Taking Control of Quality Control

Neglecting work quality costs the industry hundreds of billions of dollars in rework every year—and endangers workers’ lives. Commit today to developing a quality-management system.
By Matthew Kleiman
May 7, 2024

2024 is slated to be a record year for manufacturing construction, with Dodge Construction Network forecasting $112 billion in project starts. Demand is skyrocketing for both new facilities and updates to existing infrastructure for semiconductors, energy, data centers and other sectors.
Amid this surge in large capital projects, a pressing challenge looms large: the industry’s 30% rework rate. Having to redo manual work costs construction companies and their customers a staggering $625 billion every year. In addition to being an albatross on project margins and schedules, rework is responsible for nearly 40% of all workplace injuries in construction.

Given the magnitude of this challenge, why aren’t more companies and organizations focused on fixing poor work quality?


Imagine a new, state-of-the-art semiconductor fabrication facility, designed with all of the latest cutting-edge technologies. However, not everything is as it seems. Just weeks after the project is completed, a critical energy supply line develops a leak. The facility is shut down, losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a matter of hours, falling victim to the consequences of compromised quality. It’s a scenario that plays out far too often in the construction industry.

Boeing’s recent Alaska Airlines incident, in which a panel on a 737 Max airliner blew out mid-flight, is a powerful reminder of what’s at stake. The massive quality lapses that subsequent investigations uncovered underscore the fact that inadequate quality control is plaguing many of our most critical industries. In an era defined by a relentless focus on revenue and demands for efficiency, the importance of quality seems to have fallen by the wayside.

This is evidenced by the staggering rework rate that has persisted even in the wake of significant technology innovation. Rework drains limited human resources during a global worker shortage and erodes confidence in the industry’s ability to deliver projects on time and within budget. Even worse, it risks the safety and lives of the workers who are doing their best to ensure that everything runs smoothly.


Luckily, it’s not all doom and gloom. As an industry, we have a massive opportunity to redefine how we think about quality. We can choose to elevate quality assurance from a “necessary evil” to a nonnegotiable foundational standard for project excellence. Even more importantly, we must change the belief that achieving quality comes at the expense of productivity.

The solution involves changes to technology, process and culture. Industry leaders should look to the International Organization for Standardization’s ISO 9000—the gold standard for effective quality management. The standard can be summarized by the “ISO 9000 early adopter’s motto”:

1. Write down what you do.

2. Do what you write down.

3. Make sure you are doing it.

For construction, that means contractors should (1) have written procedures for all critical work processes, (2) train their crews on these procedures, (3) have systems in place to confirm the correct procedure was followed for each work activity and (4) conduct regular audits to confirm the procedures are being followed.

Technology can help make implementing a quality-management system relatively painless. Through platforms that guide field workers and prioritize field quality, you have the ability to train a new generation of workers with the skills they need to perform work correctly every time.

Even better, technology can shed light on the areas in manual work processes that are most ripe for improvement. Imagine knowing exactly which field worker is completing the most high-quality work, that certain tasks are consistently plagued by delays or that specific workers exhibit higher rates of rework.

When accurately tracked and used to inform future performance and decisions, this type of data can change everything. Armed with this knowledge, project managers can take proactive measures to address underlying issues and improve performance going forward.


By fostering a culture of accountability when it comes to work quality, we can empower our next-generation workforce to take ownership of their role in the process. To change your internal culture, look to the steps taken to improve jobsite safety. Think about the last time someone brought a quality issue to your attention. Did you react positively, thanking the person? Or did you express frustration, perhaps inadvertently discouraging them from bringing problems to your attention in the future?

Normalize talking about and learning from quality lapses. Reward workers who flag potential issues. After all, dealing with a problem now is likely much less costly than discovering the problem once the project is completed.

Another important factor to consider is that insurance companies should reward companies that proactively put measures in place to prevent poor work quality. Because a rise in claims is all too often a direct result of poor work quality, insurance companies should identify and vet technologies that control work quality and actively incentivize construction companies to use them in meaningful ways.

Looking to the future, it’s clear that the construction industry must make a collective commitment to better quality in order to succeed. We can and must do better. By embracing innovation, leveraging technology and empowering the new generations that are joining the workforce in droves, we can create a positive legacy that endures long after the last bolt is tightened.

by Matthew Kleiman
Matthew Kleiman is co-founder and CEO of Cumulus Digital Systems and the author of “Work Done Right: Using Systems Thinking to Guide Your Digital Transformation.” For more information, visit

Related stories

Empower Your Employees and Profits With a Meaningful Metrics Strategy
By LeAnne Good
Employing a straightforward strategy to manage your company's money and money goals is sometimes the best path to success.
Construction Executive's 2024 Photo Contest Is Now Open for Submissions!
CE's photo contest is now open for submissions. Enter today for a chance to win the grand prize and land on the cover of the December issue. Hit us with your best shots!
Money Talks: An Exclusive Roundtable on Construction Finance
By Christopher Durso
Capital funds! Business loans! Risk! Labor! Technology! Growth! An exclusive CE roundtable gets to the bottom line on everything you need to know about construction finance at this moment. The good news: People are feeling pretty optimistic about the state of the market.

Follow us

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Stay in the know with the latest industry news, technology and our weekly features. Get early access to any CE events and webinars.