and project-specific process training. Employees need to fully understand their roles and responsibilities including specific guidance on how their tasks relate to overall project activities and the scope of work. It is only when individuals fully understand what is expected and how their role supports and interacts with other positions, that a team can have a focused momentum with one common goal.

Project teams remain proactively engaged in quality efforts if training is followed by frequent touches that are part of a formalized routine. For example, a company can issue a regular monthly message that focuses on one specific process or activity such as document management, material receipt, punch lists or the ASME B31.3 Fluid Service requirements, to name a few. The message should provide an overview of the topic while answering the questions: how, what, who and why.

Review Processes
Regularly scheduled health assessments of implemented processes (such as document control, materials management and construction work package execution) by site quality personnel will verify that processes are working as intended. In addition to these focused assessments, personnel should conduct broad-based health assessments of the implemented processes as they relate to the applicable scope of work. These assessments should identify programmatic non-compliance as well as process effectiveness against critical processes, leading indicators, preplanning initiatives, best practices and technical requirements. In addition to tracking lagging indicators (such as volumetric reject rate and nonconformance), it’s important to track leading indicators (including assessment compliance training and audit compliance). This provides a vehicle for course correcting in a timely manner.

It is critical for companies to continue evolving. Construction and industrial environments change rapidly especially when it comes to technology. While the rapid-fire rollout of new technologies can represent a challenge, these technologies often offer a way of improving a company’s systems and routines. Companies therefore need to continuously evaluate processes for effectiveness (as well as perform risk assessment). Efficiencies should be captured in areas where they make sense—for example, in product installation means and methods, whether through tooling, welding advancements or the use of tablets.

The goal is to produce compliant work quickly while minimizing mistakes and redundancy. The use of semi-automatic or mechanized equipment can decrease the amount of time a welder is under the hood, thereby allowing upstream or downstream activities associated with installation (for example, material preparation and staging, pipe fit-up, weather protection and fitter to welder ratio). The end goal should be continuous improvement of all production processes.

Product Turnover
Product turnover is another area that deserves close attention. Sometimes, contract agreements regarding turnover, including content and format, do not accurately reflect what the customer actually wants. Resolving this situation quickly leads to more productive turnover, especially considering that it can eliminate redundancy in quality verification documentation (such as inspection and test reports, certificates of compliance, requests for information, nonconformances and general inspections).

Redundancy can also be reduced—and accuracy improved—by supporting progressive turnover with the use of tablets. Logs used via tablet interface can replace individual forms, capturing the same quality attributes as a form. Additionally, having a workflow that involves customers early in the process will simplify turnover. When the customer is involved during the install phase, acceptance inspections can occur as installations are carried out instead of waiting until the work has been completed. This can result in dramatic benefits with no more customer inspection points being missed. Furthermore, when the customer is involved as the installation unfolds, it fosters inherent confidence and trust. The end result is a more seamless process.

At its base, quality is about follow-through and compliance, but complex processes and deliverables can make follow-through and compliance a challenge. Establishing clear expectations at the project’s outset, conscientious implementation of all training, as well as processes along with regular touchpoints with personnel are the path to success.

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